For the tech-savvy traveler, “navigation” means far more than plotting the journey from home to destination and back again. It’s a series of decisions on how to get and use information, from the first bite of the travel bug to the planning and execution of the voyage—nurtured by the books or apps carried along the way. The flow of information then reverses itself, as shared photo albums and Facebook posts inspire friends to take the same road, starting the process all over again.
Today’s travel consumer is discriminating, demanding, and connected,” says Avalon Travel’s associate publisher Donna Galassi. “In order to make and keep a customer, it’s necessary to engage the traveler in every phase of the travel cycle: dreaming, planning, going, and sharing.”
To that end, Lonely Planet, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary, is rethinking the interplay among its platforms—print, e-book, mobile, and Web—and how one might logically lead to another. It’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach, says publishing v-p Brice Gosnell: “[Travelers] at a destination have likely already booked their hotel, but they do need up-to-the minute attractions info. Instead of just saying, ‘Let’s just put everything in this platform,’ we’re going to pivot and take it further.”
Travel publishers are refining their approaches at a time when crowdsourced travel information has become commonplace, and a growing number of nontraditional competitors offer free content. In a push to expand its original content, Google acquired travel giant Frommer’s this past August; just last month, the Wikimedia Foundation—the parent organization of Wikipedia, the online, open-source encyclopedia—relaunched its travel site, Wikivoyage. “To stay in the mix among the throngs of already established travel sites and Google... [is] going be a tough act for Wikivoyage to pull off,” wrote Sarah Mitroff of Wired.com on the eve of the launch.
“But then again, that’s what every reference book or encyclopedia maker in the world thought until they were mowed down by [founder Jimmy] Wales and his Wikipedia army” (see sidebar, p. 26).
Some editors of the tried-and-true travel brands say that their authority cuts through the noise of the crowdsourced options. “When you go on Wikivoyage or TripAdvisor, it’s like [getting on] a subway car in the morning and asking all those people to give you advice on the hotel that you stay in,” says Fodor’s publisher Amanda D’Acierno. “Most of them, you’d never want to see again.” With a goal to be “in all places our travelers want to be,” Fodor’s has made a particular investment in its mobile apps and Web site, which has as many as six million unique visitors in the summer months.
“Digital remains an interesting consideration, offering potential opportunities that we’d be foolhardy and shortsighted to ignore,” says Clare Currie, publishing director of travel for DK Publishing, whose list includes the DK Eyewitness series and Rough Guides. “But... more travelers buy print guides than they do their digital equivalents. So we’d be equally foolhardy to be distracted from maintaining the quality our readers expect in print. It’s without question a balancing act.” Which means that while DK is focused on creating a more interactive platform for readers of Rough Guides by relaunching, late last month, roughguides.com, it is also embarking on a three-year program to update the content and design of its print Eyewitness series.
Marco Polo Travel Company, the English-language subsidiary of German traveling institution Mairdumont, published its guides in the U.S. and the U.K. last year, and found, at first, a “reluctance for people to take on a new range of travel guides and maps due to the economic and market decline, plus the perceived threat of digital,” says managing director Ian MacDonald. He now reports a “pleasantly surprising” level of success: “Obviously we are aware of the great digital debate, but we have found that consumers are happy to spend $9.95 on a physical book that is packed with information, yet fits comfortably into a pocket or handbag.”
Released last month, the all-digital Cruisereader.com hopes to compliment the work of the traditional guidebooks rather than competing with them. Founder Paul Allen, who worked for more than 30 years marketing every corner of the cruise industry with the Holland America line before starting his Web site and blog, distinguishes himself from traditional guidebook writers by saying, “They are trying to answer questions like, ‘What do I do when I get to Moscow?’ [while] I’m trying to answer the questions, ‘Where did Russia come from?’ ‘Who made it that way?’ and ‘Why?’” Allen says that his writing provides big-picture perspective for the travelers who come to a cruise for a cultural experience, rather than just the sun and fun. “When they arrive, they can use their guidebooks more intelligently to visit the attractions of a destination whose themes are of interest to them.”
Allen will enjoy a growing audience: cruising represents one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry—especially among Americans, who make up close to two-thirds of all passengers, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.
In June, Avalon Travel will publish a new title in its popular Rick Steves line: Northern European Cruise Ports provides on-shore itineraries for ports of call from Paris to Copenhagen to St. Petersburg. “The popularity of European cruises is on the rise,” says Donna Galassi, “but the most notable trend is that cruisers are becoming more interested in authentic land excursions.”
“Cruising is a huge part of our Web site,” says Fodor’s D’Acierno. “For travelers who try a cruise once and love it, they want to do it over and over again.” Fodor’s Complete Guide to European Cruises and Fodor’s European Cruise Ports of Call are due in April; the latter includes several newly popular ports, including Reykjavik, the Canary Islands, and Madeira.
A Priceless Experience —On Any Budget
The spike in cruise bookings is one sign of what many view as a steady economic turnaround, but even so, most travelers are looking to stretch their budgets—especially the growing number of people seeking unique experiences rather than cookie-cutter getaways.
Ten years ago, Matt Kepnes took a two-week trip to Thailand so memorable that he was inspired to save his money, quit his day job and find a way to continue life on the road for as long as possible. The blog he started to document his experience, NomadicMatt.com, now boasts more than 200,000 monthly visitors; Kepnes’s just-published book from Perigee, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter, builds on that content, providing cost-cutting clues for transportation, accommodations, food and drink, and more. Kepnes’s editor says, “Readers of the book are going to get the kind of planning guide that goes more in depth than what they can get on the blog—from picking out the right travel bag to best ways to save for your trip, to specific region-by-region guides.”
In May, DaCapo will offer a first-person take from another authority on budget travel. The Turk Who Loved Apples, by former New York Times Frugal Traveler columnist Matt Gross, who reveals a surprising side benefit to penny-pinching: “Matt shows that people want to help travelers—to take them in and feed them and make them feel at home in foreign lands,” says publisher John Radziewicz. “As Matt explains, receiving that kind of hospitality isn’t only nice, it’s necessary when you’re on a tight budget.” The collection of never-before-published essays—which reflect on several journeys, from the author’s first road trip to a return-to-his-roots trek in Lithuania—emphasizes that some experiences cannot be replicated. “I came away from editing his book convinced that the most successful travel titles don’t just take you there,” says Radziewicz. “They make you want to go there to see things for yourself.”
Located in the West Africa nation of Mali, the remote, almost mythic-sounding city of Timbuktu—a cradle of African civilization, home to as many as 700,000 ancient scientific manuscripts—is the subject of a thoughtful travelogue by Rick Antonson, the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver. In July Skyhorse will release for the first time in the U.S To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey Through West Africa, engaging readers here at a time when Mali, now plagued by armed conflict and humanitarian crisis, dominates international headlines. “It’s more important than ever to get Rick’s book out to the public, whatever happens between now and publication,” says editor Cory Allyn. “Years before newspapers were highlighting the threat to this city’s manuscripts, Rick was standing in the very libraries and mosques under attack today, concerned about the future.” The author’s previous pledge to donate a portion of the book’s proceeds toward the preservation of these documents still holds for this new edition.
In August, Gotham will provide a uniquely personal window into the remote South Pacific with the release of Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story. While coming to terms with his recovery from alcoholism, author J. Maarten Troost sets off on a solo mission to explore the Marquesas and the Tuamotus islands, among others, accompanied by little more than Robert Louis Stevenson’s In the Southern Seas. “If you ever want to truly go to the ends of the Earth, then the islands that Maartin visits in this book are the place,” says editorial director Lauren Marino. “Who can resist reading about places with nicknames like the Bay of Penises, the Island of Merrymaking, and the Man-Eating Isle? I don’t think you’ll find that in any guidebook.”
Guided by Interest
Whether one’s destination is the planet’s farthest reaches or its most well-trodden capital cities, publishers seem to agree about the approach that travelers should take when setting out: “Go there with an open mind—independently,” says Michel Moushabeck of Interlink Publishing, which will publish several cultural guides this year, including examinations of Berlin and Sicily. “Read about the city’s history and indulge in its genuine cuisine culture; and most importantly, sample the literature of its leading novelists!”
More travel literature is en route in April, when the University of North Carolina Press, in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council, offers the third book in a series of literary-inspired travel guides: Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina sends readers on 18 half-day and daylong tours that connect with the work of 250 local writers of all kinds, including such notables as A.R. Ammons, Kaye Gibbons, David Brinkley, Charles Kuralt, and New Yorker reporter Joseph Mitchell.
But whether it’s words or wine, food or architecture, consumers’ specific interests are driving their travel decisions—and publishers are working to meet their needs. “As the world becomes more globalized, some travelers are frustrated to see the exact same stores and brands in the same places, thinking, ‘Why did I come here? There’s a Starbucks over here and a Gap over there,’” says Gosnell at Lonely Planet, which now includes “If you like” sections, organized by theme, in the front of its guidebooks. “When you travel by theme—structuring your trip around the best wine shops in Paris, for example—you’ve gone deeper and closer to what the locals are doing.”
In May, Abrams will publish The Fashion Insiders’ Guide to New York and ...to Paris, both penned by New York–based French Vogue correspondent Carole Sabas, who builds upon the free tips she has for years been giving to visiting friends and colleagues by including the advice of other local fashion celebs.
A Runner’s World?
Offering travelers a run for their money, Barron’s will publish Marathons of the World in April by Hugh Jones, secretary of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. Jones has seen the popularity of distance running increase on the local, national, and international levels, and he claims that the opportunities in the book capture what many people are looking for today: “They strive to improve, and to satisfy their curiosity at the same time. What better formula could there be than running long distances in diverse locations?” A similar work, about an unlikely trek in a faraway place—on the island of Shikoku, in Japan’s Inland Sea—is Amy Chavez’s Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage (Volcano Press, Jan.), which details the Japan Times columnist’s almost unimaginable quest to run the Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage, a 1,000-year-old, 900-mile journey that she broke down into five weeks, averaging almost a marathon a day. “For travelers with a sense of adventure for off-the-beaten-track adventures—especially for runners and spirituality seekers—this book is the perfect resource,” says publisher Adam Gottstein. For those determined to run in cold climes, Alaska Northwest offers its third edition of Mount Marathon: Alaska’s Great Foot Race by Millie Spezialy (June).
Not up to running? The trusty two-wheeler is the vehicle by which voyagers can see Amsterdam unfold in In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan (HarperPerennial, Apr.). “Amsterdammers’ love of bikes has been wound up with almost every aspect of their history for the last 125 years,” says editor Michael Signorelli. Part memoir, part history, the book gives readers looking to unlock the city’s secrets an opportunity to follow in the author’s tracks. “Where cyclists go in Amsterdam,” says Signorelli, “so goes this book.”
After all this activity, travelers might well be eager for culinary sustenance. Storey’s Dishing Up series, which has made mealtime stops in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Oregon, heads South for Dishing Up Virginia: 145 Recipes That Celebrate Contemporary Traditions and Colonial Flavors (Apr.) by Patrick Evans-Hylton. “The Dishing Up books offer readers a unique glimpse into the lives and food passions of the people who bring fresh food to market,” says Margaret Sutherland, the publisher’s cooking acquisitions editor. “We’re thrilled to hear that locals use the books to explore recipes, and we know that tourists love to bring home the books as vacation keepsakes.”
The flip side of the food narrative is explored in an unconventional travel book, Where Am I Eating? A Journey Through the Global Food Economy (Wiley, Apr.). Citing author Kelsey Timmerman’s worldwide tour of farms that originate such products as chocolate, bananas, coffee, and lobster, editor Richard Narramore says the book provides an empowering jumping-off point for would-be intrepid travelers. “It doesn’t tell readers where to travel,” says Narramore, “but shows them how to travel anywhere in an authentic way measured in friendships, not snapshots.”
On the Adventure Trail
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported market research firm Euromonitor International’s observation that baby boomers are leading the charge toward far-flung destinations that were once off-limits, such as Myanmar and Cuba. It’s a drive that many in the publishing industry recognize. Oxford University Press editor Chad Zimmerman says, “There’s a race now to go to the least hospitable location among frequent travelers—especially older travelers”.
According to Costa Rica’s national tourist bureau, I.C.T., last year more than 70% of international visitors to the country took part in some sort of thrill-seeking—think canopy tours, rafting, sea kayaking, and diving. In the center of the action is Destination Press founder James Kaiser, who last month published a new guide to the country he’s called home for the past five years. “Twenty years ago, Costa Rica was an exotic destination for people who wanted to get dirty and wet—to be physically challenged,” says Kaiser, who cut his teeth writing guides to U.S. National Parks. “Now, getting around is a snap, and there are endless options—anything from a backpacker place to a luxury resort. You don’t have to be Tarzan to enjoy the rainforest.”
Costa Rica is just one of the destinations covered in The Adrenaline Junkie Bucket List (St. Martin’s, June), a sampler of pulse-raising options for serious thrill-seekers and armchair travelers alike. Organized by continent, the book offers 100 physical challenges—between 15 and 25 on each continent—as well as the essentials of any journey, including restaurants, hotels, and local info. Penned by WildernessMedicine magazine editor-in-chief Christopher Van Tilburg, the book also includes practical advice for staying healthy and safe off the beaten track.
But while the words “adventure travel” may conjure up images of the remote or the foreign, a new group of books out this year suggests that some wild rides are much closer to home. “Adventure travel can be found throughout the U.S. as well as overseas,” says Safari Publishing’s Terrance Zepke. “There’s python hunting in the Everglades, storm chasing in Kansas, extreme rock climbing in Yosemite, and shark tours in Key West [Fla.].” Zepke’s favorite thrill, though, is of the supernatural sort—he documents it in April’s A Ghost Hunter’s Guide to the Most Haunted Houses in America. Zepke asks, “Who else but an adventurous and brave soul would dare to spend time in a haunted dwelling—and pay good money to do so?”
Perhaps the most quintessentially American places to adventure are the National Parks, which Avalon Travel’s Moon Guides have been staples for the publisher. New to the Moon National Park series is Moon Arches & Canyonlands National Parks; coming in May is Moon National Parks Sampler, a 250-page e-book overview of more than a dozen beloved destinations, including Acadia National Park, the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, and Yellowstone, among others. Designed to serve as a gateway for readers to purchase one of the imprint’s more in-depth guides on a given park, the book will be available gratis at online retailers through September.
Last but hardly least is a hybrid travel guide and memoir certain to inspire intrepid explorers and armchair travelers alike. Chockablock with adventures, Michael Clinton’s The Globetrotter Diaries: Tales, Tips, and Tactics for Traveling the Seven Continents (Glitterati, Mar.) is the author’s sixth travel book, based on his visits to 120 countries. He spends about a third of his life traveling in his career as president of marketing and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, and admits to being a travel addict ever since taking his first flight as a child. “It was the rush of taking off. I remember my 11-year-old mind said, ‘I’m destined to be on airplanes.’”
Don’t Leave the Country Without It: The Yellow Book
A beloved travel must-have for the intrepid wanderer, the semiannually updated CDC Health Information for International Travel 2014 (commonly referred to as “the Yellow Book”) is the U.S. Congress–commissioned version of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. But lest you think it’s all don’t-drink-the-water-or-forget-your-malaria-pills warnings, consider the tumultuous world we live in: “As the international climate has gotten increasingly bizarre, with things like pirates and strange, insect-borne diseases that we didn’t know about two years ago, an increasing number of destinations have become threatening,” says the book’s editor, Chad Zimmerman at Oxford University Press. The most updated version includes important warnings about terrorism, sex tourism, traffic, and weather risks. All of the information in the book is available on the CDC Web site, but “if you’re drawn to the exotic, you’re not going to have ready access to the Internet,” says Zimmerman. “We’ve tried to make it available on as many platforms as possible.” That means those partial to toting an electricity converter over a hefty paperback can opt for the iPhone or iPad app.