The New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) has stopped publishing its long-running free maps and travel guides, with one hospitality worker describing it as “the end of an era”.
AA chief partnerships officer Greig Leighton said the association’s tourism publishing business would close, meaning the maps and guides would no longer be published in September as usual.
Involved in domestic tourism since the 1920s, the AA’s travel arm AA Traveller prints more than three million guides and maps a year. Digital versions are also available, and these will also be discontinued.
With titles such as New Zealand Road Atlas, South Island Road Trips and New Zealand Must Dos, the guides have been staples in Kiwi airports, AA centres, iSites, hotels, motels, and vehicle glove compartments for decades, as have the maps.
Suzanne Cooper, who runs Clarks Beach Holiday Park with her husband Gavin, described the discontinuation of the maps and guides as “the end of an era” as generations of New Zealanders have grown up with them.
“I remember seeing the old AA maps on the dashboards of travellers’ cars back in the 1970s,” she said.
“The brochures with the maps in them have been invaluable to give to tourists, especially those just starting out their holiday… A lot of tourists would keep the maps and take them home as a keepsake from their trip to New Zealand.”
Leighton said the cost of producing the print products, a decline in advertising, and changing traveller behaviour had made the continuation of the tourism publishing business untenable.
“I probably don’t have to tell you about the pressure on print in terms of paper costs and distribution costs,” he said.
“The tourism segment has been through a tough few years, and they’ve looked really hard at what they do with their money.”
Many advertisers have turned to digital platforms, as have travellers, he said.
Cooper, however, said she thinks there’s still a place for good-quality printed maps and brochures.
“When that cyclone hits, and there is a problem with the internet access, those maps have been very important.”
When the guides and maps were first published, Leighton said most Kiwis holidayed domestically.
“It was expensive and a bit of a luxury to travel internationally – that’s changed. It’s changed again in recent years, but as capacity comes back you’ll see prices drop internationally.
“But in the early days (of the guides) a lot of people went to holiday parks or baches if they were lucky enough to have them, or they went and stayed at local motels, and the vacation was done by motor vehicle. So you got out your map, you got out your guide, and you went to places they recommended.”
Leighton said AA Traveller’s bi-annual magazine AA Directions, which has a travel section, would continue, and that travel-related benefits for AA members would remain in place.
AA Traveller’s Expedia-powered accommodation booking system will also keep on going.
Some members of staff who worked on the guides have been moved to other parts of the business, but there have been “some redundancies”, Leightson said.
“We had an amazing team of designers, photographers, cartographers – who are fairly rare these days –and writers. It was a lean team that put a fantastic publication together. They did a tremendous job for us. It’s just that things have changed.”
Maps and guides will remain on the shelves until they run out, and digital versions are available on the AA Traveller website and on digital publishing platform Issuu.