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    Lonely Planet Reaches the End of the Road in China

    The travel guide publisher has announced it is shuttering its mainland operations, sparking an outpouring of nostalgia among Chinese millennials.
    Jun 27, 2024#tourism

    Renowned travel guide publisher Lonely Planet announced on Wednesday that it is pulling out of the Chinese market, triggering an outpouring of nostalgia among the country’s millennials.

    The Australian-founded firm said in a statement that it has closed its China office and will cease publishing updates on its Chinese social media channels, including WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, and Zhihu.

    It added that it regretted the decision, but that the impact of the pandemic and strategic adjustments in the publishing sector had forced its hand.

    “We were fortunate to share this small blue universe together, carrying memories of our youth, friendship, and excitement for the next journey,” the statement read.

    The decision closes the chapter on a decadelong relationship between Lonely Planet and China, which saw the company publish over 300 Chinese-language guidebooks and other travel titles that sold millions of copies.

    But the company had been struggling in the Chinese market for several years, with sales of its paperback titles dwindling as travelers increasingly turned to online sources for travel advice.

    This pressure had already led Lonely Planet to fold its Chinese magazine in 2022. According to the company, it will no longer release new guidebooks in China, but users can still access old titles on e-commerce platforms such as, Dangdang, and Déjà Vu.

    The news sparked a flood of comments from users reminiscing about their experiences traveling with bulky Lonely Planet guides in hand.

    “More than 10 years ago, and for several years after that, I relied on Lonely Planet to explore new and unfamiliar worlds. I remember the joy of marking landmarks with a pen and happily asking locals for directions with the book in hand,” read one highly upvoted comment under the company’s statement on WeChat.

    Other travelers contrasted Lonely Planet’s practical travel advice with the clickbaity articles on Chinese online platforms that today’s tourists increasingly rely on.

    Mio Chen, 40, told Sixth Tone that it was only recently that she began to truly appreciate the value of Lonely Planet’s content.

    When she was young, Chen bought several Lonely Planet guidebooks, but later she started to use digital travel platforms like Mafengwo and Qiongyou. However, those platforms have almost stopped publishing new content, meaning that there are few reliable sources of travel information left for people planning longer, more adventurous trips, said Chen.

    The suggested itineraries and other travel content on major Chinese social platforms tend to be low quality, with influencers focusing on picking out trendy landmarks where users can “check in” rather than offering useful information, Chen complained.

    Xiaohongshu, China’s Instagram-like lifestyle platform, has repeatedly faced criticism for featuring misleading and heavily filtered photos of popular travel destinations. The company also had to apologize for the number of “deceitful” reviews of tourist attractions on its platform in 2021, after a surge in complaints.

    “The only thing I want to say to those influencers is to focus more on providing travel advice and less on taking selfies,” Chen said.

    (Header image: Lonely Planet guidebooks on sale at a book store in Beijing, June 29, 2020. VCG)