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Travel: Going the Extra Mile
Robert Dahlin -- 1/31/00
Record numbers of travelers are prompting innovative publishing ventures, both in print and on the Web

D sn't anybody stay home anymore? The Travel Industry Association of America estimated that travel by U.S. residents would climb by 2.5% in 1999 and that U.S. and foreign travelers would spend more than $520 billion in this country, a 5.2% increase over 1998. Toting up worldwide peripatetics, the International Tourism Institute reports that global tourism is a $100-billion-a-year operation and that an astonishing 3.3 billion tourists -- a number equaling almost half the world's population -- take at least a three- to four-day trip annually.

As these number swell, it has become a cliche to say that publishers of travel books scramble for new means to attract buyers. Readers often become buyers, which is why so much material derived from travel books is now available in one form or another on the Internet. Indeed, travel publishing -- seemingly more than any other category -- has utilized the Net in numerous ways to great success. The following feature reflects the exploitation of this medium -- one that few of us could have imagined just a couple of years ago.

A notable aspect of publishers' programs in print is the proliferation of new series. Hooking readers is a standard industry ploy, and a look at several that are new or in the offing indicates that the stratagem retains its power.

The subjects are wonderfully diverse. Lonely Planet offers a new series on World Food and another entitled Watching Wildlife, with directions to the best viewing sites within reserves as well as information on the animals themselves. St. Martin's is launching the Audubon Guide to National Wildlife Refuges series, and Insight Guides and Discover Publishing add five more titles to the Discovery Travel Adventures series introduced last fall. Based on specific interests, the new quintet includes Bird Watching and Paddle Sports. "We're addressing people who are more activity-oriented," Langenscheidt publisher Stuart Dolgins tells PW. The enticing tag line for this series is "Explore a passion, not just a place."

New from Michelin are the NEOS Guides, which "are a hybrid between an armchair travel book and a hands-on travel book," says Elizabeth Kunze, director of marketing in the Greenville, S.C., office. "We're looking at the whole area of exotic travel, and these give someone who may well spend a month or more in an area in-depth information about the environment, the culture, the people -- everything to expect."

Less exotic perhaps, but a new series from IDG Books covering Europe is Frommer's Best Bed & Breakfasts and Country Inns. "This is packaged by the Automobile Association. They have an extensive database of properties throughout Europe, and they send inspectors to look at each one," explains travel guide publisher Mike Spring. "The books go from the modest B&B to historic mansions."

Of the three series being introduced by Fodor's, the most unique is the Fodor's to Go Series -- a line of magnetic books the size of a credit card that includes such titles as 48 Hours in London and How to Pack. According to publisher Kris Kliemann, "This format hasn't been used in the U.S. before. It closes with two magnets stuck together, and you can stick it to your fridge if you want. It opens to a 16-page, accordion-pleated book. It's a fun design and very inexpensive at $4.95."

"Even though we're primarily known as a travel publisher, we try to do books that complement travel guides," says Interlink publisher Michel Moushabeck. "Our new series, Cities of the Imagination, offers in-depth cultural histories of the great cities of the world, identifying their unique qualities." Interlink's other new series is the Traveller's Guides to the Battles and Battlefields of WWII. As Moushabeck says, he is always on the lookout for new niches, for the most alluring series -- destinations all publishers long to find.

O Brave New (Electronic) World

A Guide to 2000 Guides

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