Arthur Frommer Will Again Publish Guidebooks

Arthur FrommerLast week, I wrote a lengthy tribute to guidebooks and the sad news that Frommer’s guidebooks would cease publication, and many readers here and on Twitter shared in my grief. Well, it’s time to remove the black armbands, because Arthur and his trusty guides are back! Don’t place your orders just yet; there’s still a lot up in the air, but the key news is that Arthur Frommer has reacquired his name brand from Google and confirmed to the Associated Press that he will resume publishing print, e-book and web content under the Frommer’s name. Google has retained all of the original Frommer’s content for its own Google+ and Zagat products, so Frommer will need to create all new content and find a new publisher for future books. Skift News has speculated on a few possibilities, as well as provided more details on the Frommer’s-to-Google migration. Long live Arthur Frommer, we look forward to what’s to come next.

Fear not, guidebook lovers; print isn’t dead.

[Photo credit: Darien Library on Flickr]

Zagat survey: five ways customers say they hate airlines … in their own words

airport and airline customer service takes a beating in Zagat surveyIt’s almost sport for customers to describe how much they hate airlines. Sure, there are a few that do well from time to time, occasionally delivering high levels of service or eschewing ancillary fees. But, the overwhelming trend tends to be one of customer dissatisfaction.

Zagat, which is in the business of measuring and publishing value and taste, has taken a shot defining the highs and lows of the airline business, and the results aren’t all that positive. Well, let’s be frank: there’s nothing pleasant about flying.

The survey results aren’t all that shocking, and you can get them here from Zagat. What’s more fun is the stuff Zagat wouldn’t print … on the advice of its lawyers, the company announcement claims with an implied smirk.

How bad can it be? Let’s look at five insights from the Zagat airline survey … with customer claws bared in all their gory glory:1. Akin to an execution: Zagat’s surveyors seemed to spend a lot of time talking about death. One noted, “The only thing missing is a blindfold and a cigarette.” Another said, “At least they haven’t killed me yet.” Get the message? In case you don’t, one called air travel, “A violation of the Geneva Convention.”

2. Service with a scowl: again, it’s not much of a shock that customer service didn’t score all that high. One surveyor summed it up: “Unwelcome aboard!” But, if you think that’s the most creative, you’re out of your mind. I did enjoy the comment, “My bags get better service, but they pay extra.” Nothing, however, beats one disgruntled contributor who asked, “Who made them mad at their customers?”

3. Not even money can buy you happiness: do you think the rich have it better? Well, not in the skies they don’t! According to one Zagat surveyor, “The only difference between economy and business classes is a shrimp on your salad.”

4. Training is key: and this is what led one to muse, “Flight attendants seem to have trained with Frau Blucher.” Yes, but what instruction guide was used? That’s where another chimed in: “Staff must use Orwell’s 1984 as a training manual.” Ouch.

5. Get comfortable? Get real: the fact that passengers don’t get a lot of space didn’t escape notice. One surveyor says, “I don’t love getting up-close-and-personal with the head of the person in front of me.” Notes another, “Seats make an iron maiden seem comfortable.” It gets worse: “Like a cattle car, except the cows are mercifully slaughtered at trip’s end.”

[photo by joiseyshowaa via Flickr]

Top Vancouver recommendations from Tim Zagat

Olympic Glory!The Olympics are so exciting that we forget ourselves. Once bestowed with a ticket, we find ourselves a flight and forget the rest.

Fortunately, there’s a Zagat Survey for the rest. Co-Founder, Co-Chair & CEO Tim Zagat just released his newest guide to Vancouver. “[Zagat Surveys] are based on a large number of avid, local consumers and are put through a careful editing process,” says Zagat of why his guides are so legendary. The other secret? “We have always kept our personal selections independent from the survey to avoid playing favorites.”

Zagat took the time to answer a few of our questions about Vancouver. Check out the interview below for a peek inside the Survey’s top picks for food and what tourists should expect.

Gadling: What should one look for in Vancouver? What is special about the destination (besides, you know, the Olympics)?

Tim ZagatTim Zagat: Whether you are looking for a fine dining experience or an attraction for the family, there is no shortage of excitement in Vancouver. Besides being a very attractive city, nearly 300 of the region’s finest restaurants, nightspots, attractions and hotels can be accessed in our 2010 Vancouver Survey and on ZAGAT.com. Surrounding areas such as Whistler, Victoria and Vancouver Island are all appealing.

G: With what cities would you compare Vancouver, for someone who’s never been there?

TZ: Seattle and Portland

G: If money were no object, what would be the ultimate Vancouver experience?
TZ: Most Popular:
1) Vij’s
2) Keg Steak
3) Blue Water Café
4) Le Crocodile
5) Chambar

Top Food:
1) La Belle Auberge
2) Vij’s
3) Cioppino’s
4) Le Crocodile
5) ToJo’s

G: Is there a specific local cuisine one must absolutely try?

TZ: I would recommend trying some of the great Pacific Northwest and Seafood restaurants in the area.
Top Pacific NW:
1) Bishop’s
2) West
3) Diva at the Met
4) Refuel
5) Cru

Top Seafood:
1) Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar
2) C Restaurant
3) Go Fish!
4) Sun Sui Wah Seafood
5) Rodney’s Oyster House

G: Any customs of which tourists should be careful?

TZ: As an expected 2.3 million attendees are expected to come for the Olympics, tourists should plan for changing traffic patterns, enhanced security zones and extra travel time for all local and regional travel. In certain areas and hours, vehicles will be banned, so tourists can plan on foot-traffic.

G: What do you think the Olympics will do for Vancouver in the long run?

TZ: In the long run, any city that hosts the Olympics experiences an international spotlight on its culture, customs and traditions. Similar to the experiences in other Olympic cities, Vancouver should anticipate a long-term boost in economic growth and tourism.

You can access the 2010 Vancouver Zagat Survey for free here.

Want more Olympics coverage?

Add the Zagat guide to your Garmin GPS unit with Spot It Out – the Gadling review

Do you rely on the Zagat guide to find good places to dine? And do you use your GPS unit to get around? A new product from a company called “Spot It Out” may be the perfect product for you.

Spot It Out has produced an assortment of MicroSD based GPS guides that can be added to almost any Garmin navigation unit. The current lineup offers the 2010 Zagat Guide, the Golf Digest 2010 golf course of America guide and a road hazard and safety guide.

In this review, I took a quick look at their Zagat guide, and will explain how it is installed, and how to use it.

The Spot It Out content is stored on a MicroSD card, and comes in a neat looking package. To get the information on your unit, you simply pop the MicroSD card in your GPS unit. Devices with a regular SD slot can use the included SD adapter. Once inserted, the unit will ask whether you want to install the new data. Once copied, you can remove the card and put it back in its protective case.

To access the data, you simply hit the “extras” button on your GPS device, and select from the available Zagat cities.

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Once you have selected a city, you can select from the available restaurants, sorted by distance to you. Alternatively, you can type a restaurant name to find its entry.

The “more” button displays the entire Zagat entry for that specific restaurant, listing the review, contact information, web site, the year they opened, payment methods accepted and more.

A fun way to find new Zagat rated restaurants is to enable the “alerts” feature found on most Garmin units – this will ping when you get close to a location included in the guide, making it easy to just drive around till you find somewhere decent to eat.

Final thoughts

The Spot It Out 2010 Zagat Guide retails for $29.99, and is available from Amazon. If you enjoy finding new Zagat rated restaurants, being able to add the guide to your GPS unit is really convenient.

My only minor complaint about the product is the way Garmin units pronounce the destination name – if you have a text-to-speech unit, it’ll read the entire restaurant name, along with the rating numbers, prices and more (as seen in the photo above). It isn’t a deal breaker, but still pretty annoying.

PROS: Entire Zagat guide in your GPS unit for under $30. Up to date information, easy to access
CONS: Text to speech GPS units will read the entire name, along with the rating numbers. Guides sometime suffer from poor layout/spacing

At the moment, the guides are only available through Amazon, in an ideal world, they’d also sell them as a download, removing the need to purchase the entire kit. Still, the content is well implemented, and by placing the entire Zagat guide in your GPS unit, you can leave the printed version at home.

Who was tops in Zagat airline survey?

The fliers are having their say, and Zagat is there to record it.

It’s time for Zagat’s annual Airline Survey, tracking travelers’ experiences with 16 U.S. airlines and 73 foreign airlines, and 30 U.S. airports. Each airline was rated on its comfort, service, food, and website.

These are the airlines to come in first this year:

Large Domestic (Premium class):
Continental Airlines
Large Domestic (Economy class): JetBlue Airways
Midsize Domestic (Both Premium and Economy):
Virgin America
International (Both Premium and Economy): Singapore Airlines

Any guesses on the top-ranked airport? Portland, Oregon. And the worst? LaGuardia, New York.

The full survey goes on to list everything from best luggage policy, to best in-flight entertainment, to quips from the ‘write in’ portions, such as “Treats occasional fliers like dirt, and treats frequent fliers like a better class of dirt.”

In total, the survey gathers the collective consensus of 5,895 frequent fliers and travel agents, who took 97,600 flights altogether in the past year.