Travel guides were first written centuries ago, when merchants would describe their itineraries and mark down landmarks and ports of call along the coastlines they traded along. As travel became popular in the 1660’s with traditional trips to Europe by young men of means, written accounts of these journeys were published and became ever more popular. The first comprehensive travel guidebooks began to appear in the nineteenth century and were known as ‘Baedekers’ after the publishing house. Michelin, Fodor and Frommer all produced books in the first half of the 20th century, and by the 1950’s and 60’s there was a huge rise in the number of budget travel guides, as people realised that with the right information it was possible to tour large parts of the world on a restricted budget.
The first Lonely Planet guidebook was issued in 1974 and was aimed at young people from Australia and Europe undertaking the overland ‘hippie trail’ in Asia. The business went on to become the largest travel guidebook publisher in the world and in 1995 it launched its own website, Trip Planner tool and travel forum called the Thorn Tree, which is used by over 600,000 travellers for trade tips and advice. By 2008 travel guidebook sales had reached their peak as publishers began to make their information available in a reasonably priced app form. In 2013 Lonely Planet announced it was laying off up to 80 editors and other staffers, and speculation surged that this move portended the end of print guidebooks, so a statement had to be released saying Lonely Planet is still committed to continuing to publish guidebooks. Whether companies will continue to publish in digital or print form, guidebooks are important to many people and have become part of our holidays that we cannot do without.