Is Lonely Planet Killing Travel Blogs?

Lonely Planet Guidebooks have been around for a while and they are one of the first publications dedicated to budget travel -something we do.  More importantly, they are the most popular guidebooks around. Lonely Planet books are frequently updated, written in an inspiring – often humorous – way, and provide information without bias. They are simply great, BUT … is Lonely Planet killing blogs?

China Lonely Planet Guide, Shanghai
China Lonely Planet Guide, Shanghai 2011

Travel Bloggers’ Guides

Travellers experience the destinations all the time and some of them share their stories with the world on their blogs. These mini guides contribute to the wealth of collective knowledge, which is few-clicks-away – wherever you are in the world. Whatever destinations you’re visiting, more likely than not there was someone who wrote about it – often very recently. These real stories can help another traveller get a feeling of a place before arrival, recommend places to stay, eat, party, or things to do. There’s a lot of information out there, scattered across the web, all within your reach. A variety of stories, from many authors with different preferences – all to be discovered by you.

Lonely Planet Guidebooks

In a nutshell, Lonely Planet does the same – in a more minimalistic manner. Lonely Planet Guidebooks predominantly consist of concise summaries and bullet-pointed recommendations. Enough to get around, but probably too little to learn more of what the destination really has to offer. Since they are so popular – and still growing in popularity – they replace the first-handed experience written on travel blogs. To some extent they do kill travel blogs by taking away the readers who opt for the book (paper or electronic).

Our opinion on the matter

In our (me and Agness) opinion, the answer is no. While the availability of all-you-need-to-know in one place takes away many people otherwise looking for the alternative source of information on travel blogs, there is no escape for something similar getting published by someone else. There’s no escape from that and that’s good, because not everyone has the time to replace a short summary with a search for appropriate blog post. It’s easier, quicker and still quite reliable.

Also, Lonely planet supports travel bloggers! If it wasn’t for Lonely Planet retweeting my post last year, we may not have got this serious about blogging. With a single tweet, Lonely Planet changed our blogging experience. I believe we are not the only ones with similar experience.

Is Lonely Planet Killing Travel Blogs? Speak your mind :)

Ps. In few days we will publish another article about Lonely Planet. Don’t miss it by subscribing to out blog here.

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62 Comments

  • I bought the latest edition of LP’s “Southeast Asia on a Shoestring” and will carry it with us during our journey, but I definitely won’t be following it word for word. It’s a great reference to have when you’re away from a computer, but I do prefer reading travel blogs for more in-depth articles and the fact that you can really put a face and personality to the article, AND you can comment or e-mail the blogger and usually have a response for any further questions :) !

    I got a bit turned off from the above mentioned book in regards to their accommodation recommendations though… I cross referenced LP’s recommendations to TripAdvisor’s reviews and it was pretty dire… the top recommendations from LP were given some of the nastiest reviews on TripAdvisor! It’s hard to know who to trust nowadays, but I do put most (if not all) of my trust in my fellow travel bloggers :)

    • That’s right, LP’s accommodation recommendations seem overrated. I think it may be because after such an advertisement, hostels get so much more business, that they care less about individual customers.

  • Interesting post Cez. Travel blogs are personal tales. I feel that they compliment Lonely Planet guidebooks. From what I have read they do support the travel blogger. Will that change with the recent sale of the brand by the BBC?

  • I use the differently – I tend to use the blogs for ideas of where to go or when I know the country/city we’re going to, I’ll use them for restaurants or odd things to see & do. LP is more for the daypack for which bus or where else is nearby to visit ( having finished an activity).
    I think you could ask if travel blogs are killing guide books/apps?

  • No, Lonely Planet is not killing Blogs at all; as a matter of fact, they may indirectly be strengthening them!!! While Hundreds & Thousands Of People every day of every year go to Lonely Planet to get travel info; where to go, when to go, what to take, what not to take, read the blogs; Most of those same people are also reading the those travelers blogs that probably were originally stimulated by watching Lonely Planet on tv, or Globe Traveller, or whatever name they are calling it this week. Watching the cool British or Australian guy or the Pretty Girls from the states primarily if I remember correctly tell about all those great places and food and more food and places made many of us, including myself, want to go even more!!! For those THOUSANDS of backpackers whom were wandering the planet long before Lonely Planet was a travel guide, let alone a show-Thank You!!! You & now Your children are the inspirations for all of today’s travel writers or “Bloggers”. So NO!, Lonely Planet should continue to provide both television and literary inspirations for all of us whom would rather see what’s around the next corner and try the thing on the menu we can’t pronounce, but looks great on the guys(or gals)plate next to us while watching people from a table at a street vendor!!!

  • I love to follow LP guides when travelling.
    But i also read lots of blog especially when planning my trips. Bloggers share tips, curiosity, hidden secrets and feelings that could make a paper guide too big to be carried!

    So I think a good mix of both will make your journeys amazing!

  • Personally I’m of the opinion that it’s the other way around.

    As more and more people enter the world blogging about their experiences around the world we’re all reaping the benefits of real-time information about places people have been to over the past few days, not a year ago before everything was edited and sent to press leaving the info out of date by the time you’ve picked up the latest copy from a bookstore.

    What I associate with travel blogs is a personality I can connect with, I don’t feel that with a Lonely Planet – though I do like the brief history of a destination in the beginning of the book, though I suppose I can get that information from a travel blog, failing that, from WikiVoyage.

    • Can’t agree with you more Dale, especially after reading all the comments here – everyone is confirming this. That’s true that books are outdated by the time they are released, and with so many articles written daily about every place, the information is out there at your fingerprints.
      Still I don’t believe LP will go out of business, after all, it’s very useful, especially to less experienced travellers / holiday-makers.

  • I think blogs are killing Lonely Planet. Well, not “killing,” but hurting. The more and more information out there, the less reason there is to buy the book. I still like having a map on me all the time, but that’s the most useful thing about Lonely Planet. All you really need is a map with a list of sites, restaurants, and places to stay, and some history lessons. Lots of people talk about how terrible guidebooks are, but seriously, you can’t go read a blog online in the middle of rural Cambodia. Having a book on you at all times is quite handy.

    • I agree they come handy sometimes, especially the maps, but since I stopped using it, I found that I spoke to random people more and had more interesting experiences (including rural Cambodia).

      I can see how blogs may hurt LP, especially, since it’s a view shared in most comments here.

  • Nice post..and i will give a really straight answer: no, lonely planet is not killing blogging. And i dont think is the other way round either. There are so many different people out there,with different,needs.. People like me,who hate travel guides and never read one ,people who ‘d rather rely on more personal/colourful stories from bloggers…and there are people who study the LP guide as the bible.
    Plus many shades in between. I think that having both channels is just an enrichment for the traveler that has now much more options to look at.
    Oh by the way..retweet by LP? Wow! What was the post about?

      • Similarly to you, I don’t like using a guidebook now. However, when I started travelling I heavily relied on Lonely Planet. I think I grew out of it.

        The article they retweeted was about a change in regulations for entry to Tibet. Basically, from that time on, only groups of 5 or more people of same Nationality would get a permit. Really harsh.

  • No, I don’t think so. I still travel with my trusty Lonely Planet, because it’s really handy to have museum opening times and restaurant addresses all in one place. But I turn to blogs to get more in-depth personal opinions and photographs to get a sense of what a place is really like. Guidebook authors can’t possibly spend enough time in each location to paint an accurate picture, especially in places like China that are rapidly changing. I think we need both.

    • Whichever country in the world, lifetime wouldn’t be enough to cover all aspects of every place (and collective effort of all blogs won’t do it either). Still I’m really impressed with how the LP authors research the regions they cover.

      And China… that’s a different planet altogether…

  • I’d say they aren’t. I’ve looked through a few lonely planets over the years and find them to be quite contrived, tailoring unoriginal trips with not very much research. I don’t use guidebooks, but if I did, LP would be at the bottom of my list.

  • Hi Cez, interesting post. I don’t think Lonely Planet is killing travel blogs. I think they compliment each other. I think as travelers we still need a reference we can hold onto anywhere we go and anything that may not be on the book, we can always search among travel blogs. I hope Lonely Planet continues to live a healthy life.

  • Great post guys.

    My 1 cent. I think it’s the oposite, travel blogs are killing lonely planet. I don’t have numbers; but I think with the evolving technologies plus the great use of social media is reducing the use of guidebooks.

    This is a topic (guidebooks) worth thinking of and maybe digging deeper into numbers and analytics.

    • Agree with Digital Nomads that bloggers might soon take over from LP. Last time I used LP or any other guidebook was couple of years ago, nowadays I research online when planning a trip.

      • Thank you Nina and Digital Nomads for your comments. I think that people will still cling to the good old guidebooks, let’s hope they are LP (from my point of view). Guidebooks provide a great overview of the destination at the planing stage, and blogs give a deeper insight in what to expect.

  • No, I don’t believe that Bloggers are killing LP (or another travel guides). They simply give you more objective information that blogger don’t. For example, if I want to travel to China, I might get a copy of the LP for getting a historical inside, some address for budget accommodation (if I am not able to get a reliable couch, I might want to get at least 2 or 3 hostel addresses available.
    But Blogger will give you their vision of the city. You need to read blogger that share the same style and vision of traveling than you. They will delight with their first hand stories and photos.
    So I will still check my favorites bloggers Cez and Agness ;) before getting to Fenghuang, Guilin or many other destinations. And my LP will get full notes that I will use later on for my blog too ;)

    • Noelia, you are too kind :) . Now that you said you want to come to Guilin, there’s no coming back, we are waiting for you!

      I must say that I love the way LP authors write the historical snippets. However, I don’t like their hostel/hotel recommendations.

  • I love the LP guides…but for slightly different reasons than I love following my favorite travel bloggers. While I read travel blogs on a daily basis to educate, daydream, or simply to follow friends’ adventures around the world, I’d use the LP guide for a handy on-the-go resource when actually vacationing somewhere. It’s a nice resource to have everything on-hand, especially if I don’t have instant internet connection to look something up.

  • I think LP and other travel blogs don’t really kill each other but help other travelers in their own way. Usually when someone wants to find info, they search for it. So whatever comes on top is what many would read. If someone is specifically looking for a guidebook, they might go to LP or some other place like Amazon. Even if someone gets a LP guidebook, they still might read other travel blogs for details and vice versa.

    • Yeah, there are times when LP comes up first (or thorntree forum) and there are times when blogs are at the top. Whichever it is, the goal is to find out the basics of the destination and set the expectations right.

  • I think travel blogs and Lonely Planet go hand in hand. The well informed traveler always checks online if a place is kid friendly or if a sight was a waste of time. Nothing like first hand account of something to really let you know if you want to see it. Like your blog!!

  • I think that since guidebooks have been around for so long, there’s no danger in ruining us travel bloggers. What would not be cool, however, is if the book takes information from the blogs so that people don’t visit them anymore. But I doubt that will happen! Personally I like to talk to locals about what there is to do… I’ve never been much of a guidebook girl :) And now that I’ve started blogging and have discovered all the other awesome blogs out there, I’ll definitely never use a book! :D

    • When I started I used Lonely Planet, but for some time now I found, just like you, that people I meet at the destination provide the most reliable info. I think that’s the way forward. I also like to research blogs beforehand, because they help me make the decision to visit the place or not – if that’s the kind of experience I’m looking for.

  • I admit I’ve never opened a LP guide but do read some of the other guides. I seem to gravitate towards tourism websites and travel bloggers lately. It may be because I’m a family travel blogger and there aren’t that many print guide books out there. This is a very interesting post though. I do tend to agree with the others that travel blogs are more current and I like the personal experiences and opinions more than the how-to guides. Great shout out from LP for you guys though.

    • That’s certainly would be a good suggestion for LP to create series of guidebooks tailored for family travellers. I know that there are quite a few family travel bloggers who support each other with advice, so I see why you’re gravitating towards this medium. Thanks for stopping by and safe travels :)

  • I think Lonely Planet is great when you want to have an overview of the destination you are going, travel blogs are about reading people’s experiences and personal tips. Also how they felt, experienced something what they liked or did not like. I think both can go together.

  • Yeah, I don’t think the lonely planet has killed travel blogs, the LP is just convenient as you can stuff it in your daybag and it’ll tell you how to get from A – B and give you a snippit on recommended sites / hostels. Whereas travel blogs go a bit deeper and talk about the feeling of a place and describe that particular bloggers experience of a destination.

    • Yeah, and the language part is really useful sometimes to get the directions from locals. I found blogs more reliable than guidebooks in getting the directions, but for that internet access is a must. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Nah! The strength of travel blogs are their niche, I think. I read blogs because I relate to the blogger or enjoy their unique perspective or share a love of something (usually climbing or adventure-y things!) – the uniqueness of which is something that Lonely Planet will have a hard-time out-doing with a travel guide!

  • Great topic!

    I think Lonely Planet are shooting themselves in the foot with their gradual (and sometimes not so gradual) format changes over the years. Even ten years ago, LP guidebooks were quirky, entertaining and easily navigated. Changes to the format over the years have seen them become less funny, and generally blander. The 2010 – 2011 overhaul they made was the most radical, and has almost turned me off with their lack of personality and strange layout. It’s difficult to locate important information quickly, and much of the best practical stuff has been left out.

    The answer? Travel blogs!!!

    • I agree with that Tim, thanks for sharing. I have notices the lack of personality and strange layout of the latest China guide. Don’t like it at all. Blogs seem to be more reliable nowadays in my opinion :). Maybe because I’m a blogger myself.

  • I don’t think LP kills travel blogs. Most travel blogs are way more personal, so I think people are using a LP and a blog for different reasons. I tend to read both. LP for general research and then travel blogs for actual real life experiences. I have actually often changed my mind about certain sights in Lonely Plant once I read a review on a blog.

  • I would say no only because I do not plan on traveling to most places i read about on travel blogs, the blogs themselves are the adventures, just cant get that from a book!

  • In a word, no. A travel guide is obsolete the minute it hits the printer and can no longer be changed. New things come, old things go – not ancient sites, but shops, hotels, restaurants, etc. There is no way for the guides to be really up-to-date. If you keep your blog up-to-date as we do, you become a much more reliable source. We have an edge as we’re based in the place we write about.

    If you write extensively about your travels- your account is going to be much more compelling than a short blurb that most guides offer. I think good travel blogs are the best source available to travelers who want to know what the actual experience is like.

  • Great post Cez!

    I agree, I think that Lonely Planet books are great for many reasons. We especially like them for the maps and the orientation section – helps us figure out which area of town we want to stay in, etc.

    We (of course!) always read other people’s blogs for first hand, up to date information…and for great places to eat and maybe to stay as well!

    Cheers for the post :)

  • No I don’t think so! If anything it’s the other way around as travel blogs are gaining in popularity, and Lonely Planet has been bought by another company only recently! I like both though….I like having a travel guide book with me because I don’t always have internet when I’m traveling….but I love reading travel blogs because they have more info on places I want to go :)

    • Thank you Michelle for sharing. I agree with that. I remember using them during my first trips and they were very helpful :).

  • Hi Cez,

    I think the two are quite different markets. Plus Lonely Planet was around long before travel blogs. I remember travelling around Europe for a month in the early 90’s with a travel book.

    The internet and travel blogs allow specific searches and drill downs. You can get real time information and a very personal perspective.

    Lonely Planet whilst in many ways are the experts they are an ideal travel companion. Great for when you do and do not have access to the internet whilst on the road.

    I think the two concepts can work really well together.

    I’m very envious that you managed to get a retweet from Lonely Planet. Which article was it?

  • That LP guidebook is obsolete even before it gets to the printer. Even if they update it online, it would be hard to keep up- things change rapidly these days. I’ve seen stuff they’ve written online about Santa Fe – where I’m an expert- that’s incorrect. So…. I think blogs are fine- it may be Lonely Planet that is becoming obsolete.

  • Saw the title, only now reading the post. I was writing something opposite and didn’t want my mind to get twerked. Returning from a blog conference the other month made me think a lot about how traditional media is changing the way we do things. More things are going by way of social media and networks as we all go more wireless.

    Your post calls up a nice idea, but I disagree. These days, I’ve been taking last-last minute trips abroad and this requires me to get information on-the-fly. I still use guidebooks from time to time but I doing internet searches calls up specific information I need and they’re usually from travel bloggers. I’ know eTrampings gotten called up in some of my travel information searches. (Not to mention, I’ve had guidebook writers email me on travel information in Korea.) I think travel writers and bloggers will feed each other.

  • Interesting argument. Lonely planet is my travel book of choice whenever I go away. I never visit a country without it. It’s nice to read blogs about certain destination, but not one blog is as comprehensive as a lonely planet guide.

  • LP provides bullet points for destinations. It is hard to find inspirational and heart felt stories you guys as travel bloggers are doing! We can find personal stories and photos in blogs, but we can only find robot types of things in the LP guidebooks.

  • They have different uses. In a sposition to read up thoroughly and get up to date and varied information on a place before you go or when you’re there? Travel blogs are perfect.

    Travelling through a country where internet is rare and you have to make decisions quickly? A Lonely Planet stuffed into your backpack is priceless.

    Lonely Planet is also useful for general info on a place – things to do, see, whether it’s worth a visit – these type of things will generally not change over time.

  • I’ve had this same conversation many times, especially when I was traveling in Southeast Asia where Lonely Planet guides made it near to impossible to escape tourism. It was a major reason we saw an influx in Westerners in all of these once remote places! But at the same time, it does wonders for the economy of these developing countries. I had the privilege of meeting Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet, when in a question and answer series for Entrepreneurs in Melbourne. He is vibrant, charming, and has such a charismatic nature about him that makes it impossible to feel any negatively about LP. He and his wife simply wanted to provide friends and fellow travelers with the ultimate advice to help ease their travels. It’s definitely a resource that has forever changed the way we travel.

  • The short answer would be: “not at all” – in fact, LP guides and good blogs do work hand in hand to inspire travellers. LP guides are short and easy to use resources that can be carried on the plane, bus and just anywhere. Blogs are a step ahead in the sense that they often do inspire people to travel other than just give the bare indications of where to stay and what to eat. I surely use them both :)

  • I was surprised to see this question posed this way round (which enticed me to read it in the first place). When I started travelling the web didn’t exist but I couldn’t be more glad that it does now. The web must have had a huge effect on guide book sales so I’m so glad to see people still use them, including those that grew up in this web dominated world we now live in.

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