Lonely Planet entered into a far-reaching marketing partnership with the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, which represents Fort Myers and Sanibel beaches in southwest Florida.
LonelyPlanet's Client solutions team has done work with businesses and organizations before to create travel content and marketing materials, says spokeswoman Rana Freedman, but the Lee County partnership is unique as it will take in print, online and mobile channels.
Under the agreement, Lonely Planet is on the hook to create a printed guide, a digital version which will be available on Lee County's website, an iPhone app, eight travel videos narrated by Lonely Planet authors, and a mico-site which Lonely Planet will host.
Here's the cover of the "specially produced" print guide:
The county also agreed to advertise on LonelyPlanet.com and in the U.K. version of Lonely Planet Magazine.
One of the goals apparently will be to have plenty of U.K. visitors breaking out their suntan lotion this winter for visits to the Florida Gulf Coast.
The editorial content is slated to be available in December 2010.
"As you know, most visitors & convention bureaus product their own vistor's guide filled with listings of the various businesses, restaurants and hotels in the area or contract it out to a company to do the same," Freedman says. "This visitor's guide will have trusted information and recommendations gathered and written by Lonely Planet, a globally branded publisher."
Lee Rose, communications manager for the Lee County VCB, notes that beaches in the area were untouched by the BP oil spill, but tourism throughout Florida was impacted nonetheless.
The Lee County VCB received about $500,000 for emergency advertising from Visit Florida, which received about $25 million from BP, Rose says.
However, the marketing partnership with Lonely Planet has nothing to do with those BP-provided monies, he adds.
So, does providing marketing materials to a destination marketing organization provide a conflict with Lonely Planet's goal of providing an independent, editorial voice?
Says Freedman: "For all these content deals, including Lee County, we have the exact same editorial standards and integrity as our guidebooks. That’s why consumers trust it and why these companies want to work with us. And this is the point of differentiation from them developing their own content -- it’s from a trusted third-party source."
"Lee County isn’t telling us what to put into their visitor guide and our author is researching and writing the booklet just like he would with a Lonely Planet guide," Freedman adds.