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Guidebooks still a valuable travel resource

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2014 – March 2015 (n=1,706). Thumbnail image: copyright Jaymis Loveday (Flickr Creative Commons)

In this day and age, when even the most digitally challenged of us are going online to book and research our holidays, what chance does the humble guidebook stand? There is no doubt that fewer Aussie travellers are using guidebooks than they were 10 years ago, but this doesn’t mean they’re obsolete. Certain kinds of travellers are still using them, particularly those heading overseas …

In the 12 months to March 2015, 12.9 million Australians aged 14+ took at least one holiday, domestic and/or overseas. Of those, 3.7% (or just over 480,000 people) used a guidebook on their last trip, down from 6.3% a decade ago. At 12.1%, this figure is much higher among Aussies whose last holiday was overseas, making them almost seven times more likely to use guidebooks than folks whose last trip was domestic (1.8%).

Guided to foreign shores

Of course, certain kinds of overseas holiday-makers are more inclined to use guidebooks than others: solo travellers (19.3%), travellers who read non-fiction books (17.8%), people who took their holiday with a partner (16.2%) and those aged between 50 and 64 (15.9%), for starters.

Different types of overseas travellers who are most likely to use travel guides


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2014 – March 2015 (n=1,706).

Admittedly, the relative popularity of guidebooks among the groups of travellers featured above does not mean they were the most popular source of information for these people: friends/ relatives, travel agents and the internet were more widely used by all groups when researching/ deciding on their last overseas trip.

Angela Smith, Group Account Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Ever since the internet went mainstream, doomsayers have been predicting the death of the printed book – travel guides included. While the use of guidebooks is nowhere near as widespread as it once was, they still serve a purpose, with Aussies heading overseas markedly more likely to refer to them than those whose last trip was domestic. This makes perfect sense: Australian destinations are generally more familiar and less challenging to negotiate than foreign destinations (particularly those where English is not the primary language).

“In terms of popular international destinations, Australians whose last holiday took them to France, Italy and/or the UK were more likely to use guidebooks than people who went to Bali or New Zealand.

“Publishers of guidebooks don’t need us to tell them that the size of their market has decreased dramatically over the last decade. Even among people travelling overseas, the proportion using guidebooks has declined by a third (from 18.2% to 12.1%). However, with a detailed understanding of the kinds of people who still use/buy guidebooks, they are better placed to tailor their product to fulfil the needs of these individuals, providing a viable (and desirable) alternative to travel websites/blogs, and ensuring their future survival.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%