UNWTO Lifetime Achievement Award pays tribute to the founders of Lonely Planet

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Tony and Maureen Wheeler/Photo: UNWTO

Tony Wheeler and Maureen Wheeler, founders of the widely-known Lonely Planet Publications have received the 13th UNWTO Lifetime Achievement Award. The prize is conferred every year to individuals with visionary leadership and significant contributions to the global tourism sector.

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The inspirational role that Lonely Planet inferred worldwide to travellers, writers and the tourism sector in general has been the major reason to concede the UNWTO Lifetime Achievement Award to the Wheelers.

The couple founded Lonely Planet Publications in 1972, after a trip across Asia. In the last 40 years, their guidebooks have sold over 100 million copies in English and other languages. Lonely Planet also ventured into many other travel areas including a television series and an award-winning travel website.

The work of Tony and Maureen Wheeler goes beyond the Lonely Planet Publications and has reached a wider scope through the Planet Wheeler Foundation. It is currently involved in more than 50 projects in the developing world, principally in Southeast Asia and East Africa, with a focus on poverty alleviation.

In addition, the London Business School hosts the Tony & Maureen Wheeler Chair of Entrepreneurship whose work concentrates on entrepreneurship in the developing world. In Melbourne, Australia the creation of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas played a key role in the city’s recognition as a UNESCO City of Literature. Maureen is the Chairperson of the annual Melbourne Arts Festival and the Principal Patron of Opera Australia’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Melbourne in 2013 and 2016. Tony is a director of Global Heritage Fund, which works to protect and develop archaeological sites in the developing world.

Tony and Maureen Wheeler did not only see traveling as an opportunity to visit new places, but as an opportunity to share an untold story with the world and support their values.

13th UNWTO Lifetime Award Achievement

Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, Founders of the Lonely Planet

A trek along Asia’s ‘hippie trail’ in 1972 led Tony and Maureen Wheeler to establish Lonely Planet Publications and over the following four decades to produce hundreds of guidebooks which have now sold well over 100 million copies in English as well as in numerous other languages. Lonely Planet also ventured into many other travel areas including a television series and an award-winning travel website. The New York Times described Tony as ‘the trailblazing patron saint of the world’s backpackers and adventure travelers.’

Since the sale of Lonely Planet Tony and Maureen have been involved in numerous other activities, many of them with a travel connection. The foundation they first established within Lonely Planet now works with more than 50 projects in the developing world, principally in Southeast Asia and East Africa. The projects are mainly involved with education and health, but Tony and Maureen’s interests extend far further.

The Tony & Maureen Wheeler Chair of Entrepreneurship at London Business School is held by Professor Rajesh Chandy whose work concentrates on entrepreneurship in the developing world. In Melbourne, Australia the creation of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas played a key role in the city’s recognition as a UNESCO City of Literature. Maureen is the Chairperson of the annual Melbourne Arts Festival and the Principal Patron of Opera Australia’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Melbourne in 2013 and 2016. Tony is a director of Global Heritage Fund, which works to protect and develop archaeological sites in the developing world.

Tony’s interest in our world’s more unusual travel destinations led him to write Lonely Planet’s Bad Lands and later Dark Lands. He is currently working on a new book on The Islands of Australia – there are more than 8,000 of them – for the National Library of Australia and on Lonely Planet’s forthcoming Epic Drives of the World.

Since 2003, the UNWTO Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in the tourism sector, recognizing exceptional leaders in the categories of Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge and Lifetime achievement, innovative projects in the categories of Public Policy and Governance, Research and Technology, Enterprises and Non-Governmental Organizations and the private sector commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics in the Ethics category.

Since their creation, the UNWTO Awards have recognized more than seventy institutions for their innovative tourism initiatives. The contribution of the awardees is in line with UNWTO´s policies, priorities and programme of work, including the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

For the fourth consecutive time, the UNWTO Awards was celebrated in collaboration with Madrid International Tourism Fair (FITUR / IFEMA) on Wednesday, 18 January 2017.