‘Lonely Planet’ to hit news-stands in India

‘Lonely Planet’ to hit news-stands in India

New Delhi: A subsidiary of UK-based BBC Worldwide, BBC Magazines, is set to enter the Indian travel magazine market with the launch of its monthly Lonely Planet in association with Worldwide Media, a joint venture between the Times Group and BBC Worldwide.

Lonely Planet, the iconic travel guide brand from Australia now controlled by BBC Worldwide with a 75% stake, was launched in its monthly magazine avatar in the UK a year ago. By January-February, the magazine will hit Indian news-stands.

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India does not have too many quality magazines in the travel space, according to Tarun Rai, chief executive officer of Worldwide Media. “We hope to rectify that with the launch of Lonely Planet India in early 2010," said Rai.

Worldwide Media was formed as an equal joint venture by the Times Group, publisher of The Times of India and The Economic Times, and BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp., in 2004.

Vardhan Kondvikar, editor of the venture’s auto magazine Top Gear, has been appointed editor of Lonely Planet India. The magazine will be priced at Rs100 and cover international as well domestic destinations, said Rai.

With access to Lonely Planet’s 360 travel writers across the globe, the Indian edition of the magazine will set a new benchmark for travel magazines in the country, Rai said. According to the Lonely Planet website, it sells 6.5 million guidebooks a year.

In India, Lonely Planet will compete with the Outlook group publication Outlook Traveller and Travel Plus from the India Today group. The two magazines are priced at Rs60 and Rs100, respectively. Outlook Traveller’s cover price will increase to Rs75 in February.

India Today group chief executive Ashish Bagga said Travel Plus has a 60% share of the country’s travel magazine market.

Lonely Planet’s entry can only expand the rapidly growing travel market in India and there is no dearth of advertisers, said Outlook group publisher Maheshwar Peri.

Smita Jha, media and entertainment analyst at consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, agrees. “This market is still very niche and there is no player in the space with the depth, size and scale of Lonely Planet. The market is set to grow."