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Lonely Planet
Type Private Subsidiary
Genre Travel guides
Founded 1972
Founder(s) Tony Wheeler
Maureen Wheeler
Headquarters Footscray, Victoria, Australia
Area served Worldwide
Key people Matt Goldberg (Global CEO)
Industry Multi-media
Products Travel guidebook, digital applications, online community
Employees Over 500 staff, 350 authors[1]
Parent BBC Worldwide
Maureen Wheeler (left) and Tony Wheeler (right), Co-founders of Lonely Planet.

Lonely Planet is the largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world. Since 2007, the company has been controlled by BBC Worldwide, which owns a 75% share, while founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler own the remaining 25%. Originally called Lonely Planet Publications, the company changed its name to Lonely Planet in July 2009 to reflect its broad travel industry offering and the emphasis on digital products. After Let's Go Travel Guides, it was one of the first series of travel books aimed at backpackers and other low-cost travellers. As of 2009, it published about 500 titles in 8 languages, as well as TV programs, a magazine, mobile phone applications and websites.

Lonely Planet has a television production company,[2] which has produced numerous series: Lonely Planet Six Degrees, The Sport Traveller, Going Bush, Vintage New Zealand, Bluelist Australia and Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled[3]. Lonely Planet is headquartered in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, with affiliate offices in London and Oakland, California. As of 2009, it was increasing its digital, online presence greatly. [4]

In 2009 Lonely Planet began publishing a monthly travel magazine called Lonely Planet Magazine in the UK, and in 2010 launched the Indian edition.[5]

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.[6]




The Wheelers' first journey and publications

A recent edition of Lonely Planet's guide to Australia.

Lonely Planet's second book, Across Asia on the Cheap,[7] was written and published by Englishman Tony Wheeler, a former engineer at Chrysler Corp and the University of Warwick and London Business School graduate, and his wife Maureen Wheeler in Sydney in 1973, following a lengthy trip from Turkey, through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to India and Nepal. The popularity of the overland route declined when Iran's borders closed in 1979.[8][9] Written with 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'), which remains one of the company's biggest sellers.[citation needed]

Lonely Planet's first books catered to young people from Australia and Europe 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 months (or years) on the journey.

Tourist facilities were limited in most of the countries en route, and low-budget tourism was rare.

Tony and Maureen Wheeler started writing their first successful Lonely Planet guide book some 35 years ago at the The New 7th Storey Hotel in Singapore.


The guidebook series expanded initially in Asia, with the India guidebook, first published in 1981.[10] In the 1990s the company expanded into Europe and North America. The company currently publishes about 500 titles. In addition to books on most countries in the world, it publishes a range of specialised thematic guidebooks. The current Lonely Planet range also includes hardback photography books, food guides, city guides, travelogues, diaries and calendars, language guides, walking guides and more specialised guides (eg. a guide on Volunteer travel or a National Park guide).

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

Lonely Planet headquarters in Footscray

2007 purchase by BBC Worldwide

On 1 October 2007, a 75% stake in the company was purchased by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation, with the Wheelers retaining the other 25%.[11][12] The Wheelers announced that this was so they could spend more time travelling.[13]

Internet presence

Lonely Planet's online community, the Thorn Tree[14] is used by over 600,000 travellers for trade tips and advice. The Lonely Planet website was upgraded in 2009; new features include BlogSherpa blogs we like, Facebook Connect, a groups platform, the ability to rate and review sites and restaurants, save them to a favourites list as well as a Trip Planner tool. The company is leading development of travel applications for mobile devices, including iPhone.

2006 climate change campaign

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

Official history book

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.


Banana Pancake Trail

A mention in a Lonely Planet guidebook can draw large numbers of travellers, which invariably brings change to places mentioned. For example, Lonely Planet has been blamed for the rise of what is sometimes referred to as 'the Banana Pancake Trail' in South East Asia.[15][16] Critics argue that this has led 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.

Myanmar (Burma) guidebook and boycott calls

The publication of its guidebook to Myanmar (Burma) is seen by some as an encouragement to visit that country, which theoretically supports its current military regime, against the wishes of the democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and led to calls for a boycott of the company. [17] 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.[18]

Kohnstamm's memoir on writing guidebook

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.[19]

Paradise Updated

In 2009, Australian author and former Lonely Planet guidebook writer Mic Looby published a fictional account of the guidebook-writing business which lambasted the travel guide industry, titled Paradise Updated. [20]

Television Series

  • Globe Trekker – television series (also known as Pilot Guides) inspired by and originally broadcast under the name Lonely Planet
  • Lonely Planet Six Degrees – hosted by Asha Gill and Toby Amies
  • Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled – A co-production between Singapore's Beach House and Lonely Planet Television, airing on the National Geographic Adventure Channel 2009-2010, RLT is a reality-based travel series following nine LP guidebook authors and photographers behind-the-scenes as they travel the globe creating Lonely Planet guidebooks. The series features 13 episodes of one hour length each. Season 1 hosts include Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler, writer John Vlahides, photographer Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli, Shawn Low, Tamara Sheward, Amelia Thomas, Katarina Kane, and archaeologist Iain Shearer. Season 1 destinations include Colombia, Morocco, Mexico, Spain, Cambodia, Laos, Australia, Madagascar, China, Kazakhstan, Israel/West Bank, Ethiopia, and Alaska. [21] [22].


External links


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