As Vice President, Editor in Chief at Fodor’s Travel, Bowen utilizes her extensive travel knowledge to lead the respected brand’s content strategy across all formats, from guidebooks to web to mobile apps. Under her stewardship, Fodor's website, blog and apps have earned honors from the Society of American Travel Writers, The Webby Awards and Wired Magazine. As Fodor's media spokesperson, Bowen has shared recommendations and travel expertise with TODAY, CBS This Morning, CNN, USA Today, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and more.
How did you get into the publishing industry?
I started out as an arts and culture journalist for daily newspapers in Canada and became deeply involved in politics in my twenties in Montreal; so much so, I expected to find myself working in the Prime Minister’s office by the time I was 30. Then a three-month solo trip through South East Asia changed everything: I met so many people and saw so many transformative things, but my guidebook was my only constant. When I got back, I knew I had to write guidebooks instead, and I pitched Rough Guides on doing the first edition of their Montreal guide. After much back and forth, I got the gig. The experience of researching, writing, and mapping out a destination for the first time was deeply rewarding. A couple of guidebooks later, I was officially hooked on the idea of helping travelers discover the world and making first tracks in a destination myself. I moved to New York to make a real go of it in 2001. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why did you choose Fodor’s over all of the other travel mags/guides?
Fodor’s 1985 Soviet Union guide was the first guide I remember using. I bought it for a school trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg when I was 13. Even then, the integrity of the content and discerning recommendations impressed me, so when an editorial director position opened up here in 2010, I pounced. By the way, that first guide is still with me; I keep it on my desk as a daily reminder of Fodor’s legacy and my part in continuing it.
What editorial strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Fodor's success?
We’ve focused on making our award-winning content available to travelers at every stage of their trip—from the planning stage to on-the-ground exploration. With so many travelers going digital, we’ve expanded our online presence by updating our destination content on a regular basis; launched our popular news and features section with up-to-the-minute reports from around the world; and added inspirational features like our Go List and Hotel Awards. We’ve also embraced new guide formats: eBooks are now available for all of our guides; we have award-winning apps to dozens of destinations; and our 25 Best pocket series just got rebooted this year, with 31 titles in the hopper. It’s an exciting time!
How has the social media craze affected Fodors?
Being able to see what travelers are talking about in real time has had a terrific impact on our coverage. All of Fodor’s editors are active on social, sharing their travel finds and recommendations, and connecting with travelers around the world on a daily basis. Instagram and Pinterest have been major sources of inspiration and daily wanderlust; real-time Twitter news and updates have kept us current. It’s been transformative in all the best ways.
When did you realize you had the travel bug?
I’ve been traveling for as long as I can remember, first to Europe, then beyond. I simply can’t imagine my life without it. The first thing I do when I get home from a trip is start planning my next one.
Favorite travel destinations?
I’m drawn to cosmopolitan cities and wide-open spaces—and those two rarely converge! I’m just as excited going to Venice on a Biennale year as I am hiking in Chile’s Atacama Desert, miles away from civilization. But, Paris is the one place I return to every year, usually in the spring. It’s the only city that grabs me like New York.
Top essentials to have while traveling to a third world country?
Curiosity, an open mind, a sense of adventure. What about to an exotic luxury location? Your credit card and a need to be pampered.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
A Negroni up and a chilled artichoke with vinaigrette. Though not together; the artichoke needs a dry rosé.
You’re a citizen of the world, go see it.
What literature is on your bed stand?
I just finished Lawrence Osborne’s The Wet and the Dry, a fantastic memoir about drinking customs from Lebanon to Scotland.
Your advice to an aspiring journalist?
Role model - business and personal?
More and more women are traveling solo now, but that wasn’t always the case. Professionally, I idolized Martha Gellhorn: She knew a good story and wasn’t afraid to go after it on her own, no matter how remote a place it took her, how limited her resources were, or how little access to information she had. Her spirit of discovery and spare writing style continue to impress me. Personally, my mother’s travel style has been my greatest influence: She moved to Paris on her own at 21 and figured out how to stay there for several years, learning French in the process. She embarked on countless solo trips all over Europe—many of which I’m just hearing about for the first time! She still insists on having her own adventures when we travel together now—and always returns for dinner with amazing stories of the things she’s seen and people she’s met!
What's next for Fodors and Arabella Bowen?
We’ll continue to create new products and expand our travel offerings to be everywhere travelers are. We’re particularly excited to publish a new Brooklyn guide next year. As for me, I’m fulfilling a 15-year travel dream by going to Myanmar in October. Can’t wait.
A native of Toronto, Bowen began her career as a journalist covering everything from politics to arts and culture for daily and weekly Canadian newspapers. Bowen's travel career began in 1999, after a three-month solo trip through South East Asia with nothing more than a guidebook for company inspired her to write travel guides herself when she returned home. She subsequently contributed to several titles for the Rough Guides series, including their inaugural Montreal and Caribbean guides.
A world traveler from a very young age, Arabella Bowen has visited more than 55 countries, and every continent except Antarctica. Averaging at least a dozen trips a year, Bowen’s impressive travel resume spans the globe, providing the first-hand destination expertise that is synonymous with Fodor’s.