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Google Buying Frommer's: What This Means for Travelers

Google solidified its long-term travel focus by announcing that it will buy the Frommer's guidebook publishing operation from current owner, Wiley & Sons.

Google previously acquired ITA Software, supplier of the leading behind-the-scenes airfare meta-search engine used by several large online agencies, and the Zagat  restaurant and hotel review operation. Clearly, Google wants to become a major player in travel—especially online travel—and Frommer's provides access to a huge base of content plus a trusted name. This consolidation raises some interesting questions for consumers:

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  • Will Google expand on or improve the basic Frommer's content store, especially through more frequent updating?
  • Will Google's arch-competitors, including Microsoft and Expedia, continue to use Frommer's–generated content, or will they go elsewhere—and if so, where?
  • How will Google scale up the Frommer's base into new digital applications?
  • Will an expanding Google squeeze user-generated sites such as TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel's sister site)?
  • Will affiliation with Google compromise Frommer's traditional reputation for integrity?

For now, we have lots of questions and no answers. But given Google's immense clout and online presence, we'd be surprised not to see some big changes in use and distribution of Frommer's familiar content.

And now for a bit of nostalgia. Even though we may have long since expanded our sources of travel information, travelers of a certain age owe Arthur Frommer a huge debt. He—more than any other individual—helped to jump-start the opening of Europe as a mass-market travel destination. His seminal Europe on $5 a Day book, first published in 1957, did more than anything else to convince many of us that Europe was no longer just a playground for the rich. Countless thousands (including a young Bill Clinton) followed Frommer's then-standard minimum-cost approach of flying Loftleidir (later to become Icelandair) to Luxembourg and starting their trips there, packing a Frommer's guide and traveling with either a Eurail Pass or a rented car.

Yes, back in 1957, you really could travel in Europe for $5 a day, and although prices have climbed dramatically, Frommer always maintained his focus on low-cost traveling. Even though he has now sold off both his guidebook operation and Budget Travel Magazine, which he later founded, Frommer remains an active blogger on the Frommer's site, as does his daughter, Pauline. Whatever happens under a Google regime, we wish the Frommers many happy future blogs. 

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