|Key people||Matt Goldberg (Global CEO)|
|Products||Travel guidebook, digital applications, online community|
|Employees||Over 450 staff, 200 authors|
Lonely Planet is the largest travel guide book publisher in the world. The company was owned by BBC Worldwide, which bought a 75% share from the founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler in 2007 and the final 25% in February 2011. 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 2010, it publishes about 500 titles in 8 languages, as well as TV programmes, a magazine, mobile phone applications and websites.
The company name comes from a misheard line in "Space Captain", a song written by Matthew Moore and first popularized by Joe Cocker and Leon Russell on the "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" tour in 1970. The actual words are "lovely planet", but Tony Wheeler heard "lonely planet" and liked it.
The Wheelers' first journey and publications 
Lonely Planet's first book, Across Asia on the Cheap, was written and published by an Englishman, Tony Wheeler, a former engineer at Chrysler Corp and the University of Warwick and London Business School graduate. He met his wife Maureen in London in 1970. In July 1972, they set off on an overland trip through Europe and Asia, and arrived in Australia in December. The popularity of this overland route, first undertaken by vehicle on the 1955 Oxford-Cambridge Overland Expedition, declined when Iran's borders closed in 1979. 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').
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.
The guidebook series expanded initially in Asia, with the India guidebook, first published in 1981. In the 1990s the company expanded into Europe and North America. The company currently publishes about 500 different titles. In addition to books about most countries in the world, it also 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 guides covering an area of interest in more detail, for example a Volunteer Travel guide or a National Park guide.
Over the years, its target audience has expanded from budget-conscious backpackers to include more mainstream and affluent travellers. In 2011, Lonely Planet rolled out their new guidebook format which has been extended to most of the current editions.
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%. The Wheelers announced that the sale was made so that they could spend more time travelling. The acquisition, announced by BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith, was part of the BBC's strategy to grow its online portfolio and to increase its operations in Australia and the USA. The BBC Worldwide deal was led by David King, Chief Financial Officer, and Ian Watson, International Director, with advice from Deloitte Corporate Finance and Blake, Dawson Waldron in Australia.
On 18 February 2011, BBC acquired the remaining 25% of LP for A$67 million from the Wheelers.
On 4 March 2013, travel site Skift news reported that the BBC was negotiating a sale of its majority stake in Lonely Planet to Kentucky billionaire Brad Kelley. On 19 March, the BBC confirmed the sale of Lonely Planet to Kelley's NC2 Media for US$75 million (₤51.5 million)— significantly less than the £130.2 million the BBC had paid for the company, at an £80 million loss.
Internet presence 
Lonely Planet's online community, the Thorn Tree, is used by over 600,000 travellers for trade tips and advice. The Lonely Planet website includes blogs, Facebook Connect, a groups platform, the ability to rate and review sites and restaurants, as well as a Trip Planner tool.
Lonely Planet closed the Thorn Tree community on the 22 December 2012, with a notification on the home page that the closure should be temporary. "We're sorry to let you know we've found it necessary to temporarily close the Thorn Tree section of Lonelyplanet.com as it has come to our attention that a number of posts do not conform to the standards of the Lonely Planet website. As soon as we have completed the necessary editorial and technical updates we will let you know but in the meantime we are very grateful for your understanding and patience." Later, Lonely Planet clarified the alert to say that it had found numerous posts containing "inappropriate language and themes," and the site would be reopened once these posts were found and deleted. Thorn Tree returned on 5 January 2013, but had permanently shut down forums that they felt were non-travel related. 
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a disgruntled former user alerted the BBC to numerous posts related to paedophilia. A source close to Lonely Planet management told the Herald that BBC executives still smarting from the Jimmy Savile scandal went into "full freak out, panic attack mode" over posts about the age of consent in Mexico and child prostitution in Thailand. However, a BBC Worldwide spokesman denied there was any evidence of paedophilia discussions on the site.
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.
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 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. 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.
In 1996, in response to a "Visit Myanmar" campaign by the military regime, the Burmese opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for a tourism boycott. As the publication of Lonely Planet's guidebook to Myanmar (Burma) is seen by some as an encouragement to visit that country, this led to calls for a boycott of 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. In 2009, the NLD formally dropped its previous stance and now welcomes visitors "who are keen to promote the welfare of the common people".
In 2009, Lonely Planet began publishing a monthly travel magazine called Lonely Planet Traveller in the UK, and in 2010, it launched the Indian and the Argentine editions. Its Korean edition, with a digital edition for iPad, was launched in March 2011.
Television series 
Lonely Planet also has its own television production company, which has produced numerous series, such as The Sport Traveller, Going Bush, Vintage New Zealand, and Bluelist Australia, along with the following:
- 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.
Popular culture 
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. After a review of Kohnstamm's guidebooks, publisher Piers Pickard agreed that no inaccuracies had been found.
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.
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- , Affirm Press
- Official Lonely Planet website
- Lonely Planet on Google+
- "The Parachute Artist" - profile of Lonely Planet and the Wheelers from The New Yorker magazine (April 2005)
- King of the Planet, Tony Wheeler's interview with Venkatesan Vembu, Daily News & Analysis
- Wheelers' comment on their sale to BBC Worldwide
- Radio interview with Tony Wheeler by Rick Steves
- How to become a Lonely Planet author
- Official website of Lonely Planet's Roads Less Travelled TV Series