Lonely Planet

From ArticleWorld

Lonely Planet or LP is the short form for Lonely Planet Publications who claim that they are the world’s largest independently-owned travel guidebook publishers. Their head office is situated in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. It is one of the most popular series of travel books. They are especially read by low cost travelers like backpackers. The statistics of 2004 reveal its gross annual sales to be over six million books. It is published in 118 countries with about 650 titles. Lonely Planet had expanded to include a television production company called Lonely Planet television. It has produced three popular series till date : Lonely Planet Six Degrees, Vintage New Zealand and The Sport Traveller.


The first book to be published by Lonely Planet was titled Across Asia on the Cheap and authored and published by Tony Wheeler (a former engineer at Chrysler Corp.), and his wife Maureen Wheeler in Sydney in 1973. Written with a distinct and different flair, the book reflected the strong opinions of the couple. The book did extremely well in Australia and they wrote a second one called South-East Asia on a shoestring which still is one of their bestsellers.

The name of the company comes from a line of the song “Space Captain” sung by Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. Tony Wheeler misheard the words ‘lovely planet’ as ‘lonely planet’, but he decided to go ahead with it because he preferred the latter.

The first few books of Lonely Planet were meant for Australasians and Europeans (mainly those in UK). The youth in these places frequented the hippie trail stretching between Europe and Australia including the Middle East, Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia.

Low budget tourism was unknown in those days. It was an eye-opener to travelers on a shoestring budget as it opened up new, exciting and convenient avenues. The tips and hints provided in the books ensured a hassle-free journey for enthusiasts. The first-worlders began to stay in Afghani villages, ate food from street stalls in India and took local buses in Thailand.

The series of Lonely Planet books has undergone many changes and it now offers a guide to middle-class travelers too. The Wheelers, as of 2005, do control a majority of the shares but do not interfere in the day-to-day operations or make decisions on guidebooks. Tony Wheeler, however, still writes a few guidebooks.