Travel guide loses its way

Tom Galvin

While there's nothing lonely about the planet any more, the publishers of the most popular travel guide, Lonely Planet, are celebrating the release of their 100 millionth guide book this month.

You might have hoped that they had found a remote corner of the earth somewhere to coincide with this landmark publication, but in fact, their 100 millionth book to roll off the presses is their 15th edition of their guide to Australia.

The LP guides have long been the compass of choice for the independent traveller because of their comprehensive research, the passion, knowledge and judgment (if somewhat opinionated) of their writers and the reliable details that go into ensuring nothing is amiss in getting from A to B.


Anyone considering taking time off to travel this year may be tempted to buy a copy of LP's Best in 2010: 850 Trends, Destinations and Experiences for the Upcoming Year (€10.99). Don't bother.

I would say 'blag' a copy rather than buy, because my one criticism of LP is that they have tended to veer off their own path of expertise to regularly produce books that are more appetite whetters than guides -- ultimate experiences, pictorials, calendars, best cities, worst this or that -- you begin to wonder whether there was a rush on to get their 100 millionth title into the news.

The aim, I've always believed, of LP was to provide a sturdy guide to fit in the backpack and not to produce books for the coffee table or armchair traveller. Their online presence is enough for visitors to sample their world without having to splash out for lavish books that skimp on content.

Better still, just go direct to LP's Thorn Tree forum or their own website for travel tips. And in saying that, to celebrate their 100 millionth book, LP has this week launched a competition to find the best travel photos from around the globe. The prize is a trip for two round the world, with runners-up prizes of Nokia handsets worth about €500 each. A nice way of giving something back to the readers.

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