Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lonely Planet to open an offline store at Sydney Airport with help from Lagardère

Last week TripAdvisor announced another step in its plan for world online travel content domination with the acquisition of a meta search engine ( and a large travel social network (Virtual Tourist). Lonely Planet - arguably the number one offline travel content company - has gone completely the other way by announcing plans to open a Lonely Planet concept store at Sydney Airport. This store (I am quoting from the DFN Digital article)
"...will sell the full range of Lonely Planet books and a range of travel accessories and gift items. It will also feature online interactive portals showcasing Lonely Planet’s digital content, and staff will be trained to offer specific travel advice to travellers."
In other words, books, magazines and young people who should know what they are doing. The store will be operated by Lagardère Services Asia Pacific who are famous for running Airport book stores and news agents.

I had hoped that after the sale to the BBC, appointment of new online staff and attempts at launching new onlien products that Lonely Planet would finally take the steps necessary to turn themselves into an online content company and join the now 15 year old online revolution. But instead the quote from Lonely Planet sales and marketing director Howard Ralley about putting the Lonely Planet brand on a store front is that it is
"an exciting evolution for our brand. It's something we've discussed for some time."
I think that this was time that should have been spent opening up the brand, site and content to online distribution. Am I being too harsh? Do you think that the next frontier for Lonely Planet should be offline?


JB said...

The stores will be really helpful for the LP authors as they go about their business reviewing South American countries, via their girlfriends!;-D

Scott M said...

Great post. As the former online publisher at Lonely Planet I can safely say -- no, you are not being too harsh.

Right now Lonely Planet reminds me of an alcoholic that is temporarily off the booze. They know they have a problem, they aren't hallucinating for the moment, and they know they should deal with their problem - but hey, doesn't that ice cold beet look simply delicious?

For those of us who love Lonely Planet and wish it nothing but success, it's been very difficult to watch the company move in multiple directions with no coherent strategy. All of us who thought BBCW would take charge and start addressing these fundamental problems have (at least so far) been very disappointed.

Maybe a kiosk at Sydney airport is a good idea. Who knows. But if they're hoping to sell books to travelers AFTER THEY HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED IN-DESTINATION they are missing the point.

Think of it this way - compare the last time you purchased a travel guide at the airport vs. the last time you accessed or consumed travel content online.

And now ask yourself -- which business would you rather be in?

Is a kiosk at an airport a good brand strategy? Maybe.

Is it scalabale? Not really. Does it do anything to assist the online business? Please, get real.

Ugh. If you want more rants about Lonely Planet's lack of vision, here you go:

Adam Vance said...

Scenario 1:
I'm heading to Botswana, I'm at the airport - oops I forgot to do my research - better buy the Lonely Planet Botswana guide AT the airport. Saved!! (Yeah right!)

Is LP going after a horse that's already bolted with an offline store at the airport?

Apart from it's guides, which the average punter purchases months before departure - it's greatest asset and potential for Web 2.0 and 2.5 is Thorn Tree. I've used this since the wild west days of the web in the late 90's.

Throw some serious shekels at this area of the business if they are serious about connecting people, ideas and content.

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