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Guidebooks in the age of COVID-19

Travel writing industry faces challenges even after lockdown restrictions ease

Travel guides on Southeast Asia from Lonely Planet, Moon Guides, Rough Guides, Insight Guides and Reise Know How. (Tom Vater)

BANGKOK -- I had just reached Don Sak pier, a coastal Thai ferry port for boats to the tourist islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, when I almost lost my mind.

I was at the end of a 10-week, 80-destination travel stint for the British publisher Rough Guides, researching the Thailand chapter for the first edition of the company's Southeast Asia guide. It was 1999 and the internet had not yet become the world's primary source of data storage. The ferry was full and my printed manuscript had never felt so heavy in my backpack. For a moment I was tempted to hurl the entire chapter into the sea.

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