Lonely Planet mulls free Chinese digital contents (China Daily)

9 September 2012 20 h 13 min Comments Off

Lonely Planet, one of the most popular travel book series in the world, mulls offering its Chinese digital contents free of charge in a bid to firmly grasp the business opportunities in the world’s most rapidly developing tourism market.

As a leading travel book publisher particularly for outbound tourism, Lonely Planet in 2011 decided that it will slightly shift its business emphasis in China to begin accelerating the growth opportunities that it has seen in the market, Anthony Dorment, global strategy & sales projects director of Lonely Planet, told China Daily on the sidelines of the Global Tourism Economy Forum in Macao, on Tuesday.

After its existing licensing agreement with its former partner on the mainland ended last year, the company has been looking for new partners to broaden its business channels in the country, Dorment said, adding that an announcement of its new partner is expected to be made within a short period.

The publisher will first set up a company in China to enhance its local presence with its own staff in the country, Dorment said. At the same time, with the help of new local partners, Lonely Planet will also go digital in Chinese by promoting e-books sales on mobile and other electric devices in the country, he said.

The publisher said while its revenue from traditional printed book sales had dropped slightly, its revenue from paid content generated from digital devices including mobiles and e-books, had recorded a rapid growth over the year, accounting for about 25 percent of the group revenue today over only 9 percent in 2007. This had helped offset the losses from traditional book sales. Aiming to get 50:50 revenue from both sales of printed publications and digital products, Lonely Planet is now trying to build up a platform that works through all business models, according to Dorment.

However, the e-book sales pricing model on the mainland has yet to be decided, Dorment added. Although the publisher generated great profit from e-books sales in Western countries, its pricing for digital contents on the mainland is expected to be lower as many consumers in the country are still looking for free products, Dorment said. He indicated that Lonely Planet may even go free on digital devices and will resort to other approaches including advertising and sponsorship to cover the costs, in a bid to keep a firm foothold on the mainland.

“China is a huge market, where the growth rate of outbound tourism market is also the highest in the world,” Dorment said, explaining that Lonely Planet really caters to the type of travelers who travel independently and the company has seen an explosion of such travelers on the mainland. China to us today is very much like the UK and Australia in the 1980s, when this company made inroads. We’ve seen a lot of parallels, so we’ve been very bullish about the Chinese market,” said Dorment.

Lonely Planet entered the Chinese market as an international travel guidebook several years ago. The publisher said it created its first-ever Chinese language books back in 2006 with sales having exceeded over a million in the last six years, according to Dorment.

Source: China Daily, Xinhua (12/09/12)

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