Mapping agencies report surge in sales of paper maps from adventure-seeking travellers wanting to get off the beaten track. Rose Dykins reports
In recent years, mapping agencies and travel companies have seen a notable increase in paper map sales, suggesting a consumer appetite for more intrepid adventures.
In 2020, mapping agency Ordnance Survey reported a 144 per cent year-on-year increase in sales of its custom-made maps, a figure that climbed a further 28 per cent in 2021. Meanwhile, the American Automobile Association (AAA) produced 123 per cent more maps in 2022 than in 2021.
The increased demand for paper maps reflects a behavioural trend from millennial and Gen Z travellers who are seeking new ways for their travel to feel more exploratory, rather than overly optimised.
By prioritising analogue navigation over digital maps, travellers are forgoing convenience and embracing a slower, more mindful way of exploring. With technology constantly infiltrating their daily lives, turning to a paper map to follow their next adventure gives travellers a break from their screens and the accompanying digital fatigue they may be experiencing.
While there’s no denying that GPS can make travel more manageable and accessible – according to booking.com, 62 per cent of people say technology helps alleviate their travel anxieties – the rise in paper maps sales supports the trend for off-the-grid travel, and taking a less direct route to destinations and soaking up the sights along the way.
For example, 78 per cent of Americans say they’ve found “hidden gems” while roadtripping that they wouldn’t have come across if travelling a different way, illustrating how unplanned discoveries can enhance travel experiences. In comparison to using digital maps to calculate the most efficient route for a journey, paper maps present more likelihood of taking unexpected turns, or a more scenic route.
There’s an opportunity for travel brands to tap into travellers’ desire for wilderness seeking and spontaneity with products and itineraries where the journey is just as important as the destination, and integrating paper map navigation into the experience.
At the same time, the digital navigation sector is set to continue growing rapidly over the coming decade. According to Straits Research the global digital map market was worth US$19 billion in 2022. This is predicted to rise by 12.5 per cent annually until 2031, reaching US$55.2 billion.
Given the popularity and maturation of wearable tech and the popularity of everyday tech that relies on digital navigation – such as ride-hailing and car-sharing apps – the demand for digital maps is set to rise sharply too.