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.