One-on-One with Travel Guidebook Leader, Lonely Planet, and Executive Vice President, John...

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  1. In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with John Boris, EVP, Lonely Planet & Managing Director, Lonely Planet Americas. John discusses the evolution of guide books, the wonders of “staycationing” and exploring your own backyard, and more useful tips for business travelers who want to squeeze in some fun.

    Lonely Planet is the largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world. It was established in 1973 after its founders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, took an overland trip from Europe to Australia and cobbled together a guidebook for other travelers on their kitchen table. Today, Lonely Planet has about 600 titles in 17 languages, as well as e-books, mobile phone apps, an award-winning website, TV programs, a magazine, and image library. It also provides travel content and products to businesses and organizations looking to connect with consumers in new ways.

    John Boris, EVP, Lonely Planet

    “We are passionate about making our guides and other content accessible on every format that is available to travelers — from print books and e-books to mobile apps and online.”
    – John Boris, EVP, Lonely Planet & Managing Director, Lonely Planet Americas
    ExpertFlyer recently talked with Frommer’s Travel® VP & Global Travel Publisher, Rob Flynn, about how Frommer’s helps business travelers identify obvious and not-so-obvious cultural highlights and experiences while traveling on business. Since you are in a similar line of service, how does Lonely Planet differentiate itself and the content the company provides to business and consumer travelers?
    We aim to guide curious travelers to the heart of a place. Lonely Planet publishes approximately 600 printed guide books to every destination on earth and has over 150 mobile apps on a variety of platforms. We’ve also been a leader in the e-book space and have been a launch partner with Apple, Kindle, Nook, and Google e-books. Our content is trustworthy because our authors visit each and every place that they write about. They aren’t allowed to accept freebies and really tell it like it is. They are experts in the destinations they cover and are often locals as well. You can see their personality in their writings and they give an honest opinion about the locations they are reviewing. We believe this is the key to helping Lonely Planet travelers get to the heart of the place they are visiting.
    Describe the quintessential 21st century travel guide? How has your business evolved to accommodate the changing – and increasingly “plugged-in” — content format wants and needs of today’s traveler?
    The 21st century travel guide is platform agnostic as consumers now want their content in multiple formats. Perhaps they want to use a printed guide book to plan their trip but when they pack, they want to take an e-reader with them. When on the road they may want to access a mobile app to find restaurants or sights, and then pinpoint their location on a map. We provide multiple access points to our award-winning content so that we’re there for the traveler when they want to access our information, no matter what the format.
    What are the different content platforms available to business travelers and how might they use them during the course of their trip?
    There are so many! Printed guides, website content, e-books, mobile apps are just a few of the ways business travelers now receive their content. We expect that travelers will use different formats at different times during their trip—or even simultaneously. They may want to bring a print book because it’s familiar and you never have to worry about batteries running out or a flight attendant asking you to put it away for take-offs and landings. We have also seen amazing growth and adoption of our e-book and mobile products. E-books are great for pre-trip reading and research as well as on-the-ground planning – you can click on a hyperlink and be taken directly to a restaurant or hotel’s website to make a reservation or get more information. On the road, mobile devices are fantastic. First and foremost, people take their phones with them so there is no need to bring an additional device or guide. Second, mobile phones are location-aware, which add a completely different dimension to the guide, particularly when you are looking for places near you.

    What is the preferred medium used by consumers of your products and what will it be in five years?
    We are still deeply committed to our printed guides and they are still the majority of our business. In fact, we’re investing more in our print series than ever before. Books have an almost 600 year head start on any digital product and they will continue to endure for the next five years and beyond. That being said, with the continued proliferation and adoption of technology, more and more travelers want to have their content on portable and versatile devices and want to be able to access location-aware information. So while we are seeing our digital business grow at a faster rate than our print business, both print and digital consumption of our products continue to rise as they are not inherently competitive. Rather, in many instances, we have seen them be extremely complimentary.

    What trends are you seeing in terms of the types of devices that consumers are using while on business trips?
    We polled our traveler community and found that almost all business travelers bring their laptop and mobile phone with them when traveling domestically, and about half bring a tablet or e-reader. These figures are only slightly lower for international trips. And these same travelers anticipate that they will want to use these devices even more in the future. So regardless of where business travelers are going, they want to be connected. The main barriers they reported in connecting while abroad are the cost of roaming and data fees. That’s why we’ve designed all our mobile products to be used offline.

    How can business travelers get to the heart of a place and have a meaningful experience while traveling for business?
    Just because you are on a business trip doesn’t mean that you can’t take some time for yourself and explore. If you are able to, I highly recommend tacking on a few days to the end of your trip and taking advantage of where you are. When that’s not possible, see where you can fit in some sightseeing or a local restaurant between meetings. If your time is limited, you can always walk instead of taking a cab, patronize street food vendors for lunch, eat in a park, have conversations with locals—there are lots of ways that you can ensure you’ll see more than the boardroom and get the most out of your trip. This is where guide books and mobile apps come in handy. You can look up the neighborhood you are in and get suggestions for things nearby. Lonely Planet also has mobile audio walking tours if business travelers want to take some time and explore a section of the city by foot. And we have mobile phrasebooks and translation apps for those who want to attempt the local language – business partners will definitely appreciate that!

    People who frequently travel for business may not want to pack up and get on a plane again on their time-off. How can travel wary professionals make the most of exploring their own backyard with friends or family? What tips can you give our readers for making the most of shorter trips that are closer to home?
    There is so much to see locally and you may think you know your region like the back of your hand, but there is always more to explore. That’s why we developed a series called Trips, which is full of themed itineraries designed especially for locals (for example, California Trips or New England Trips). It’s so fun to choose an idea and run with it- for example, finding local cheesemakers or visiting lesser-known state parks. If you have time off but don’t want to go far, traveling mid-week is ideal. You’ll miss the crowds, spend less time in traffic, and save some money as hotels are often more expensive on weekends. Or take advantage of visiting heavily touristed spots off-season—Yosemite can be crowded during the summer but in the fall, you’ll often have trails all to yourself.

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