most synonymous with travel Today, the moment one plans to travel on this planet, the first name that comes to mind for referring travel guides is Lonely Planet. Very interestingly, the journey has not been much old while the first guide titled “Across Asia on the Cheap” was conceived and published in 1973. To get a glimpse of the journey in brief and talking more on the production of these Travel Guides, SK Khurana, editor, AABP got an opportunity to interact with their commercial director–publishing - Steven Henderson, who was recently in New Delhi for unveiling three titles of their newly launched series – ‘Short Escapes’. Excerpts. One of the Short Escapes destinations in ‘Delhi’ guide, recently released by Lonely Planet India, includes Patan Mahal in Rajasthan, which is around 178 km from Delhi and what better opportunity could be other than spending overnight there? It was a well planned trip by Lonely Planet India office wherein select media persons participated and explored the area within and surrounding Patan Mahal.
The importance of print…
The journey started off at 8.00 am on a nice weather day from Gurgaon, outside the Lonely Planet office. While sharing a seat with Steven Henderson in the mini bus, it brought an opportunity to converse with him on the topic of ‘future of books’ in the ever growing e-book market and other apps preferences. As per Steven, “We at Lonely Planet do acknowledge the importance of all three models of information communications and accordingly have been keeping pace wherein we do offer our Travel Guides in all these ‘avatars’ for travellers.” Though there are opportunities to a maximum extent in each of the media, limitations also exist equally.
To exemplify his versions, Steven instantly opened his small bag which contained iPhone, laptop and a printed book. While holding his iPhone, he conveyed the difficulty in friendly reading of text, and about laptop, the challenge of keeping its battery level above 50-60 percent all the time. And then while taking out a printed book, Steven’s sparkling eyes conveyed ‘No frill’ attached to this model of information communication. One can read anywhere, go to any page instantly, use a finger as book mark and attend to other short assignments, and come back instantly to continue reading.
This is why Lonely Planet has believed in the value of print and continued their mission under the stewardship of BBC, their parent company which has multifaceted interest in many ways of media communications.
After a four-hour journey, all of us got a welcome reception at the entrance of Patan Mahal. Lunch was organized in the front lawns and since most of us were hungry, we soon gathered after checking in to our rooms. The location of Patan Mahal facing the mountains made it mesmerising. Gulping our drinks, we got a chance to interact with each other. After a short nap at the hotel, we all decided to visit Patan village and see how the bangles are made out of ‘lac’ and ‘clay pots’ being created by different set of villagers. Though walking through the village was not much comfortable because of poor upkeep, the presence and welcoming notes by young girls and boys were very much motivating.
And while we returned to Patan Mahal, a short visit to the in-house vegetable farm of the Mahal was equally interesting. Growing of organic vegetables of different seasons is their regular activity which offers delicious and healthy food to the guests staying there. It also offered a well appointed and antique look to the large size rooms. Then came the opportunity to sit back with Steven in a small balcony at the top floor and interact on various issues relating to print planning processes of Lonely Planet travel guides, apart from other promotion related activities including more revenue generation models adopted by them.
Handling the responsibility of print at all locations…
For Steven too, who joined Lonely Planet in the year 2006 as commercial analyst, the journey has been quite interesting. In the year 2007 after BBC acquiring Lonely Planet, his role also changed, encompassing additional responsibilities such as taking care of logistics and websites as well. In the year 2012, looking into the possibilities of much bigger market India can offer, Lonely Planet also decided to open an Indian subsidiary and Steven was also involved in its activities.
With the appointment of Sesh Seshadri as its general manager India operations, the concept of Travel Guide books with new titles, keeping in mind the interests of Indian travelers was observed, and first set of five books was launched in September 2012 in a roaring ceremony at India Habitat Center in New Delhi. During that event I spotted the duo team of R Jayaraman and Karthik Ravi of Chennai-based Multivista Global Ltd and during the interaction it was revealed that Multivista has been the print-partner to produce these travel guides.
Today, Steven also holds the responsibilities of production of all travel guides of Lonely Planet, wherever these are printed across the world.
Maintaining quality editorial…
Talking more specifically on printing of Travel Guides, Sesh had mentioned earlier that Lonely Planet is known for quality and authenticated contents. Towards this, they have a strict laid out editorial policies and all the contributors need to adhere to those regulations. “As a principle, we don’t accept any advertisement or money to propagate specific property or services with our travel guides. Whatever info is supplied by our contributors, are always double checked for sure,” conveyed Steven. “As an editorial procedure, we have three groups of commissioning editors - each in US, UK and Australia which rigorously identify authors/contributors. Formal training is given to each of them so that the information is collected as per set standards of Lonely Planet,” added Steven.
Maps & picture library…
Another USP of these guides include appropriate photographs and maps which drives the travelers wherever they need to move. One can easily find many travelers holding one of the guides of Lonely Planet in their hands at most of tourist places all over the world. It is said that any family in the world having at least one frequent traveler is bound to have one or more guides from Lonely Planet.
With a record number of around 5.5 million travel guides produced so far, Lonely Planet houses a library with over 3,00,000 pictures. Earlier, Lonely Planet was maintaining these pictures themselves, but lately they have outsourced the management, understanding that pictures not being their core business. “Now, this is handled by Getty Images on our behalf,” updated Steven, adding, “As far as maps are concerned, these are integral part of our guides. Each of our travel guides contains one or more maps for easy navigation by the readers. We invest a lot in developing and creating maps with all appropriate information. Our maps are always custom designed and over the years, we have upgraded the processes behind the creation of these maps.”
Huge printing needs…
Coming to actual printing of these travel guides, Steven informed that they have a centralized pre-production house based in Australia. All the inputs are gathered at this location from authors, contributors, photographers, etc and the layout of the books is done there. There is fully equipped pre-production facility with all latest hardware and software. To produce a new guide, a preliminary mock up is created and is shown to multiple professionals, travelers, etc to get their feedbacks, suggestions, etc and later incorporating all desired changes, final version is created, which makes it possible to send print ready files to printers located anywhere.
“We have few printers on our panel, majorly in China and Singapore, who have been selected over the years by adopting strict criteria. Printers, who understand our vision and are able to match the quality expectations are selected,” informed Steven. Answering to a question as what challenges they face in getting these guides produced, Steven surprisingly said that no such challenge come on their way since Lonely Planet has drawn a very comprehensive and exhaustive guidelines for the selection of printers. For Indian market, Chennai based Multivista Global Ltd is their print partner, who undertake the printing of travel guides of Lonely Planet to the entire satisfaction as far as quality and delivery schedules are concerned.
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, has agreed to sell the travel guide business Lonely Planet to NC2 Media, following approval from the BBC Trust. The move follows the BBC’s commercial review last year which set out the company’s strategy to focus on BBC brands and promote the best of the corporation’s output globally.
BBC Worldwide will receive AU$75m (£51.6m) for 100% of Lonely Planet with AU$60m (£41.3m) paid on completion and AU$15m (£10.3m) paid in one year’s time.
BBC Worldwide has been exploring strategic options for Lonely Planet over the last year and was keen to find a new owner that could bring greater focus and capital to the business. NC2 Media demonstrated a commitment to invest in Lonely Planet.
NC2 Media is a US based media company primarily engaged in the creation, acquisition, and distribution of quality digital content and the development of the technologies that make this possible. The business is headquartered in Nashville Tennessee, and led by Daniel Houghton, its executive director, who will take on additional responsibility at Lonely Planet as its chief operating officer.
Daniel Houghton, executive director of NC2 Media commented, The challenge and promise before us is to marry the world’s greatest travel information and guidebook company with the limitless potential of 21st century digital technology. If we can do this, and I believe we can, we can build a business that, while remaining true to the things that made Lonely Planet great in the past, promises to make it even greater in the future.”
‘Short Escape’ from the mundane life...
Prior to this 30 hours trip to Patan Mahal, the formal launch of its new series of travel guides by Lonely Planet ‘Short Escapes’ – Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru was organized with fun and frolic in a function in the most sought venue - Kingdom of Dreams, in Gurgaon amidst 520 audience including some eminent personality from travel and media industry. The travel guides were unveiled by Sesh Seshadri, general manager and Steven Henderson, commercial director–publishing, Lonely Planet India. The evening was attended by eminent dignitaries from the travel and media industry followed by a riveting magical performance by Zangoora, the Gypsy Prince. Sesh said, “In the present corporate scenario, working professionals in India want to maximize their leisure time. With this in mind, Lonely Planet designed its Short Escapes travel guides to enable travellers to make the most of their time by exploring destinations close to their city.”
Lonely Planet’s Short Escapes guides for Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, are a perfect companion to ultimate destinations. Aimed at city-dwellers in Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai, who are looking for a quick break from the city, each guide features a minimum of 40-45 destinations conveniently divided by themes such as hills, heritage, wildlife and resorts.
Economically priced at Rs.395, Short Escapes for the Indian Traveller will be available in bookstores on the Indian subcontinent. The books are produced in full-colour and packed with photographs to inspire the reader.
Written by Lonely Planet’s expert authors, who have visited and thoroughly researched each and every destination in our travel guides, Short Escapes enables travellers to get to the heart of the destination. Authors to these new books include Supriya Sehgal, Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, Bikram Ghosh, Juhi Saklani, Kruna Ezara Parikh, Parvti Sharma, Sarah Islam, Anirbn Mahapatra, Sharan Saikumar and Surina Sayal.
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