Lonely Planet returns to profit

BBC-owned Lonely Planet has made a profit for the year to end-March 10 of £1.9 million, turning round last year’s loss of £3.2 million.

Sales for the travel information brand came in at £51.4m compared with £43m last year.

Digital revenues increased by more than one third on last year and now account for 22% of the total. When BBC bought into the brand in 2007, digital accounted for 9% only. Traffic to lonelyplanet.com during the year was 17% up.

The figures, revealed in the BBC Annual Report,  highlighted two digital initiatives. Lonely Planet was a launch customer for the iPad, with its “1000 Ultimate Experiences” the most popular app on the iPad app store in June.

During the ash crisis, it offered stranded travellers “free and discounted” City guides on the iPhone app store and saw more than 3m downloads.

The brand saw its traditional guide book revenues drop 25% in line with the overall market, although it claims to have increased market share. The core markets for its guide book business are the UK, the US and Australia.

BBC Worldwide is the commercial division of the state-owned broadcaster. It paid £89.9m for a 75% stake in Lonely Planet in October 2007, a move which proved controversial with other guide book businesses.

The deal also came in for criticism from various BBC watchdogs. In November, the BBC Trust said that it “will ensure that BBC Worldwide’s plans for Lonely Planet secure the best value for licence fee payers and will keep its long-term future under review.”

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