Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet

Infobox Company
name = Lonely Planet Publications
logo =
type = Private (subsidiary of BBC Worldwide)
genre = Travel guides
foundation = 1972
founder = Tony Wheeler
Maureen Wheeler
location_city = Footscray, Victoria
location_country = Australia
location =
origins =
key_people =
area_served = Worldwide
industry = Publications
products =
services =
revenue =
operating_income =
net_income =
num_employees = 360
parent = BBC Worldwide
divisions =
subsid =
owner =
slogan =
homepage = http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
dissolved =
footnotes =

Lonely Planet Publications (usually known as Lonely Planet or LP) is one of the largest travel guidebook publishers in the world. It was the first popular series of travel books aimed at backpackers and other low-cost travelers. As of 2008, it published about 500 titles in 8 languages, with annual sales of more than six million guidebooks, as well as TV programs, podcasts and websites.

Lonely Planet has a television production company (Lonely Planet Television), which has produced and developed four series: "Lonely Planet Six Degrees", "The Sport Traveller", "Going Bush" and "Vintage New Zealand". Another, "Bluelist Australia", is on its way. Lonely Planet is headquartered in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, with affiliate offices in London and Oakland, CA.

The company is now controlled by BBC Worldwide, who own a 75% share, while founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler still own 25% of the company.


graduate, and his wife Maureen Wheeler in Sydney in 1973, following a lengthy jaunt across the continent from Turkey, through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan before ending up in India or Nepal. The popularity of the overland route declined when Iran's borders closed in 1979. cite journal
first =
last =
authorlink =
coauthors =
year =2006
month =July 20
title =Asia's overland route Hit the road, Jack
journal =The Economist
volume =
issue =
pages =
id =
url =http://bailey83221.livejournal.com/97083.html
] cite book
last =MacLean
first =Rory
authorlink =Rory Maclean
coauthors =
date =June 29, 2006
title =Magic Bus
publisher =Penguin
location =
id =ISBN 978-0-141-01595-8
] Written with panache and full of strong opinions, it sold well enough in Australia that it allowed the couple to expand it into "South-East Asia on a shoestring" (nicknamed the 'Yellow Bible'), quickly became the classic guidebook for budget travelers in this part of the world, and remains one of the company's biggest sellers.

Lonely Planet's first books catered to young people from Australia and Europe (mainly the UK) undertaking the overland hippie trail between Australia and Europe, via South-East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. This was becoming something of a rite of passage for young travellers, especially Australians and New Zealanders, who spent many months (or years) on the journey.

Tourist facilities were limited in most of the countries en route, and low-budget tourism was unheard of. This was the first (relatively) large-scale influx of first-worlders who took local buses in Thailand, ate at street stalls in India, or stayed with villagers in Afghanistan.

The Lonely Planet clientele developed a word-of-mouth affection for the company and its products. Reader feedback played an important part in keeping most of the guide books updated, Lonely Planet benefited from the Wheelers' skills as writers, publishers and businesspeople.

The guidebook series expanded initially in Asia, with the India guidebook, first published in 1981, being a major milestone. [ [http://www.ricksteves.com/radio/archive.htm#115 Interview with Tony Wheeler] , "Podcast", 24 November 2007.] Only in the 1990s did the company expand into Europe and North America. Nowadays the company publishes about 500 titles. In addition to books covering virtually every country in the world, it also published a range of specialised thematic guidebooks.

Over the years its target audience has expanded from budget-conscious backpackers to include more affluent travelers.

In September 2007, Lonely Planet was purchased by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation, with the Wheelers retaining a 25% stake in the company. [ [http://www.theage.com.au/news/business/bbc-buys-lonely-planet/2007/10/01/1191091011676.html BBC buys Lonely Planet] , "The Age", 1 October 2007.]

The company name comes from a misheard line in "Space Captain," a song by Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. The actual words are "lovely planet" but Tony Wheeler heard "lonely planet" and liked it.

Recent changes

The Lonely Planet guidebooks' voice has changed over the years as it has entered different markets, such as Western Europe, where many guidebooks exist. As of 2007, the Wheelers announced that they planned to sell the majority share (75%) in the company to BBC Worldwide, in order to spend more time travelling. [http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22523539-5005962,00.html Adelaide Advertiser: Time to move on say Lonely Planet founders] BBC Worldwide acquired majority control of the company on October 1, 2007. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/framework/lonely_planet.html BBC Trust: BBC Worldwide acquisition of Lonely Planet]

Lonely Planet's initial strength has caused some problems. In certain contexts many people equate Lonely Planet with backpackers. The 30th anniversary relaunch of its various series was intended to make clearer the split between the backpacker-only products and those (now the majority) aimed at more affluent travellers and tourists. The increasing professionalism of the management and the attempt to break into the massive United States market have meant that the quirky, amateurish (in the best sense) tone of the books has diminished. For example, an early edition of "Africa on a shoestring" has the heading 'Drugs', which includes information on purchasing drugs (mainly marijuana), while the May 1980 edition of "South-East Asia on a Shoestring" includes information on how to purchase fake student ID cards. This would not be permitted in a Lonely Planet guidebook today.

Other quirks included apparently hand-drawn maps and strong opinions (one book called the apartheid government in South Africa 'cretins' and 'narrow-minded psychotics'). The maps are now more professionally drawn. Some strong opinions remain - for example, in the 2003 edition of its guide of Brazil, São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, is served by only a few pages and heavily criticized as if it were not worth visiting.

Lonely Planet has also recognised the usefulness of the world wide web, and its free Thorn Tree web forum is used to trade tips and advice. Experiments with 'buy by the chapter' and download to mobile/PDA never gained momentum. Their current focus is the expansion of their range of smaller city 'encounter' guides and other niche guide book opportunities.

Official history

The founders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, have written a book titled "Once While Travelling: The Lonely Planet Story" (known as "Unlikely destinations: The Lonely Planet story" in North America) telling how they met and married, how they travelled from London to Australia overland and how Lonely Planet was formed.


A mention in a Lonely Planet guidebook can draw large numbers of travelers, which invariably brings change to places mentioned. For example, Lonely Planet has been blamed for the rise of the what is sometimes referred to as 'the Banana Pancake Trail' in South East Asia. [ [http://www.hackwriters.com/Madras.htm hackwriters.com -Madras and The Lonely Planet People - Colin Todhunter ] ] [http://www.chiangmainews.com/ecmn/viewfa.php?id=2228] Critics argue that this has lead to the destruction of local culture and disturbance of once quiet sites. Lonely Planet's view is that it encourages responsible travel, and that its job is to inform people, and that it is up to guidebook users to make their informed choice.

The publication of its guidebook to Myanmar (Burma) is seen by some as an encouragement to visit that country, which theoretically supports its current regime, against the wishes of the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and led to calls for a boycott of the company. [ [http://www.news.com.au/travel/story/0,26058,23257057-5014090,00.html Unions call to boycott Lonely Planet [] Lonely Planet's view is that it highlights the issues surrounding a visit to the country, and that it wants to make sure that readers make an informed decision. [ [http://www.lonelyplanet.com/responsibletravel/myanmar.cfm Lonely Planet's position on visiting Myanmar] ]

In 2006, Tony Wheeler launched a joint awareness campaign with Mark Ellingham (Rough Guide founder) on the impact of aviation on climate change. The two travel publishers urged their readers to "Fly less, stay longer" wherever possible.

In April, 2008, American writer Thomas Kohnstamm published the memoir Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?, which touched on his experience writing a guidebook for Lonely Planet in Brazil. Pre-publication speculation about the book's content kicked off a global media controversy, but both Thomas Kohnstamm and Lonely Planet discredited the controversy as being based on incorrect information. After a review of Kohnstamm's guidebooks, publisher Piers Pickard agreed that no inaccuracies had been found. [ [http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23530231-5013605,00.html Lonely Planet's bad trip] , "The Daily Telegraph", 13 April 2008]

ee also

* "Globe Trekker" – television series (also known as "Pilot Guides") inspired by and originally broadcast under the name "Lonely Planet"


External links

* [http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ Official Lonely Planet website]
* [http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/04/18/050418fa_fact_friend "The Parachute Artist" - profile of Lonely Planet and the Wheelers] from "The New Yorker" magazine (April 2005)
* [http://www.monochrom.at/lpg/ LPG action] : a copy/paste/distribute art project that criticises Lonely Planet
* [http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1062097 King of the Planet] , Tony Wheeler's interview with Venkatesan Vembu, Daily News & Analysis
* [http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blogs/community/entry/a_message_from_tony_maureen Wheelers' comment on their sale to BBC Worldwide]
* [http://www.ricksteves.com/radio/archive.htm#115 Radio interview with Tony Wheeler by Rick Steves]

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