Thursday, March 27, 2008

Luncheon with Arthur & Pauline Frommer

The Thursday author luncheon I attended was the talk by Arthur and Pauline Frommer.

Arthur Frommer began his career in travel after Yale Law School when joined the military. He wrote A Soldier’s guide to Germany this was later republished as Europe on $5 a Day in 1957 and became a best seller. There are now over 300 titles in the list. Pauline is his daughter, writes on her own, and started the Frommer web site.

Arthur started with the typical library story including the importance of libraries in the success of his first book.

They talked as a team passing back and forth. They structured the talk as one on travel for librarians including trends.

Arthur started with trends:

Decline in value of US dollar. The value of the US dollar is at its lowest against the Euro and the pound. With commissions on currency exchanges, need to double the cost in Euros/British Pounds. Therefore must change habits of travel and eliminate Europe and replace it with other equally interesting areas of the world.

Elimination of the cruise ship as the option for the intelligent traveler. Ships are not a giant metallic box containing an amusement park. It now excluded the experience of ship travel. Smaller ships are still available, but are high priced for us.

The Internet now makes available the true costs of air travel through aggregaotrs who do not sell tickets like Kayak and Sidestep.


Skyrocketing costs of hotels because of the lack of rooms. Price Waterhouse found that there were $2 billion in hidden fees after 15-20% increases. There are new fees and cancellation fees. Pauline writes budget guides which look at alternative travel. The series is aimed at travelers who want to travel with some dignity, but can’t afford the high price. For example, there are Londoners who will rent out a room with private bath. In many cases renting a complete apartment may be cheaper than staying at a hotel. In Europe there are monasteries and convents which rent rooms.


Thousands will replace trips to Europe with trips to Central and South America. He talked about going to Chile, a country run by a woman. Buenos Aires has a great lifestyle where the peso has dropped from par to 3 pesos to the dollar. Costa Rica has been found, but there are places like Panama City and to Nicaragua. The Panama Canal has had its volume of ships tripled under the new management of the Panamanians. There are lots of low cost bargains, and no jet lag since they are in the same time zones as parts of the United States.

There is an explosion of buses which allow you to travel in the US at very, very low prices from $1 to $14 between cities. The mob scenes and travel through airports are difficult, and Congress has starved Amtrak so that train travel is unattractive. There are new entrepreneurs who have undercut the prices of Greyhound by up to 60%. Some include free electricity and wi-fi. Megabus has been launched and offers very low costs.


Medical and dental tourism is a new field. With uninsured and underinsured, people are going to Costa Rica, Brazil, and Thailand to get care. The same organization which accredits US hospitals is accrediting hospitals around the world. The level of care is higher because wages are lower and the number of nurses is double the US level, and cleaning staff will be four times the level of US hospitals. Costs are lower both because of lower wage rates and subsidy by the government. Different countries have different specialties: plastic surgery in Brazil, heart surgery in Thailand


Pauline: Sector tours is taking people to Ireland for $799 in April and returns in November and December. The Caribbean in hurricane season can be much cheaper in September and October. In Dominican Republic an all inclusive vacatikon travel mart, liberty travel

Volunteer vacations can be good. National parks… Can be as little as $225 including meals. Vaughan systems teaches Spanish business people to speak English. Need to pay your way to Spain, but for free, you get hotel and meals. All you have to do is talk, so that the business people can learn colloquial English.


There is an immense bargain: a trip to China whose currency is artificially weak against the dollar that the cost of a hotel can be $30 in a tourist class hotel. China Focus ( for a 10 night stay including airfare and visiting 5 cities and escorted tours. $999 per person in the winter, goes to $1399 in the spring. Others who offer similar tours from the East coast include or Costs will be high during the Olympics, but within 5 days of the end of the Olympics, prices will drop again.


Concluded with a slide show she featured places which are inexpensive, fascinating, under visited:

Appulia Italy (the heel of the boot of Italy)
Halifax, Nova Scotia

They saved time for questions which ranged over topics like going to Vietnam, Greece, and cheap flights to Hawaii. (Kayak was noted as the best site for finding cheap flights.)

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