Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Google to buy Frommer’s travel guidebook publisher


Google Inc is buying the Frommer’s line of travel guidebooks, the latest move to amass a trove of publishing content that could strengthen the No. 1 Internet search company’s push to become a major online travel broker.

The sale by John Wiley & Sons Inc comes nearly a year after Google’s US$151 million purchase of Zagat Survey, which offers reviews of restaurants and hotels in cities around the world.

Google and Wiley & Sons did not announce financial terms for the deal, which is expected to close shortly.

The deal will meld the 55-year-old travel publisher’s deep database of hotels and sights into a search giant that is seeking to position its services across the entire trip-planning process, from searching for a holiday destination and looking up hotel reviews to booking tours and restaurants in far-flung cities.

As a result, analysts said, Google is increasingly threatening a range of companies, like review site Yelp Inc and flight and hotel booking service TripAdvisor, which are scrumming for a slice of the growing online travel market.

“It’s been Google’s overarching strategy to dominate the travel vertical,” B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha said. “They want to dislodge these vertical search engines that may have gained over the last few years.”

Shares of Yelp fell 7.7 percent to US$23.87 on Monday after the deal was announced. Online travel Web site Expedia Inc’s stock slipped 1.1 percent to US$53.83. TripAdvisor fell 4.5 percent to US$33.52.

Shares of Google, which on Monday announced plans to lay off 20 percent of its recently acquired Motorola Mobility business, rose 2.8 percent to US$660.01. Wiley & Sons shares were off US$0.01, or 0.02 percent, at US$47.58.

By teaming up with Frommer’s, which publishes 350 titles and covers more than 4,000 destinations, Google could expand its reach internationally and beef up information on local hotels and tourist activities across the globe.

“They want to marry content with commerce, and content is an important part of that equation,” Sinha said.

A Google spokeswoman said that over time, the company would integrate the content acquired from Frommer’s with Zagat. However, initially, Google will continue to offer the reviews of hotels, restaurants and sights across the world on the Web under the Frommer’s brand name.

The spokeswoman said there was nothing to announce regarding whether Google would continue to publish the print guidebooks.

The latest acquisition by the Internet giant caps a 55-year journey for a series that first appeared in the early years of commercial air travel. In 1957, Arthur Frommer, a former US soldier, released his European sightseeing book, entitled Europe on 5 Dollars a Day, after fellow GIs snatched up a similar guide that Frommer had distributed while he was stationed in Germany.

In the 1970s, tattered copies of Frommer’s book accompanied a new generation of young US backpackers across Europe. And in the years since, other publishers like Lonely Planet have also found considerable success printing guides for the independent traveler. Lonely Planet is now owned by the British Broadcasting Corp.

However, the golden days of travel book publishing may be over, given the rise of tablets and e-books that can be easily updated with the most current maps and listings, publishing consultant Shanley said.

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