Lonely Planet Writer

Tony & Maureen depart Lonely Planet

This is the text of an email sent today by Lonely Planet cofounder Tony Wheeler to all Lonely Planet staff.

On 1 October 2007 we stood up in the Melbourne office – and in subsequent weeks in London and Oakland – to announce that we had sold a majority interest in Lonely Planet to BBC Worldwide. Today we’re taking the inevitable next step, BBC Worldwide is now moving to total ownership.

From that day three and a half years ago we knew this was inevitable. We’ve always been believers in simple rules and straightforward answers – you cannot be half pregnant, you cannot jump across a ravine in two steps – and as 25% owners we knew we would always be back seat passengers, along for the ride but no longer behind the wheel. Well, we’re confident about the people who are in the front seat and at the controls. It’s time for us to open the back doors and get out.

We know these are challenging times, but we also know that Lonely Planet has met many challenges over its nearly 40 year life. We’ve also done amazing things in the three and a half years since BBCW’s arrival.

  • In books, our market share has grown and of course we’ve hit that astonishing 100 million books landmark.
  • At the same time non-print revenue has grown to 22% of the business and will continue to become a more and more important part of our turnover and profit.
  • We’ve been pioneers in the travel apps market and total iPhone app downloads are over 8.5 million.
  • Monthly visitors to lonelyplanet.com have more than doubled.
  • Lonely Planet Magazines have been launched in eight different international editions.

In the period since the BBCW acquisition we may have not been at the wheel, but we’ve certainly played our part in the ongoing LP story.

  • We’ve attended regular board meetings in London and Melbourne.
  • We’ve supported Lonely Planet’s international efforts in China, India, Italy, Spain and Brazil.
  • We’ve written introductions and forewords to numerous LP books and our books Bad Lands and The Lonely Planet Story have recently come out in new LP editions.
  • There have been the LPTV productions that have always been tremendous fun to work on.
  • And of course travel is always going to be an important part of our lives; it’s why we started Lonely Planet in the first place. Anytime we go anywhere, like the Solomon Islands and Nauru earlier this month, there will always be notes back to the Talk2Us team at Lonely Planet.

But of course, a business is always more than just ‘business.’ ‘Our travellers,’ those people out on the road with our information guiding them, will always be of huge importance and we never forget the people inside the office, who get as big a kick out of Lonely Planet as we do, who love what we do, are proud of what we do and the way they can play a part in those achievements. Nor do we forget the way the Lonely Planet Foundation has grown over the years and taken on its new bigger and better incarnation as Planet Wheeler.

Our willingness to stand up for Lonely Planet whenever and wherever we’re asked to, will not change. Next week there’ll be a BMW China vehicle launch which involves Lonely Planet marketing and Melbourne Client Solutions. Next month it will be Chile for a LAN Chile airline event which again involves Lonely Planet marketing and the Oakland Client Solutions department.

And of course we feel towards Lonely Planet just the way any proud parent feels about their child. Eventually that kid is going to grow up, wave goodbye and walk out the door, but you’re never going to stop worrying about them, you’re always going to be proud when they do good and annoyed when they don’t.

Well, this may be the moment when Lonely Planet waves goodbye to us, but we’re always going to be Lonely Planet’s number one believers and supporters.