I have recently begun planning a trip to Eastern Europe this fall. Like many travellers, I use a variety of resources in different formats, including print guidebooks, online websites and mobile apps.
Travel guide publishing is big business and several publishers are vying for travelers’ attention, with Lonely Planet being the world’s largest. Others in the top ten include DK (publisher of the Eyewitness Travel Guides), Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Rough Guides, and Avalon (publisher of Rick Steves’ guides).
From its website I discovered that Lonely Planet began in 1973 when founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler “stapled together their first guidebook after an epic trip across Asia.” The Lonely Planet website went live in 1995, a magazine was launched in 2008 and the 100 millionth guidebook (Australia) was printed in 2010. This year, the company introduced its mobile app Guides, which boasts one million downloads and counting.
I was fascinated to learn that the first Fodor’s guidebook was a guide to Europe for British travellers, published in 1936. Hungarian-born Eugene Fodor worked as a translator on French cruise ships and became a travel correspondent while on board. The following year he published his first guidebook for American tourists, 1937 in Europe, which sold out its entire first printing in three days.
Fodor moved to the United States in 1942, becoming a citizen, and working for the U.S. Military on special assignment during World War II. After the war, he returned to publishing, founding Fodor’s Modern Guides, acting as printer, photographer and designer. For the next several decades, Fodor continued to publish guides to individual countries around the world, employing local writers.
He died in 1991 at the age of 85, but Fodor’s travel guides live on with more than 700 writers covering 7500 destinations.
The first guide published by Arthur Frommer, 1957’s Europe on $5 a Day, changed the way people travelled. Along with his daughter, Frommer is still president of FrommerMedia, which now publishes more than 70 titles.
Rick Steves’ first guidebook, Europe Through the Back Door, was published in 1979. His guides cover European countries only, and today his travel advice is available in books, a television series, a radio show and a syndicated newspaper column, as well as online.
I especially like his free audio self-guided walking tours, available as MP3s or podcasts. One that I remember is the Venice Grand Canal tour in which he points out different buildings that can be seen from the vaporetto, or water bus.
Since travel information comes in many forms, don’t limit your trip planning to online sources. Much of the content on well-known travel websites is manipulated and influenced by hotels and restaurants, making it difficult to determine which comments are genuine and which are not.
No matter where in the world you would like to go, there are guidebooks at the library to help you plan. Next month: how to see the world from the comfort of your own home.
Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.