The end of travel guides?

2013-07-24 11:01
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Lonely Planet: 2013 top destinations

These are the top ten destinations to hazard a visit in 2013, according to Travel guru website Lonely Planet.

Melbourne - Legendary travel guide book company, Lonely Planet, announced last week that it is laying off several dozen top editors and publishing staff. The move leaves many wondering about the future of the company, guide books and travel writing itself.

Forbes reports that Theo Sathananthan, Lonely Planet's Chief Financial Officer, confirmed that through layoffs and redeployment, up to 80 out of 400 staff positions worldwide will be "made redundant" across the company's five offices worldwide. About 200 authors and 25 others also freelance for Lonely Planet. The three largest offices are in Melbourne, London and Oakland, California.

The company will apparently continue to publish guide books, though it is unclear how many. They currently produce 500 titles, covering 195 countries. COO Daniel Houghton also speaks of marrying "the world's greatest travel information and guide book company with the limitless potential of 21st century digital technology," for example: apps, social media, cloud-based content and content generated by users and readers.

Some industry experts have their doubts. "No user-generated content...can compete with the context and cumulative knowledge that the Lonely Planet library has," says writer and videographer Robert Reid of Reid on Travel, who was Lonely Planet's spokesperson until earlier this year.

Since its debut in the early 1970s, Lonely Planet has become iconic among backpackers and budget travelers, independent travelers and those seeking the road less taken. It started when a young couple travelled on the cheap through Europe and Asia to Australia. Finding no decent guide book, they wrote one at their dining room table. It sold 1 500 copies.

40 years and 120 million books later, Lonely Planet is the world's largest-selling guide book series, and the only one covering certain far-flung destinations. An estimated 120 million unique visitors view its website annually.

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