Determined to boost print media’s interactivity, Lonely Planet has launched the Experience series, a set of travel guides featuring “pull-out city maps, gatefold maps, and QR codes to unlock additional digital content from the Lonely Planet website.” Since its acquisition by lifestyle media company Red Ventures in December 2020, Lonely Planet has sustained its print program while repositioning itself as “a digital travel guidance company,” according to an April 4 announcement.

Six Experience guides to Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, and Scotland roll out in April and May. Half a dozen titles are scheduled for release quarterly—in June, September, and November/December 2022—totaling 24 new guides by year’s end. While the majority of the guides survey entire countries, one guide reviews Eastern Australia, and six more feature global cities: Barcelona, London, New York, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. The guides are priced at $24.99, and the first slate is currently available to pre-order.

“Before the pandemic, Japan and Iceland were two of our bestsellers,” said publisher Piers Pickard, so past sales and visitor numbers helped determine the first list. Lonely Planet chose to debut the series with “countries we think will be the most open and welcoming for international visitors,” as well as “destinations that are both well-loved and relatively easy for travelers to navigate,” Pickard said.

The 260-page guides, with a trim size of 5x7,” blend print and scannable digital links. “We’re experimenting with QR codes as an easy way of giving people access to more content,” Pickard said. “That means additional experiences that we love but couldn’t fit in the physical book.” For example, Experience Italy points readers to Rome’s Appian Way as well as to an online calendar of monthly weather and festivals that can be updated if a farmers’ market moves its location or an event promises unique ticketed opportunities. “The tagline for our Experience guides is ‘Get Away from the Everyday’ so [we want] to live up to that promise of local surprises,” Pickard explained.

Lonely Planet also sought out regional authors who understand the tourism industry, and assigned four to eight of these writers per guide. “We’ve looked for people who know their home region intimately and can write perfectly in English,” Pickard said. “For example, Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir [a travel editor] grew up on an Icelandic horse farm, and her expertise informed our ‘Icelandic Horse Culture’ experience in the far north of the island.”

While the announcement promises “a new brand position,” Lonely Planet (established in 1973) still depends on its 50-year history of offering travel advice. Clickable links will help travelers navigate Iceland, but horse-trekking in the Icelandic highlands remains fully analog.