5 Questions with Tim Jarrell, Fodor’s Publisher, on 75 Years of Travel Guides

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Eugene Fodor penned his first guide book, On the Continent–The Entertaining Travel Annual, on European travel in 1936. Since then, Fodor’s has become one of the world’s largest publishers of travel guides, producing companions to more than 300 destinations around the globe. In honor of their 75th anniversary, NewsFeed spoke to Tim Jarrell, publisher of Fodor’s, about the company’s legacy, the changing tourism industry and his favorite travel destination.

Tell us about the man behind these guides. What was Eugene Fodor’s vision of traveling?
Eugene Fodor started Fodor’s because he really wanted to introduce people to travel and he felt that travel was a form of international diplomacy. Even though we’re transitioning into a digital world, we make sure that we remaining true to his vision.

How has travel changed in recent years, especially since the recession?
The recession has obviously had a deep impact on the travel industry. Up to the recession, there were forecasts that travel would grow 5-10%, and as a result, a lot of people were building hotels, and airlines were expanding. And when the recession hit, there was a lot of excess capacity in the system. The travel industry is just now working through that…and beginning to grow again.

For consumers, it’s a little bit of a different story, although a parallel story. The travel economy came to a standstill and people just stopped traveling. Now those who feel more secure in their jobs are beginning to travel once again and they’re beginning to travel farther away from home

And how has that changed travel guides?
One obvious trend is that as we’ve become digital. As people have access to the Internet and mobile devices, there is much more travel information available. And travelers are less reliant on traditional guide books than perhaps they were before.

The other trend is actually more subtle but equally significant. What’s happening over time is that travel is becoming much, much more democratic. As travel becomes more commonplace—the fact that you can fly nonstop from New York to Hong Kong—people feel more comfortable traveling. If you’ve been to a destination before, do you still need the same kind of preparation? I think that, for the once-in-a-lifetime trip, people are still dependent on travel guides. But people are looking for easier ways to get that information.

How have you changed Fodor’s guides to keep up with these trends?
In the last four or five years, we’ve changed these books to make them more entertaining, more inspirational and just more fun to read. We go into depth on things like how to dance and learn the tango in Buenos Aires. Or how to do a wine trip in Italy. We’ve introduced color books in the last three years and we have added magazine-like features to bring destinations alive.

What are your personal favorite trips?
Istanbul if you’re looking for something a little bit more adventurous and if you want a European kind of trip. Istanbul is fascinating because there is so much culture and is in the middle of everything, but it is a thoroughly modern city. And I happen to have a very soft spot in my heart for Macchu Picchu. It’s one of the great trips that everyone should take in their life—to be able to walk in the middle of those mountains is just mythical.