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Lonely Planet still growing after nearly five decades

Jan 25,2019
There have never been as many travel blogs, YouTube videos and Instagram posts that share travel tips as now. And yet travelers still rely on Lonely Planet, a travel guide company that’s been around since 1972. It is the world’s No. 1 guidebook publisher.

Its strength comes from the fact that it gives all you need to know about a certain destination in a single package, said Chris Zeiher, director of sales, marketing and media for Lonely Planet in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily during a visit to Korea. Once they get the big picture, people can go online to get more detailed information in videos or photos to learn what they should expect when they reach their destinations.

“People now source their information from a variety of places and they use us as a starting point,” said Zeiher, who came to Seoul to consult the Korea Tourism Organization on travel keywords the company has spotted in its research on Korea. Lonely Planet’s competitive advantage comes from the fact that its books “connect the dots” for travelers.

“We are actually continuing to grow in sales,” Zeiher said, “because we are that facilitator.”

Lonely Planet puts a particular focus on outdoor activities in Korea as its readers are more interested in planning their own trips than going on a group tour. They like outdoor activities ranging from hiking, bird-watching, doing extreme sports to simply walking from one place to another. Always looking from a visitor’s point of view is important when it comes to putting together a “unique” and exciting travel itinerary, he said.

The company has published a city guidebook for Seoul and a country guide that provides advice on places outside the capital. The guidebook suggests two to three weeks in total for those traveling to Korea. Of course, it recommends a trip to the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, separating North and South Korea. The country guide is in its 11th edition while the city guide is in the ninth. The first Lonely Planet guide to Korea was published in 1988.

Five authors contribute to the Korea guide each time. The writers change over time and usually there is a primary writer who has accumulated more understanding of the country. The guide to Korea also covers North Korea.

English-language guides to Korea sell best in the United States, followed by Britain. Editions in French and Spanish are also available.

A guide to Busan is in the works and the company plans to publish it in about two years. Last year, Busan was one of the locations that Lonely Planet singled out as a must-visit destination.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]