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Luxury travel

Rough Guides reboot: travel publisher launches bespoke holidays for time-poor adventurers

  • Backpacking guide publisher begins shift to becoming ‘dynamic tech company’ by selling holidays to travellers who don’t want to rough it any more
  • While its guides have a loyal following, most readers are aged 40 to 60, the company found; sister firm Insight Guides is already selling trips
PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 1:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 7:20am

After almost 40 years of helping backpackers travel on a budget, Rough Guides has launched a bespoke holiday service aimed at “time-poor” adventurous older travellers who no longer want to rough it. The move is the start of a transformation of the publisher’s entire business model from guidebook seller to online travel company.

“In five to 10 years we don’t want to be seen as a guidebook publisher: we want to be seen as a dynamic tech company that provides tailor-made trips,” says CEO Rene Frey.

The decision follows a survey that found that most Rough Guides readers are 40 to 60, or older. Frey says those readers are “astonishingly loyal” but that selling guidebooks to an ageing readership was unsustainable. “The only way out is a transactional business model where you can grow much bigger.”

Frey adds that his background in newspapers and magazines have persuaded him of the need for a fundamental shift in the way the company operates.

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Sister publisher Insight Guides has already started to sell holidays, which now represent 18 per cent of the overall business.

The introduction of the Rough Guides trips will increase holiday sales to 30 per cent to 40 per cent in 2019. In five to eight years’ time, publishing will represent 10 per cent of overall sales.

Frey acknowledges that adventure travel is already a crowded market but says the Rough Guides trips offer something different by providing a platform that puts customers in direct contact with local experts in a destination.

“This is going to change the way people travel. If you think about the Airbnb model, it is connecting travellers with owners. We are cutting the traditional travel chain.”

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Where Insight Guides holidays provide stylish hotels and experiences, Rough Guides trips will be aimed at travellers who want adventurous activities and to explore a destination independently, in keeping with the original spirit of the guides, launched by co-founders Mark Ellingham and Martin Dunford in 1982, with the Rough Guide to Greece.

To book a trip, users enter their budget, destination, preferred accommodation type and activities and receive a tailor-made itinerary from a local travel expert.

The service has launched with 50 countries but will expand to cover more.