Guide editors breathe a sigh of relief, while restless adventurers dust off their passports, book tickets, and stock up on reading material in preparation for that long-awaited vacation.
According to NPD BookScan, US travel book sales in the first half of 2021 increased 8% to 3.1 million. "If we look at the numbers over the last six months, we find a very strong correlation between popular travel destinations and high vaccination rates," said Kristen McLean, managing director and industry analyst at NPD Books. "Travelers calculate in their minds: what is a safe and affordable place? Italy, France, Spain and the UK fared well and all had higher vaccination rates than the US.
Also on the rise: outdoor activity, road trip and hiking guides, especially in North America. The best-selling travel book of the year so far is the National Geographic Road Atlas 2022, which covers the United States, Canada and Mexico. Title #2 – "50 States, 5,000 Ideas" by Joe Yogerst by NatGeo. (See the full list of the top 10).
At Fodor's: "New bestsellers include The Complete Guide to America's National Parks, America's Wish List, and America's Best Trips," says editor-in-chief Doug Stallings; these were all fall 2021 titles. Fodor also begins to look to the future; Upcoming books include a new publishing location, Seoul (November), known for its growing army of K-pop and K-drama fans. "When Omicron started to sink in, we started to do better," says Stallings.
Jamie Callaway, vice president and associate publisher of Avalon Travel, had a similar experience: “Over the past six months, we've seen a resurgence of hope. We started the year in a very dark place with Omicron, and over the past few months I've been amazed at the strength of the recovery and how widespread it has been."
Fodor's, Avalon and other travel guide publishers are optimistic about the enduring power of wanderlust. In this way, they meet the cut demand.
Where, when, how?
"Many people have spent two years putting off their travel plans, and now they're optimistic, energetic and willing to take risks, so they're not putting off their dreams," Callaway said. Avalon has 14 new releases of Rick Steves books planned for the fall. Once Covid restrictions are lifted in Europe, Steve's first travel guides will be revised, Callaway explains, with updates to favorite destinations including France (October), Ireland and Italy. (both November).
In January, Rick Steves publishes Italy for Food Lovers, Steve's first cookbook. Co-authored with Fred Plotkin (Italy for Gourmet Travelers), this book explores the local delicacies and offers tips on how to best enjoy them.
Even the most dedicated traveler can get out of the habit of planning a trip after a long hiatus and looking for new ideas and orientation. Publishers are adjusting their offerings accordingly, following the recent trend of visually-oriented books to reduce the amount of information found on Google about museum opening hours and exchange rates. Instead, these titles act as guides, matching readers' interests with travel destinations and suggesting lesser-known ports of call.
"We've never seen a drop in sales because we lean toward inspirational guidebooks," says Allison Johnson, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Books. He cites the 100… Lives series, thick-bound books with borderless photos and text that favor description of experience over pages of hotel listings. Marcy Carriker Smothers will release 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime featuring House of Mouse parks around the world, followed by books on scuba diving, hiking, skiing and snowboarding in October.
Rough Guides was among the early adopters of the inspirational format, publishing the first edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth in 2007. Likes: Seeing hippos on the Bijagos Islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, eating ice cream in Rome, etc.
Seasoned travelers and those wary of clutter will find plenty of alternatives in September's edition of DK Eyewitness Come Here Place. It recommends lesser-known but no less interesting exchanges for popular sites and attractions. For example, fans of the Tate Museum in London may want to visit the Zeitz Museum of African Contemporary Art in Cape Town, South Africa, while those longing for the Norwegian fjords may want to visit a museum in Patagonia, Argentina.
Similarly, Offbeat (September) is Lonely Planet's guide to the road less travelled. "People think about how their trip might affect the direction of their journey," says LP editor Piers Picard. "They take a step back in search of interesting ideas. An unusual selection offers alternatives: If you are interested in the Inca Trail, why not consider Choquequirao? In Peru too.
For others, even now it is very difficult to fix the activity. "They've been on hiatus for three years and the selection seems overwhelming," says Picard. "Because they had nowhere to go, now they can go anywhere and they don't know where to start." The reissue of Where to Go, a travel planner for vacationers who know what time of year they want to go but don't know where, helps.
the compass of the mind
Picard notes that the publisher's recent Experience series (the first books will be released in March, with new ones in the fall) represents a departure from guidebooks that are "just about the sights, the responsibilities and the observers to make the trip unforgettable." Eat what you eat and the people you talk to." Like other publishers, LP capitalizes on travelers' desire for great pre-trip content; The Islands Book (October) is a high-quality, large-format hardcover book of New Zealand's well-known and lesser-known destinations such as Sicily and the Isle of Cod.
Other books are about hobbies and passions rather than directions. The recently launched BuzzFeed: Bring Me! Under the name Travel Industry Platform, Louise Hong and Isla Smith (Running Press) collect atypical views of even the most popular tourist destinations. Readers looking to expand their repertoire can visit a pop-up sculpture garden on Sydney Beach, go karting the streets of Tokyo, and kayak around Puerto Rico's glow-in-the-dark bay.
In November, National Geographic releases Joe Yogerst's 100 Cities, 5,000 Ideas, his latest collection of fast facts and fascinating travel suggestions. According to NatGeo's Johnson, such titles are "more about the experience than the wish list." For example, travel cookbooks remain a staple because "food is a glimpse into culture." A second edition of Food Travels of a Lifetime will be released in hardcover with more illustrations in October; The first edition in 2009 sold 42,000 printed copies.
NPD's McLean says the snappy sentences in these books are "caustic." “The list format is easier to read. My family usually travels with printed guidebooks, but I have little or no inclination to read any or all of them.' Guidebooks that publish "Best," "Come Here" and "Don't Miss" editions are betting that others feel the same way.
Liz Scheer is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, editor, and product developer and author of the memoir Never Simple (Holt).
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A version of this article appeared in the July 25, 2022 issue of Publishers Weekly under the heading: Getting Directions.