"LP.com is a key focus for us this year"

Travel Distribution Asia Special: By EFT CorrespondentLonely Planet acknowledges its major commitment to its development in Asia via the trade and online channels.

Published: 03 Apr 2007

Travel Distribution Asia Special: By EFT Correspondent

Lonely Planet acknowledges its major commitment to its development in Asia via the trade and online channels.

According to the company, the appointment of James Sundram as Director of
Sales and Marketing based in Singapore reflects LP's intention to capitalise on
the momentum it already has across the Asian region, which is now its fastest
growing market.

Sharing more info, Sarah Ouellette, business development associate -
Asia/Pacific, Lonely Planet Publications said, "LP's Chinese language sales
have far exceeded our expectations and bode well for further growth across
various platforms. The biggest development for LP globally has been the
revamping of our website. We are in the process of launching our video site,
lonelyplanet.tv, which will combine user generated content, social media and LP
content in one."

In an interview with EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta, Sarah provided an
insight into her company's operations in the Asia Pacific region. Excerpts:

Last year, Lonely Planet (LP) had launched its Japanese, Korean and Chinese
versions via partnership with local publishers last year. It was shared that
the next phase of this push was web-based. How has this progressed?

We have been working with foreign language partners to create LP branded pages
on partner websites. MSN in Japan recently launched our Japanese language travel
section that is an LP branded space. We have also moved online in Chinese with
our content via www.lonelyplanet.cn with plans to expand this offering to be a
fully functional Chinese version of LP.com. We have also made movements in
community building in China through a partnership with eLong.com, one of the
biggest travel booking sites in the country. We worked with them to create a
photo competition where users upload their images and the community votes on
the best. Great result and a way to promote the LP brand through direct
interaction with consumers.

Apart from advertising, LP established a Travel Services section on its
website, which included links to travel providers for air tickets,
accommodation booking, insurance and other services. How has this offering
shaped up?

This has been an evolving space for us with travellers and while we cater for
the main-stream traveller the move forward is towards niche areas like
adventure mixed with our reviews and user-generated content. Last year we
launched a section based on our book A Year of Adventures, allowing travellers
to research adventure travel ideas through the book and then use Bookings & l
Services to book trips . The flight offering is now with meta-search sites
which are providing the research tools travellers are demanding in this space.
Accommodation is now with Lonely Planet's own accommodation service, Haystack.

What new trends have you witnessed in online travel space in Asia from LP's

The need for instantaneous, inspiring and personalised content. With the rise
of the LCCs in Asia, there is a growing demand for content to compliment short
break travel and travellers want this from their own community. They are
deciding Thursday where they want to fly to on Friday and content needs to
reflect this decision making process and motivation. This extends from online
to mobile and wireless technology.

Lonely Planet recently launched its independently author-reviewed and
recommended online accommodation booking service, Lonely Planet Haystack. How
is this service going to emerge as a resource for booking accommodation. Are
there any plans for Asia as well?

The properties available on Haystack are not only independently reviewed by LP
authors but the majority are only bookable via Haystack as they are often
independent, niche properties valued by travellers. We now have over 7,000
properties available to book through the service. The oppotunity here is that
we are actioning the information presented in our print and online content. We
review the property regardless of whether they join Haystack for LP.com and
from there, the property has the option of joining Haystack to become bookable.
Specific to Asia, the unique offering will be that properties that were at one
time unavailable for online booking within Asia will be easily accessed and
booked in English for a global audience. We are ecouraging user reviews to
integrate further into our community strategy and future plans include
providing additional LP content with each booking, such as maps or points of

What are LP' plans in social marketing arena? How do you think LP can use its
existing legacy and this tool for optimal results?

Social marketing is rapidly becoming essential in travel and LP has a long
history this with our Thorn Tree area of LP.com. The Bluelist has been a hugely
successful initative for us and the move into integrating UCG with LP authored
content has been very positive. There has been strong interest in creating a
Blueslist product for use in Asian languages.

We have also launched our author travel blog and travel classifieds area with
both catering to the social media aspects of our community. Lonelyplanet.tv
will take this a step further with video. In the long term, expect to see more
integration of UGC and social media on LP.com and our network to boost our
brand awareness and encourage interaction with our content. We are taking our
time to understand our audience in this area as we recognize that in the social
media forum the audience "owns" the space.

Is rich media the next big thing for enhancing your website and customer
experience, and how can this impact your sales?

We already use rich media elements such as podcasts but we are moving deeper
into the development of these elements. Video is a focus as is the integration
of these elements into a greater framework of the business including our online
sales of books. In Asia specifically, brand awareness is key and LP.com's push
into richer media helps acheive this.

What's on your agenda this year?

LP.com is a key focus for us this year. Our vision is that travellers will be
saying, "Whatever I need, whenever I need it, in whatever language I speak, the
Lonely Planet website gives me access to content and community as rich and
diverse as the world I want to explore."

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