Going, Going, Gone!
Judith Rosen -- 6/5/00
Whether heading for urban attractions or rural vistas,
tourists are taking off in record numbers
With Americans readying to take a projected 237 million trips this summer, no wonder travel has become the third largest retail sales industry in the country, after automobiles and food, according to two new studies released by the Travel Industry Association of America. Travel contributes $12 billion toward America's trade surplus, and even helps keep taxes low. Without the tax revenue generated by tourism, each U.S. household would pay $806 more to Uncle Sam.
Once again family travel will be strong this summer. According to TIA, 41% of American families on the go plan to bring their kids. Most trips will include stops to see friends and family (74%), as well as visits to a city (69%), a historic site (44%), camping, hiking, or climbing (42%), or going fishing (42%). On average, Americans anticipate spending $965 on their longest pleasure trip this summer, with 28% considering upping the ante even more, to between $1,000 and $2,499. If travel publishers and booksellers have their way, travel guides and maps will make up a healthy chunk of this summer's trip spending.
Given the continuing proliferation of series for those on the road, how's a traveler to choose? Gayle Shanks, owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., has come up with an unusual solution. 'We have a travel agent who comes here two days a week and sits in the travel section,' says Shanks. 'She has an office nearby, and she recommends books for people and sometimes she books tours for them. People just love it.' In addition, the travel agent leads five travel-oriented events a year at the store, including last January's high tea cosponsored by British Airways.
Although Langenscheidt Publishing Group president Stuart Dolgins sides with the majority of American vacationers--79%--who prefer to go to a beach or lake, he's well aware that most people don't want to be beach-towel potat s all vacation long. 'I don't think anyone would doubt that the hottest trend is adventure travel,' comments Dolgins.
To help promote Langenscheidt's Discovery Travel Adventure series introduced last fall, Dolgins has embarked on a campaign to add adventure to travel sections. Typically, most bookstores organize travel by region, country or city, but, as Dolgins points out, books on white-water rafting or whale watching, which cross state and country lines, just don't fit. 'One of the problems with merchandising adventure travel is where do you put it?' says Dolgins. 'We're trying to get some of our important retailers to have adventure boutiques. I'd like them to carve out four or eight feet for adventure travel. The logic is so obvious.'
At Fodor's Travel Publications, publisher Kris Kliemann is borrowing a page from Kellogg's and encouraging booksellers to read Fodor's guides again, for the first time. 'Because Fodor's has been around for a long time, it's not what people who haven't looked in it in a long time expect,' says Kliemann. She credits assistant marketing manager Marc Hampton with the house's successful three-month promotion this spring, which invited booksellers to choose a free Fodor's guide to plan their own dream vacation. 'We got nearly 4,000 requests,' notes Kliemann, adding that Walt Disney World was booksellers' most frequent destination, followed by Italy, the Pacific Northwest, Europe and Ireland. Kelly Medici, trade book manager at NYU Bookstore, calls the promotion 'a perfect marketing exercise for us booksellers. Now we know the difference between a Gold Guideand a Cityguide.'
For Kristen Macnamara, associate editor of the 40-year-old Let's Go series--published by St. Martin's and written by Harvard students for the budget-conscious traveler--standing out is no problem. 'We have a pretty strong brand name. Most people know the thumb,' she says, referring to the logo on all Let's Go guides. 'Let's Go Europe is the number one bestselling travel guide in the world,' she remarks, even after 40 years in print. It was the company's very first book, published in 1960. Extending the depth and breadth of the Let's Go line is
Macnamara's biggest concern. Last year Let's Gointroduced a book on China, and this fall it will add one on Western Europe.
Let's Go also plans to repackage its single-city guides this fall and to add two more--on Boston and San Francisco--to create an entirely new Let's Go CityGuide series. The books will have a different look and feel from the other Let's Go books. 'They have everything for people who are going to come for a day or a week--and for moving there,' explains Macnamara. 'They're more prescriptive: What do I have to see while I'm here?'
Similarly, 27-year-old Lonely Planet is straying off the beaten travel book path with its two newest series, introduced this spring. As U.S. general manager Eric Kettunen explains, 'Most travelers have three or four travelers within them. I'm a budget traveler, but if I'm away on business, I want to maximize my time. In the past we really targeted the low-budget traveler. Today, we're targeting different types of travelers.' Both series, which have been taking off faster than flights from America's busiest airport, Chicago's O'Hare, are colorful, pocket-sized guides. The Condensed guides cram maps, walking tours, beaches and places to stay into 128 pages, while the World Food guides are geared to 'people who live to eat, drink and travel.' They attempt to capture the culture of a country through its cuisine, and include recipes as well as culinary phrases and tips on places to eat.
While traveling light is important, ye olde guidebook continues to have a place for even the most weight-aware travelers. Echoing the other publishers PW contacted, Mike Urban, v-p and associate publisher of Globe Pequot, comments, 'Our book sales are up. We're not thinking printed book sales are disappearing anytime soon.' Still, he adds: 'Probably the biggest challenge is the electronic delivery of information. Consumers are getting Web savvy. We're looking at partnering with other companies and ways of customizing information. We're also looking at digitizing our content and a lot of licensing possibilities.'
Like Globe Pequot, most travel publishers have active Web sites. Lonely Planet, according to Kettunen, gets as many as two to three million hits a day. But, notes Fodor's Kliemann, while 'there's a ton of travel information on the Web, there's still a sense that when you're there, a book is the thing to use.' So whether your destination is Europe, Texas or the Solomon Islands, publishers are busily preparing an up-to-the-minute book for you. But don't take our word for it; take a look at the following links.
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