berlin (lonely planet)
What is the future of guidebooks?

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Some of my favorite guidebooks are digital, others old-school trees.


lonely planet
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Travel Writing 2.0


    Content from the future of dead trees


    As travelers opt out of the dead tree variety, what will travel guidebooks look like in 1 year? In 5 years?
    Which are the favorite guidebooks that focus on environmental concerns and feature ecotourism services?
    How much do we trust guidebook writers and publishers without blogs and twitter?
    Which publishers make review copies available in electronic format?
    What tourism information is available via smartphones?


    If travel were a religion, it would have its various branches based on the texts it uses as a guide. The guidebook sect of travelers thump their tattered tomes with an orthodoxy that I can’t understand. Maybe it’s the physical heft of a printed guidebook that lends it such authority. Maybe it’s the nod of recognition from other believers who are toting the same edition. Maybe it’s simple brand loyalty. Something compels these travelers to guard their guidebooks like passports and to quote them like Bibles. Meanwhile, a new sect is forming based on faith in the destination itself and the locals who live there as the best source of travel information. This local travel movement is gaining converts.
    - Cynthia.Ord, Amazing Alternatives to Travel Guide Books

    Responsible travel has been in focus for several years now. Its application is quite varied from destination to destination, from service provider and tour operator to service provider and tour operator within each destination. There has been plenty of discussion about the merits, or practicality of universal criteria against which to judge the issues. The fact that their is no uniformity within the industry suggests two things, I think. First that there is still a long way to go, but second that the ground is always shifting. Do guidebooks have a role to play in providing some sort of stable guidelines? To what degree can guidebooks integrate the traditional paper-based format with the more dynamic web-based information format? Can guidebooks do more than just present a set of do's and don't's to their readers?
    - Ben Box

    Choosing a guidebook is not as simple as it used to be, back when Lonely Planet guides were usually the best choice for independent budget travelers and Fodor's guides were for wealthy retirees. Now Lonely Planet is the biggest guidebook publisher in the world and Fodor's is trying hard to be more hip and contemporary. If anything is consistent, it's that nearly all the guidebook publishers have moved away from serving a niche: they seem to be doing their best to please everyone, in all budget ranges, and it's getting harder to find much opinionated personality anymore.
    - Tim Leffel, Guidebook Smackdown

    Get your nose out of the guidebook.
    - Conversation

    My favorite story of guidebooks going out of date is from my Frommer's Mexico days. An old expat lady in Oaxaca kept a copy of my Mexico on $xx a Day and wrote me postcards every year about how I "got things all wrong" about Oaxaca. This restaurant had closed, that hotel had expanded, the exchange rate was no longer what I said it was, etc. She kept sending me postcards for years commenting on the same old edition, telling me it was more and more out of date. "Whoops! Goofed again!" she'd gloat when yet another fact went sour. By the time the book was a dozen years old she was having a one-woman fiesta of recrimination at my expense.
    - Tom Brosnahan

    In the Yucatán and Mayan Mexico guide and the Insight Smart Guide, where I have more freedom than in other formats, I have tried to direct people to low-level, locally based and community tourism schemes where possible – examples would be the Yaxuná cooperative, the Yokdzonot cenote, and the Xyaat village cooperative in Señor, near F Carrillo Puerto, QR – and to encourage people to use small scale local guide, snorkel, etc companies that (as far as I can find out) follow good environmental practice rather than the big ones that advertise in all the hotels. In both these guides I also managed to get in pieces about the environmental damage caused by heavy-duty tourism in Yucatán with some practical suggestions – eg, to avoid any large-scale hotel that is built within 500m of the beach – whether any one takes any notice is another thing, but I think it's better if this kind of thing gets as widely publicized as possible. I've also got pieces in both books trying to get people not to play golf in the Yucatán, and trying to convince people in as brief a space as possible that tropical golf courses are inherently destructive. No idea if anyone has noticed...

    What environmental and social issue(s) do you cover in your work? - This relates back to the previous box – in each book there's a section on the environment in which I try, within the guidebook context, to give a short overview of current ecological themes and problems in the area. In the new edition I've tried to angle this a bit more away from more general problems – such as deforestation – to others that are more directly related to the areas where the largest number of people go – the effects of mass tourism on the Riviera Maya, excessive hotel building, those damn golf courses, etc. This may be a tad off the wall since I think a lot of my readers are actually 'Cancunophobes' who avoid the coast and head straight for the most obscure Maya ruin I can suggest to them, but I think it's useful to put this kind of stuff in as I think it doesn't usually get covered enough.

    I keep coming back to golf. I don't imagine it can be stopped, but I've been horrified by the acceleration in course building in the last 2-3 years, and while you can argue long about the social usefulness of building this or that hotel (providing work, etc), I cannot see that building golf courses in the Yucatán environment can be anything but destructive. I also think there are better things to do in the Yucatán than play the same damn game you play at home every Saturday.. for god's sake...

    One thing I think would be useful would be some system that would make more information more easily available on the environmental and social 'qualities' of individual hotels and towns – not just ecotourism schemes, but more mass-market places that might be popular with, for example, families with young kids. This might help to bridge the gap a bit between the real 'ecotourism' sector and all the rest. I have been asked a few times questions like 'look, a few years ago I might have backpacked to this eco lodge in the forest, but now we've got a 4- year old and another of 6, and we've only got 2 weeks, tell me somewhere that isn't as environmentally horrible as most?', and it's often hard to find that information. The suggestion I mentioned before of looking to see whether a hotel is built right on the beach (you can do it on Google Earth), in which case it must have been built by concreting mangrove, is one that was given me by a local cave dive expert and seems a useful example. Of course, if it were possible to put together a list of specific environmental (relatively) good guys and bad guys for the Riviera Maya, then the bad guys would probably get pretty aggressive.
    - Nick Rider

    Tourism Boards

    How well have you worked with local and regional tourism boards?
    Sometimes these have helped but often I am ignored.

    poorly - in many destinations find them almost worthless

    Yucatán state tourism are friendly, helpful and quite well-informed, and are becoming more interested in smaller-scale and community tourism rather than just big-investor projects. Tabasco too, strangely, are quite helpful, although they don't know much about small-scale projects. In 2 others of the states I mainly work (Quintana Roo, Campeche) I've never found the state tourism authorities much use at all. Chiapas does produce quite useful free maps sometimes, and their website is getting better.

    Tourism boards and local offices vary greatly in their usefulness, although I always make an effort to approach as many as possible. Attitudes can vary from enthusiasm to total indifference.

    We are cordial now, but they don't really provide much useful info for me.

    It varies tremendously from country to country and, in a large country like Brazil, from state to state. My most recent experience has been with the Falklands Islands Tourist Board - extremely helpful. In some cases personnel change frequently, which makes it hard to build up a consistent relationship with a tourism board.

    Tourism Boards

    Tourism boards and local offices vary greatly in their usefulness, although I always make an effort to approach as many as possible. Attitudes can vary from enthusiasm to total indifference.

    I Heart Central America’s Random Taglines – Travelojos

    Do tourism slogans actually work? I doubt it. At best, they manage to associate a place with some unrelated, but positive concept. At worst, they make a fantastic punchline about a destination that few people would want to visit. Slogans are kind of old school. It’s like saying: 'here’s how we want you to think of us.' That of course never works. Have you ever met an actual 'cool person' who told you that you ought to think of them as being 'cool'?

    joshua berman




    Media, Environment and Tourism
    Fair Trade in Travel Writing and Photography

    Citizen journalism and the social web are bringing out quality reporting and innovation such as identifying places to stay and environmental disasters on Google Earth.

    Wishlist - we would like to see more guides that combine the pov of shades of green with slow travel.

    would like to see more hotels that feature local cuisine, local decor

    trends - Utilizing local people as tour guides within the geographic area I am writing about.

    Beyond guidebooks, we would like to see travel features by people who live in a particular place. Celebrity Top10 lists are fun to read but lack roots. Now a Top10 list of guidebooks ...

    Please no more first person travel narratives by someone who gets lost and doesn't understand how that happened.

    Please no more dreamy, far-off fantasy land adventures

    Please no more guidebook covers that show a world without people. Kudos to publishers who show peoples faces (and give names to the people in the pictures).

    Top 10 Guidebooks
    Suggestions please


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