A chat with the man who took over Lonely Planet at age 24

This March 2, 2017 photo shows Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton at a rooftop bar in 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. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)

NEW YORK — Daniel Houghton was just 24 years old when he became CEO 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. The company now has 33 percent of the guidebook market, its largest share ever. Houghton, now 28, starts his fourth year with the company in April.

Houghton's roots are in the South — he grew up outside Atlanta and holds a photojournalism degree from Western Kentucky University. But you could say travel is a family tradition: His parents worked for airlines and his grandparents toured the lower 48 states in an Airstream camper 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 honoring that country's president for winning 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 changes at Lonely Planet since you took over?

A: We've completely rebuilt the entire 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 kids' content.

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 audience. ... But we've set the business up to reach people on as many platforms as we can. Whether they find something 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.

Q: You were hired to run Lonely Planet by Brad Kelley, the billionaire who bought the company from the BBC. How did that come about?

A: 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.

Q: What were you doing before Lonely Planet?

A: At the time I was frustrated with the newspaper industry. I had started my own one-man band, a multimedia company doing everything from shooting pilots of TV shows to commercial work.

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Q: Had you traveled the world before Lonely Planet?

A: I'd been a lot of places but I hadn't been to Asia and I've never been to Antarctica. Every other continent I had been to a couple of times — a 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 family. My mom's idea of a really fun vacation 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.'

Q: Are there places you haven't been that you want to go?

A: 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 Myanmar. Vietnam.

Q: How many countries have you been to?

A: I'm somewhere north of 35 but not more than 45.

Q: How many states?

A: I've got one state left. I have not been to Hawaii. Of all the ones, right?

Must Read

Israel grinds to a halt as Jews fast for Yom...

Sep 29, 2017

The holiest day of the Jewish calendar has begun in Israel where most of the country has come to a...

Israeli company says it has produced tiniest...

Jan 8, 2018

Israel's Kedma company in southern Arava desert says it's produced tiniest tomato, about the size...

Thousands attend Mexican girl's party following...

Dec 27, 2016

Looking overwhelmed by the attention, yet resplendent in an elaborate fuchsia dress and gleaming...

Man dies during horse race at Mexico girl's...

Dec 27, 2016

A man has been killed and another injured in a horse race during celebrations for a Mexico girl's...

Corruption tour shines unflattering light on...

Feb 6, 2017

There's a new tour bus in Mexico City, only instead of taking folks to historic plazas and...

People also read these

Israel, the land of milk and honey _ and now...

Aug 11, 2017

Israel has been known as the land of milk and honey since Biblical times, but could it become the...

Roman theater uncovered at base of Jerusalem's...

Oct 16, 2017

Israeli archaeologists find 1,800-year-old Roman-era theater in Jerusalem's Old City abutting the...

Have you seen this dog? Mexicans search for...

Sep 22, 2017

Signs seeking missing pets are scattered around Mexico's capital these days

In Mexico, $2 per hour workers make $40,000 SUVs

Sep 25, 2017

In Mexico, $2 per hour workers making $40,000 SUVs see no hope

Migrant quest for Mexican dream cut short in quake

Sep 27, 2017

The women working at ABC Toys on the second floor of a nondescript Mexico City building drew so...

About Us

Walk To The Place offers travel news of popular destinations for travelers with the urge to explore these places.

Contact us: sales@walktotheplace.com

Subscribe Now!