Lonely Planet has appointed Luis Cabrera as president and c.e.o. and revealed a new strategy which will “reinvigorate” its digital properties and launch ventures such as festivals, tours and a membership programme.
Cabrera joins Lonely Planet from BCG Digital Ventures, a corporate investment and incubation firm subsidiary of Boston Consulting Group, where he was also president and c.e.o.
The announcement comes nine months after the abrupt departure of Lonely Planet's previous c.e.o. Daniel Houghton.
“I’m extremely excited to be leading Lonely Planet and to use my experience to set the company in a new strategic direction where we can elevate our brand as an omnichannel travel platform,” he said. “We have one of the best-known brands in the international travel industry with people turning to Lonely Planet for expert advice to maximise their travel experiences. We are in a unique position that allows us to explore new adjacent business opportunities and deliver our promise in many places beyond our travel guides.”
As one of the earliest hires of BCG Digital Ventures, Cabrera has worked with companies to develop, launch, and grow digital products, platforms, and businesses. He helped BCG grow from 20 employees to more than 1,000 in five years, Lonely Planet said. Cabrera has also launched start-ups, led marketing and advertising agencies and consulted for various brands. Cabrera will be based in Lonely Planet’s Franklin office in Nashville, Tennessee.
Diversification will be a top priority for Cabrera, through new partnerships and acquisitions, the travel publisher said, along with leveraging new digital technologies.
“In a world where clutter, lack of personalisation and tourist traps sadly define travel experiences, we have an amazing opportunity to continue to be relevant and to empower travellers,” he commented. “This strategy will organically lead us to think bigger and reinvigorate our digital properties and programs like our Pathfinders influencers, and to launch new ventures like festivals, tours, and even a membership programme." Pathfinders is an online community of bloggers, photographers and videographers sharing travel experiences online.
“We have a brand that really means something to people,” says Cabrera. “We must be brave and bold to push ourselves into new areas and connect in a meaningful way with our audience. Thinking of Lonely Planet as a platform completely changes the way brands and advertisers can partner with our brand.”
Along with Houghton's departure, it was also reported last May that Lonely Planet’s parent company NC2 was pursuing a sale of the business. No further details have emerged on this, and the publisher has not commented on it.
NC2 Media bought Lonely Planet in 2013, after which there were 80 redundancies worldwide in response to a “challenging external environment and to position the company for continued success", although 27 new roles were then created in the London office.
NC2 is focused on the creation, acquisition and distribution of digital content and the development of the technologies. The company's primary shareholder is American billionaire Brad Kelley who built his fortune from discount cigarettes.
Lonely Planet was founded by Tony and Maureen Wheeler as a backpacker's guide 40 years ago.