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Why holiday travel guides still have some mileage left

As Time Out confirms it is stopping publication of its travel guides, Sarah Marshall asks if this is the beginning of the end for guidebooks

Published 18/02/2016

New era: book sales are down, but travel guides are still popular
New era: book sales are down, but travel guides are still popular

At one time, guidebooks were considered indispensable to travellers and enjoyed pride of place in suitcases alongside passports. But the growth of online and digital products has led to the demise of printed editions, and recently Time Out confirmed it would cease publication of its Time Out Guides in 2016.

So is this the end of an era?

Surprisingly, it's not game over just yet. According to an article in last month's edition of The Bookseller, travel guide publishers have been shown a glimmer of hope after the genre experienced a surge in sales for the first time in seven years.

Figures from Neilsen BookScan reveal that although the market has been in decline since 2007, with sales dropping to an all-time low of £59m in 2012-2014, there was some growth in 2015 with Travel and Holiday Guides up 1.1%.

One entrepreneur who's enjoying surprising success is Rene Fey, CEO of APA, publishers of the popular Insight Guides series.

APA has diversified to become an online travel marketplace, providing direct links to a multitude of verified local operators, allowing users to benefit from the services of local experts in a safe booking environment.

There are currently 20 destinations and 120 trips on offer, although Fey plans to extend this next month, describing the company as being "the Uber of travel, connecting travellers with local travel suppliers".

Although the new booking service marks a new direction for the company, now in its 45th year, printed guidebooks are still very much a part of the future game plan.

This year, 100 new titles and new editions are planned, adding to the 400 publications already in print. Fey will also offer a free app and ebook with every print edition.

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