Arthur Frommer: ‘We believe in guidebooks’


Arthur Frommer, the guru of travel guides, together with his daughter and travel expert Pauline Frommer are relaunching Frommer guidebooks. With 30 titles in two formats, the books reach stores Nov. 1.

Why did the Frommers reacquire the rights to publish their books?

“We believe in the future of guidebooks, “says Arthur Frommer. “We do not accept the conventional wisdom that print guides are dead. A significant percentage of the public wants to carry a book with them.”

Forget about the 500-page behemoth books of the past Frommer series. The new guides are quick, easy to carry reads. The EasyGuides at 252 pages and the Day by Day volumes at 184 pages fit into pockets and purses.

Frommer’s 20 EasyGuides, priced at $10.95 each, cover top destinations such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami and Key West, London and Paris. The 10 Day by Day Guides, $13.95 each, are organized around neighborhood itineraries and shopping, arts, the outdoors and other interests. Titles include Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Prague and Rome.

We had the opportunity to talk with the Frommers about their guides and travel tips.

What makes your guides standout in a crowded marketplace that includes websites, apps and print products?

Pauline: We don’t think the “medium” — print vs. electronic — is what’s important. We understand that some readers will prefer paper, while others will want the information on their devices, and we’ll have our guides in both forms. What’s important is how these books are prepared, which is: by actual travel journalists, most of whom live in the destination. What we’re offering, therefore, is true expertise rather than disguised marketing, which is a huge problem for much of the content on user-generated websites and finely curated information.

Arthur: We are cost conscious to an extent you do not find elsewhere. We stress value. That’s what has made the Frommer series the leading series for 50 years. One out of every four guidebooks sold in the USA were Frommer’s guides.

What are five tips for getting the most out of travel in the 21st century?

Arthur: Visit off-season to avoid the crowds. That is the absolute key to having a better experience.

Pack light. Do not weigh yourself down with the burden of heavy luggage.

Use local transportation facilities to experience the city as a local does.

Pauline: Nobody has unlimited money. Figure out what’s important to you. If you really want to do scuba diving, then consider a less expensive lodging so that you have the money to do more scuba diving.

Take advantage of the power of the Internet to connect with locals. There are all kinds of meet-ups and clubs where you can have conversations with locals. Call all of your friends ahead of time to see if they know anyone in Prague or Taipei or wherever you are going. Offer to take friends of friends out to dinner.

Arthur: That dinner will be the most memorable evening of your trip.

What are some travel trends?

Arthur: The single strongest trend in recent years that people are substituting apartment rentals and vacation home rentals for hotel rooms. Travelers are contacting local rental agencies, and sites like FlipKey and Airbnb.

Pauline: Staying in a home instead of a hotel gives you a more authentic experience and it’s often cheaper than a hotel stay.

What are the most surprising new destinations on the horizon and why?

Arthur: Central America is becoming popular. Costa Rica and Panama and even Nicaragua is starting to receive visitors. Some of that has to do with airfare. With airfare is remarkably low even from distant regions like Maine.

What are some places on your personal bucket lists?

Arthur: There are very few places we haven’t been. I have never been to Tibet and I regret that. A tragedy in travel in recent years is the elimination of many countries in the Middle East as safe destinations. Everyone should see Egypt.

Pauline: I have been traveling since I was 4 months old with my parents and then on my own, but the world is vast. I have not yet been to New Zealand.