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Lonely Planet is the largest travel guide book publisher in the world. Originally called “Lonely Planet Publications”, the company changed its name to “Lonely Planet” in July 2009 to reflect its broad travel industry coverage and an emphasis on digital products.
After the Let’s Go travel guide series that was founded in 1960, and the BIT Guides from 1970, the Lonely Planet books were the third series of travel books aimed at backpackers and other low-cost travellers. As of 2011, the company had sold 120 million books since inception and by early 2014, it had sold around 11 million units of its travel apps. Lonely Planet was founded by married couple Maureen and Tony Wheeler.
Tony Wheeler graduated from the University of Warwick and London Business School, and was a former engineer at the Chrysler corporation. The pair met in London in 1970 and, in July 1972, they embarked on an overland trip through Europe and Asia, eventually arriving in Australia in December 1972.
The route that they followed was first undertaken by vehicle on the 1955 Oxford-Cambridge Overland Expedition. Englishmen” tour of 1970—the actual lyrics are “lovely planet”. Lonely Planet’s first book, Across Asia on the Cheap, consisting of 94 pages, was written by the couple in their home.
The original print run consisted of stapled booklets and sold out. Following the success of the original booklet, Tony Wheeler returned to Asia with the deliberate intention of writing a travel guide and Across Asia on the Cheap: A Complete Guide to Making the Overland Trip was published in 1975. Across Asia on the Cheap offered the advice of amateur travelers who had completed the overland trip from London to Sydney, Australia in just under six months.
During the 1970s, traveling was considered an aspect of the counterculture and Tony Wheeler said in 2013: “The boomers were setting off to places their parents hadn’t gone. What became known as the “hippie trail” was a popular route for such travelers, as the price of travel dropped and numerous Asian travel companies were launched. Cadwalladr explained in 2007 that the introduction of the Across Asia on the Cheap booklet was “a generational call to arms”, as it contained Tony Wheeler’s motivational cry: “All you’ve got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over.
Cadwalladr further states that Wheeler’s peers throughout the world subsequently made the decision to travel, regardless of whether they possessed a Lonely Planet guide. Other travel guide brand names also emerged in the early 1970s, such as Rough Guides and Bradt.
The popularity of the hippy trail, combined with the success of the original Lonely Planet publications, led the Wheelers to further develop the brand they had founded. The couple discovered writers in bars and also told people that if they could return to Australia with a completed book, then Lonely Planet would publish it. Tony Wheeler explained: “You couldn’t just look for travel book writers because they weren’t out there. There wasn’t such an animal.