Wednesday, April 10, 2013: Dedicated Issue: Lonely Planet

Lonley Planet

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Editors' Note

Lonely Planet: Happy 40th!

With this issue, Shelf Awareness celebrates the 40th anniversary of Lonely Planet, the travel publisher founded in 1973 by a pair of intrepid explorers. The company, in turn, is celebrating by expanding its offerings, relaunching its series, partnering with booksellers in a variety of unusual ways and more.

Lonely Planet has supported this issue. Shannon McKenna Schmidt wrote the stories.

Lonely Planet: Over 100 million guidbooks published

Books & Authors

Lonely Planet Then and Now

When newlywed Tony Wheeler and his wife, Maureen, set out on an extended trek from London to Australia more than 40 years ago, they believed they would "get travel out of our systems, then we'd settle down," he recalls in The Lonely Planet Story.

After crossing Europe and Asia overland, the couple arrived at their destination flat broke and exhilarated. Deluged with questions from friends and acquaintances about the voyage, they burned the midnight oil at their kitchen table writing their first travel guide. They produced it themselves, even borrowing a stapling machine, and within a week Across Asia on the Cheap had sold 1,500 copies.

Far from getting travel out of their systems, the Wheelers kept wandering and writing. From its beginnings as a kitchen table enterprise, Lonely Planet has become the world's number one guidebook publisher, having published more than 500 titles and printed more than 100 million books in nine languages and employing more than 400 people in offices in London, Melbourne, Delhi and Oakland, Calif. There's a hardly a destination in the world where it isn't able to guide travelers. The company's other products and endeavors include hundreds of e-books on all platforms, 150 mobile apps, an award-winning website, magazines, television shows and a dedicated online community. In February, Lonely Planet soared past the million mark with both Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

Lonely Planet has stayed true to its roots producing Shoestring guides (guidebooks for value-conscious travelers on big trips), while also expanding its offerings to suit every type of traveler and every budget--whether consumers are day trippers or long-term voyagers, thrifty or high-end. A team of more than 225 authors living in 40 countries around the globe do on-the-ground research and never take freebies, ensuring they can tell it like it is. "What we focus on as a brand is the experience," said Brice Gosnell, v-p of publishing.

"We had no idea it would become as big as it did," Tony Wheeler told Shelf Awareness via e-mail while traveling in Colombia. "The initial idea came simply from the realisation that other people were doing the same sort of trip we'd just done and there was no information available. It was filling a need."

Wheeler himself keeps contributing: his foray in Colombia is providing fodder for his forthcoming book Dark Lands (September), which features that country and seven other areas to which he has traveled recently. Later this year, he "might finally get around to doing the Trans-Siberian." For that he'll need Lonely Planet's Trans-Siberian Railway guide.

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Growing with the Travel Market--and Beyond

Wanderlust is big business, worth more than $1 trillion annually worldwide. Americans are no slouches, traveling more in 2012, both domestically and abroad, while globally one billion people ventured beyond their country's borders, a record annual high, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Lonely Planet is outperforming the market in print sales, while its e-book revenue has doubled year over year, and its mobile apps have been downloaded more than 11 million times.

"We deliver content wherever people are looking for it," said Brenda McLaughlin, general manager and senior v-p, Lonely Planet Americas. "A big change that's happening in travel publishing is that we always provided the information people used to make decisions, but we weren't with them when they acted on those decisions."

Now the company aids travelers in a range of way, from booking flights at to using an app to find a restaurant while they're on the road. Digital platforms are complementing printed guides, which are "still the number one way people like to engage with travel content," said Gosnell.

In the last year, Lonely Planet has re-launched every one of its series based on third-party consumer research and input from a standing focus group of 5,000 readers. Since travelers enjoy arranging getaways according to interest, guidebooks now feature prominently placed "if you like" sections that outline experiences based on themes such as Food, Wine, Art, Architecture, Castles, Nature and Scenic Drives. Lonely Planet readers also like itineraries, leading to the inclusion of more defined routes, ranging from a few days to a few weeks.

For the more than 50% of U.S. travelers who prefer to vacation in North America--domestically as well in Mexico and Canada--the Best Trips series has a brand new look. Revamped editions of California's Best Trips, New England's Best Trips and The Pacific Northwest's Best Trips have fully updated content. Each of the titles in the series offers ideas, itineraries, detours, maps, local insider information and trips organized by location and theme, such as Big Sur and Alice Waters' Culinary Tour.

Due to the strength of the Best Trips series, guides to France, Ireland, and Italy have been added to the line-up. Europe is the most popular overseas destination with Americans. The country they most want to visit is Italy.

Lonely Planet is also taking travel to other areas of the bookstore. The Not For Parents series is intended to encourage the next generation of explorers. Books like Extreme Planet and New York City: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know feature fun facts, quirky stories, cartoons and photographs. Coming this fall are The Real Wonders of the World and How to Be a Dinosaur Hunter, with an additional four destination titles scheduled for February 2014.

In the cooking and food section, gourmands can sample Food Lover's Guide to the World, a celebration of great culinary experiences across the globe, with an introduction by Mark Bittman, and Fork in the Road (November), a literary anthology edited by James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine. Following the success of The World's Best Street Food: Where to Find It & How to Make It, Lonely Planet is expanding the "World's Best" into a culinary-themed series.

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Partnering with Booksellers

Headed to New Orleans or Namibia? Florida or France? As part of its Travel Partner Program, Lonely Planet is offering free guidebooks to booksellers who are planning a trip, or even just dreaming about a destination.

"It's a wonderful idea," said Liesl Freudenstein of Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, Colo. "It really allows you to have a familiarity with the guidebook that goes beyond what you can shelf read at work. You can inform people regarding the layout and uses for the book--like the difference between the Encounters and the City Guides--and be able to match the format to the customer's style of travel." When visiting Vienna recently, she used the Vienna City Guide for advance planning and then traveled with the smaller, more streamlined Vienna Encounter guide. (The Encounter guides are being replaced by Pocket guides.)

At Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Tex., Lonely Planet is well-represented in the store's travel section. "I like the books," said manager Jeremy Ellis. "They're popular, they're good for us, they cover the entire world." Plus he knows from firsthand experience that the information they contain is top-notch. Most recently he used a Lonely Planet guide to prepare for a trip to Turkey this month. During his travels, he added, "They've never steered me wrong."

Lonely Planet display at Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

The program was devised as a way to introduce booksellers to the breadth of guidebooks available for all types of travelers regardless of age or budget, and to encourage them to become ambassadors for the Lonely Planet brand. Each guidebook sent out as part of the Travel Partner Program is accompanied by a shelf talker that booksellers can fill out after returning from their trips to prompt customers to ask them about the trip.

"That's something you're not going to get with an online retailer--talking to Jeremy about being in Turkey and what it was like, where he found an amazing coffee bar," said Leslie Davisson, director of trade channel marketing and national accounts at Lonely Planet. "It's about those shared experiences and having conversations with people in the store." 

Whether for a weekend getaway or a vacation to a distant locale, booksellers who would like to request a guide may send an e-mail to; include your intended destination.

Selling Travel Titles: Tips and Promotions

Taking Travel Further
Travel guide buyers are the ideal customer for general bookstores because they tend to spend the most time in stores, spend the most money and have a keen interest in a range of subjects.

"The travel section is incredibly important to a store," Davisson said. "It's a passion category." A recent Facebook survey found that users around the world add more stories about travel to their timelines than they do for any other life event, even more than moving, getting married or having children. "We'd like to bring that excitement and enthusiasm to the store level," Davisson noted.

To help do that, Lonely Planet has devised "Taking Travel Further: A Guide for Booksellers," which includes descriptions of the publisher's series and insights into why they're an important addition to a store's inventory. There are also tips on selling travel titles and advice on how to effectively merchandise the section.

40th Anniversary Promotion
Beginning in June, Lonely Planet is celebrating its 40th anniversary with "40 Years of Amazing Travel Experiences" promotion. Stores will receive POS packets to support the campaign, which focuses on guidebooks to European destinations. In addition, Lonely Planet is designing an online campaign and contest to accompany the trade promotion in which they ask consumers to share their own travel stories, in 140 characters or less. A trip giveaway will be the grand prize.

Destination of the Month
Lonely Planet has drawn on its knowledge of travel trends and peak sales for locales around the world to create a "Destination of the Month" calendar. Along with a list of books that tie into the suggested region for the month--Lonely Planet titles as well as related cookbooks, novels, memoirs and children's tales from other publishers--the program package offers event ideas, recommendations on music to play in the store, book club selections and trivia questions for use on shelf talkers, in contests or on social media feeds. Signage can be provided to enhance table displays and endcaps.

The "Destination of the Month" extravaganza kicks off this month and showcases France. Ways to highlight the month include:

  • Tying in with the 100th year of the Tour de France and, during National Poetry Month, by celebrating bard Charles Baudelaire, whose birthday is April 9.
  • Handselling Lonely Planet's Discover France with a phrasebook or a travel guide.
  • Suggesting David Lebovitz's memoir The Sweet Life in Paris or Irène Némirovsky's novel Suite Française.
  • Listening to chanteuse Edith Piaf or hosting a movie night and watching Midnight in Paris.
  • Testing customers with trivia questions like this one: What do visitors traditionally do when they visit Oscar Wilde's tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery? (Answer: They kiss it.)

Destination of the Month Calendar 2013-2014:

April: France
May: North America: Best Trips and National Parks
June: Italy
July: Spain
August: Eastern Europe
September: New England
October: Mexico, Central America, South America
November: Asia
December: Warm Weather: Florida, Hawaii and the Caribbean
January: Africa
February: Romantic Getaways: Venice, Paris, the South Pacific and Greece
March: Ireland, England

New Owners for the Road Ahead

Lonely Planet is embarking on a new stage of its journey. Last month, NC2 Media, with headquarters in Tennessee, purchased the company from BBC Worldwide, to which Tony and Maureen Wheeler had sold the business in 2007. Lonely Planet remains committed to its core book publishing operations and will also accelerate its digital strategy and expand offerings by evolving its content model.

"We've always been about serving the traveler," said Brenda McLaughlin. "We will continue to look at what is the best way to get the best information into their hands. For a long time, the vehicle we had to do that was through books. Now we have multiple different ways to provide the information and services they need wherever they are in the process--vicariously enjoying armchair travel, planning a trip or figuring out where they're going to have dinner when they're at the destination."

Regardless of how consumers prefer to receive content, whether print guides, online, e-books or apps, Lonely Planet's depth and quality of coverage will not change. "We are travelers writing for travelers," said McLaughlin. "We are passionate about what we do."

Powered by: Xtenit