For further information about the Travel Publishing Year Book, contact
firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the second part of a two-part analysis
of the travel publishing market, the first part appeared in the BookBrunch
LBF Preview; pick up a copy at stand 2A61 or go to BookBrunch.co.uk.
Ten years on from its first publication, the Nielsen BookScan
Travel Publishing Year Book now covers the UK, US and
other global markets, and offers a forensic analysis of the
travel publishing sector to give publishers a greater depth of
understanding of their market, writes Steven Mesquita.
I have always based the Year Book’s figures on value, on
the commercial basis that it’s the money you earn that pays
the bills, not the number you sell. But comparing value with
volume for the first time in the 2016 Year Book has revealed
two important points about 2015:
•;Publishers’ books have been raising more money, but not
necessarily selling more copies
•;Some of the increased value has been raised by lower
discounting to the public–resulting in more money for the
retailer, but not necessarily the publisher
The headline is this. All Travel value sales–Core (maps and
guides) and Non-core (travel writing, phrasebooks, etc)–
Travel categories grew by 0.39% in 2015 in value,
but, in volume, they fell by 4.04%. Even in the
“star” category of World Travel Guides, the 4.45%
increase in value we are celebrating falls to an
increase of 1.55% in volume.
Well, you might say: as long as publishers are
receiving more money, it doesn’t matter if they are
selling fewer books. In fact, it’s more efficient to sell
less and receive more. But is the extra money going
to the publisher? I have often highlighted how much
our industry is giving away in often unnecessary
discounts to the consumer through “offers” by
retailers. In 2015, the industry gave away £ 1.6m
less in Core Travel sales in discounts.
The value of sales based on RRP was down on
2014 by £ 1.5m–but by giving less discount to the
consumer, receipts were up by £230K. Some key
retailers used discount less in 2015, particularly
away from the world of major bestsellers. So,
while some of the increase in sales was due to
increased retail prices and benefited both publisher and
retailer, much was due to reduced discounts, which tends to
benefit the retailer, but not the publisher.
The category of World Travel Guides makes up nearly half
of all Core sales. It is a bellwether for the sector, and so
merits some further analysis. We have already seen that 2015
was a year to celebrate for World Travel Guide publishers.
After the first increase for a decade in 2014 (but a tiny one–
just 0.08%), 2015 saw a healthy gain in sales of 4.45%.
But it wasn’t all sweetness and light:
•;The top 10 publishers in World Travel Guides
accounted for 90% of the sales
•;One publisher accounted for 67% of the
increased sales in 2015
•;Sales of five out of the top 10 publishers in the
•;Sales of 11 out of the top 20 publishers in the
And the same trends are evident in the US market.
Seven years of continuous decline in the Travel Guides categories
came to an end in 2015 with a small increase ( 1.32%)–and
again, in the biggest category, World Travel Guides,
five of the top publishers gained and five lost sales.
As well as BookScan data, the 2016 Year Book
contains, for the second year, data from Books and
Consumers, Nielsen’s qualitative data. This gives us
insight into who is buying guides and in what formats.
For example, sales of travel guides in ebook format
grew in 2014 Q1-3 by 65% to 6.8% of all formats sold
between 2013 and 2014. In the past year, that growth
has come to a halt ( 7.0% in 2015). Encouragingly,
over the past three years, the audience for travel guides has
been getting younger, with 52% of purchases made by those
under 45 in 2015 Q1-3, compared with 48% in 2013 Q1-3.
So 2015 was a better year for travel publishing, but is it
sustainable? There is no doubt that, over the last three years,
the travel publishing market has plateaued. So far in 2016, the
same patterns are emerging. World Travel Guides are continuing
to put on strong growth, while UK Guides and Maps continue
to struggle. But volatility has increased. The initial signs in 2016
are that this volatility will continue in both the political and
economic arenas. The graphs will continue to be wavy. ■
Travel publishing: making waves