The Royal Geographical Society is honoured to welcome to Hong Kong Tony Wheeler, the Founder of Lonely Planet, as guest of honour for the Society's Annual Dinner 2012-13. Widely known as 'the trailblazing patron saint of the world's adventure travellers', Mr Wheeler with his wife Maureen built Lonely Planet from one book to the world's largest travel book company. In his address at the Annual Dinner, Mr Wheeler is to tell the story of Lonely Planet from its humble beginnings in the 1970's, followed by some exciting accounts of his own fascinating travels in the wilder countries of the World of his own "Lonely Planet".
Mr Wheeler's tale of Lonely Planet starts with driving a £60 Minivan from London to Kabul in Afghanistan, via among others Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he sold the van for a £5 profit. The trek along Asia's 'hippy trail' in the 1970s led to the first Lonely Planet guidebook "Across Asia on the Cheap", written on a kitchen table. This book started the genre of strong opinions combined with wit and sold so well that Tony and Maureen Wheeler had the funds to travel right across South-East Asia. Following this epic trip, Lonely Planet published "South-East Asia on a Shoestring", nicknamed the 'Yellow Bible', written at the Palace Hotel in Singapore. There followed countless travels and in subsequent years Lonely Planet grew to 500 employees and offices in Australia, the USA and UK catering to everything from the overland hippie trail to more luxurious travel.
Lonely Planet is now the largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world. The Group publishes some 500 titles in nine languages, as well as TV programmes, a magazine, mobile phone applications and websites. Lonely Planet also has its own television production company, which has produced numerous television series including "Lonely Planet Six Degrees', "Vintage New Zealand" and "Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled". Lonely Planet's monthly travel magazine "Lonely Planet Magazine" was launched in the UK in 2009.
Now being a Non-Executive Director of Lonely Planet has given Mr Wheeler even more opportunity to travel. In his talk he describes travels for his book "Bad Lands" which include trips to Afghanistan, Albania, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. He also describes his forthcoming "Travels in Fairy Lands", for which he has visited Colombia, the Congo, Haiti, Israel-Palestine, Nauru, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe. He concludes with some other more unusual travels, including watching the first tourist go into space from Kazakhstan, racing an electric sport car in Switzerland, nursing a £100 car from London to Gambia, cycling 1,000km through Africa and climbing a glacier in Alaska dodging grizzly bears.
Tony Wheeler was educated at the University of Warwick and London Business School. Before setting out on the 'hippy trail' he was an engineer at Chrysler Corp. Mr Wheeler soon became the world's leading travel book entrepreneur. In addition to his role as a Non-Executive Director of Lonely Planet, Mr Wheeler now runs The Planet Wheeler foundation, which concentrates its activities on Asia and Africa, in addition to a professorial chair at London Business School, the Wheeler Centre for Books in Melbourne, arts sponsorship and a one to one billion scale model of the Solar System.