Luis Cabrera, Lonely Planet
"We recognize that travel needs change from person to person, moment to moment. This approach will allow us to go where no other travel brand can go."
Quote from Luis Cabrera, CEO at Lonely Planet, in an article on PhocusWire this week on the travel guide brand's redesign and renewed focus on digital.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered on our site that week.
The Lonely Planet story is a long and convoluted one - especially in the last 15 years.
For decades it was seen by many as the go-to guidebook brand, appealing to both backpackers, weekend breakers and many more travelers heading off a trip.
It had a comfortable spot in the travel content world, with countless numbers of contributors, well-researched books and creative ways of slicing and dicing its editions around experiences (food, adventure, shoestring budgets, etc).
Then the web came along and messed things up a little. Or, at least knocked the famous brand off its pedestal somewhat.
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This wasn't entirely its own undoing, of course.
As a company with a lot of so-called brand equity, Lonely Planet had to move with the times - creating web content and trying out countless different iterations of attempting to make revenue from digital sources (ads, white labeled metasearch engines, etc.).
The sale by its founders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, of a majority stake to BBC Worldwide in 2007 was the beginning of a tortuous period of instability.
More reflection, more attempts at monetization, all under the always (perhaps, over) scrutinized BBC.
It was never going to work out in the long term, so there was little surprise when the brand was offloaded at a loss by BBC Worldwide to the unlikely home of tobacco magnate Brad Kelley.
The point of all this background is that Lonely Planet, in the eyes of many, needs to do a lot more than add a few bells and whistles to its website before it can live up to the proclamations of its new CEO ("go where no other travel brand can go.").
For every Lonely Planet website user and guidebook reader there are probably millions more who rely on a TripAdvisor or local-flavored media site to get their fix of travel content.
Throw Google into the mix - with its own ambitions in travel and an ability to aggregate everything else - and the future is perhaps going to be tougher than what is made out if Lonely Planet is going to reach that destination that others cannot.
Trading on its former and well-deserved glories is never going to be enough. Lonely Planet will need to think about how it fits into a digital travel future beyond websites and mobile content.
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