The first ever Lonely Planet store in Europe was launched in Manchester Airport yesterday.
The store offers travellers departing from Terminal 1 access to the full range of Lonely Planet guides, a wide selection of travel products and a world of inspiration to enhance their travel experience.
Lonely Planet began 40 years ago when Tony Wheeler and his wife Maureen decided to spend their honeymoon crossing Europe and Asia in a second-hand car.
Mr Wheeler said: “The reason we wrote the first Lonely Planet book (Across Asia on the Cheap) was because it was so hard to find information about the route we took. The only reference we had in 1972 was a BIT Guide we bought for £1 and nothing else.”
Lonely Planet has since become the largest travel publisher in the world and has over 500 titles with more than 80 million guidebooks sold.
The fortunes of Lonely Planet were transformed in 1981when they published their first guide to India.
Mr Wheeler said: “It was our breakthrough book - at 700 pages it was much bigger than any of our previous titles and was a huge commercial success.”
Mr Wheeler’s taste for travel started early – during his childhood he lived in Pakistan for five years and America for six years due to his father working for British Overseas Airways Corporation, now BA.
He said: “I actually went back to Karachi ten years ago and when I went to the harbour to fish for crabs I suddenly remembered that I had been there with my father. I was having the exact same experience as the one in my memories – sitting in the sail boat and putting the bait on the stick and dipping it in the water. These are experiences that stay with you for life”
One feature to the new store that separates it from other book shops is the interactive touch-screen hub that allows customers to navigate the globe in an instant and discover new potential destinations.
The new store is all part of Lonely Planet’s post-BBC Worldwide takeover expansion which has seen it launch a magazine, a phone app, and greatly increase its online and digital presence.
After the takeover Mr Wheeler set up a foundation, Planet Wheeler, to help communities in the developing world but he still loves to travel and explore new countries.
He said his favourite place to visit is Nepal because of the numerous walking tours but even now he has a soft spot for the first trip he took with his wife in 1972.
“The first trip you take without your parents opens your eyes,” he said. “The experience leaves imprints on your mind in a way you can’t every replicate. I remember I spent my first wedding anniversary at the Taj Mahal with my wife. It felt incredible to celebrate the day at this monument to everlasting love.”
His advice for young travellers and backpackers wanting to get the most out of their travels is to learn as much about the area as possible.
Mr Wheeler said: “I always travel with a guide book, sometimes even ones written by rival companies. But I also read novels while travelling because they have a way of telling the story of a place in ways travel guides can’t.”
But the best travel advice is in the introduction to Across Asia on the Cheap where he wrote: “All you've got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over. So go!”