Tony Wheeler has taken some heat recently from fans of Lonely Planet who accuse him of selling out to a British government media monopoly which will only exploit his vast storage of travel information and use it for the exploitation of the masses. But most readers seem to think this is an OK match and that LP-BBC Worldwide will be a comfortable merger that will someday send travel information to travelers on the road along with upscale tourists who still want to know the dance schedule at Nana. Time will tell.
Here's what Tony has to say to the readers of Thorn Tree:
A Message from Tony & Maureen Wheeler
Posted at 05:02PM Oct 02, 2007 by CarolB
A message to the Thorn Tree community from Tony & Maureen Wheeler:
Yes, it's finally happened, after 34 years almost to the month, we’re moving on from Lonely Planet. We could say it's so we have more time for travel, but the reality is we've known for some time that Lonely Planet has to make a big step into the future.
But guidebooks are only part of Lonely Planet, the non-print part of our activities from websites to Lonely Planet Images, LPTV to B2B projects, may be a smaller part in turnover terms, but it’s the area which we believe is going to become increasingly important. Since 1994 we have spent a lot of time and money trying to find ways to help travellers access the immense amount of information we have on just about everywhere, as, how, when and where they want it.
We have developed useful tools online for travellers and instigated the mighty Thorn Tree, but to really develop this medium to its fullest extent, to be as innovative and as powerful a resource online as we are in print, we need help. The books subsidise everything else and are the basis of everything we do. We need to continue to invest in researching and collating information, but as technology develops we also need expertise and financial muscle to really exploit our full potential as the travel information authority of the future.
Enter BBC Worldwide. It's the side of the BBC which produces and markets BBC projects for the outside world, not just the British radio and television programs but also magazines, international TV channels, websites and mobile services. It's global, it has a wonderful reputation and as of today it's the new majority owner of Lonely Planet.
Why did we choose them? We had many offers from digital companies to international publishing houses to private entrepreneurs, and many were interesting, however BBCW got our attention because on so many important levels they 'got' Lonely Planet. Innovative and quirky, authoritative and trustworthy, ethical and principled are all words that we use within Lonely Planet to describe our company. All these words can also be applied to BBCW. We have spent several months getting to know BBCW and we are confident they are the right partner to help us take Lonely Planet into the future.
What changes is this going to mean? Only positive ones we believe. Their view is the book side of the operation ain't broke so they don’t have to fix it. That side will continue with new projects and new ideas just as it is doing today. The other side of Lonely Planet – that non-print side – is going to get a lot more energy and push.
And what will we do? Well we’re still going to have a substantial stake in Lonely Planet – 25% ownership – and BBCW have asked us to stay on board and work with them. We think we're going to be involved in some exciting new projects. And we might get more time to travel.
Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Message from Tony Wheeler