Lonely Planet cuts 75 staff in downturn

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The Independent Culture

Lonely Planet, the leading publisher of travel guides for the world's backpackers, is to lay off 75 staff in Britain and America because of a sales slide partly caused by the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Lonely Planet, the leading publisher of travel guides for the world's backpackers, is to lay off 75 staff in Britain and America because of a sales slide partly caused by the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The publisher's offices in London and Oakland, California, will take the brunt of the cuts when production departments are moved to the company's headquarters in Melbourne to take advantage of lower labour costs. The company says it has been forced to reorganise operations by the downturn in the British and American travel markets, which account for 80 per cent of business.

During the Afghanistan war and the worsening Middle East conflict, Lonely Planet has seen sales of guides to Muslim countries fall by 20 per cent while sales of guides to Israel and the Palestinian territories have dropped by 90 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the company, Jennifer Cox, said: "After 11 September we needed to ask questions about the business. We had enough resources in the company to keep going but we had to make provision if such a thing happens again."

Small publishers were among the casualties when the travel market slumped towards the end of last year. Many analysts predicted that some would not be able to absorb the losses and 250,000 job cuts were forecast worldwide in the tourism industry.

Lonely Planet, which currently employs 550 staff, has relied on America for 38 per cent of sales, which slumped at the end of last year.

Ms Cox said sales in Britain recovered to normal levels less than a month after the atrocities. But a rethink prompted the move to Australia, although publishing in America and Britain will continue, with the focus on regional and more local guides.

Lonely Planet's business has grown by 20 per cent over the past decade and it now has 650 titles to its name. Last year the company offered staff the chance to go on extended leave in an attempt to cut costs. It was taken up by 100 employees, who were absent from work for up to five months on 15 per cent pay, at a cost to the company estimated at £360,000.

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