Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 8th 2017 Contents A32 life
guardian.co.tt Wednesday, March 8, 2017
A chat with the man
who took over Lonely
Planet at age 24
Daniel Houghton was just 24
years old when he became CEO
of Lonely Planet in 2013. Since
then, he's restructured the com-
pany, expanded its digital presence
and, to the surprise of many who
feared he'd kill off Lonely Planet
guidebooks, he's grown the print
side of the business. The company
now has 33 percent of the guide-
book market, its largest share
ever. Houghton, now 28, starts
his fourth year with the compa-
ny in April.
Houghton's roots are in the Ameri-
can South --- he grew up outside Atlan-
ta and holds a photojournalism degree
from Western Kentucky University.
But you could say travel is a family
tradition: His parents worked for air-
lines and his grandparents toured the
lower 48 states in an Airstream camp-
er in the 1970s. Houghton is based in
Nashville, Tennessee, now, but last
year he traveled some 150,000 miles
for Lonely Planet, and the year before
that, 300,000 miles.
This year his job has taken him to
Colombia to speak at an event honor-
ing that country's president for win-
ning the Nobel Peace Prize, and he'll
also be a speaker at SXSW in Austin,
Texas. For fun, he recently vacationed
in North Dakota with his dogs, a pair of
German shorthaired pointers named
Jackson and Moose. Houghton spoke
with The Associated Press during a
recent stop in New York.
Q: What are some of the chang-
es at Lonely Planet since you took
A: We've completely rebuilt the en-
tire digital platform along with a suite
of mobile products. We've just really
tried to expand our content coverage
as much as possible: food, adventure
travel, we've launched a whole line of
Travel is really much more than 'I'm
about to go get on a very long-haul
flight and take my guidebook.' That's
obviously a very large part of our audi-
ence. ... But we've set the business up
to reach people on as many platforms
as we can. Whether they find some-
thing that we put on Instagram, or
they see our magazine in the airport,
or they visit our website because they
Googled where to go in Italy and we're
the No. 1 or 2 organic search result, we
want to get that content in front of as
many people as possible.
If we're doing a Facebook Instant
Article, that's very different from
opening up Periscope or Facebook
Live and watching a Livestream by one
of our authors at Diwali. We're also a
launch partner for Google Home. If
you talk to them and say, 'I want to
talk to Lonely Planet,' we'll jump in.
You were hired to run Lonely
Planet by Brad Kelley, the bil-
lionaire who bought the company
from the BBC. How did that come
We got to meet pretty randomly a
couple years before Lonely Planet.
I was in the right place at the right
time and very fortunate to have that
opportunity. We met a few times and
he offered me a job. But every time I
tell this story, someone comes up with
some new twist on what they imagined
must have happened.
What were you doing before
At the time I was frustrated with
the newspaper industry. I had started
my own one-man band, a multime-
dia company doing everything from
shooting pilots of TV shows to com-
Kelley bought the company from
the BBC at a fraction of what it
had sold for a few years earlier.
Is Lonely Planet profitable now?
We're certainly moving in the right
direction. We're proud of what we've
achieved and we don't really comment
on the rest of it.
Had you traveled the world be-
fore Lonely Planet?
I'd been a lot of places but I hadn't
been to Asia and I've never been to
Antarctica. Every other continent
lot of vacations and both my parents
worked for the airlines. Until I turned
21, I had a free ticket.
... I grew up traveling with the fami-
ly. My mom's idea of a really fun vaca-
tion was, 'Let's go to New Hampshire
to see all of the covered bridges in the
whole state.' As a 10- or 12-year-old,
that's not radically exciting. But it is
when you get given a camera: 'Maybe
I'll take a picture of every one of them.'
Are there places you haven't
been that you want to go?
Last year we had a book called The
Ultimate Travel List. We had Angkor
Wat at No. 1. I've never been there.
I'd love to see that. I'd love to go to
How many countries have you
I'm somewhere north of 35 but not
more than 45.
How many American states?
I've got one state left. I have not
been to Hawaii. Of all the ones, right?
This March 2 photo shows Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton at a rooftop bar in New York. Houghton was
just 24 when he became head of Lonely Planet in 2013. Since then he's restructured the company, expanded
its digital presence and to the surprise of many who feared he'd kill off Lonely Planet guidebooks, he's grown
the print side of the business. PHOTO: BETH HARPAZ
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