Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tom Hall - Lonely Planet Travel Guides

How old are you?

What’s your occupation and who do you work for? I’m Travel Editor at Lonely Planet travel guides with a watching brief on green travel and business issues.

How long have been doing this?
I’ve been at Lonely Planet since 1999 but have been in this current role for 18 months.

What is it about your job that makes it ethical? I write columns in newspapers and magazines advising travellers how, as well as other things, they can travel as ethically as possible. In addition to this, I manage our carbon offsetting programme and advise other areas of the business in how they can behave in as sustainable a fashion as possible.

What’s the best bit about your job?
Helping individual travellers who are having crises of confidence or conscience about going travelling. There’s scope for so much good to come out of people travelling the world but sometimes they need a little help to get going or once they’re off on their travels.

What’s the worst thing?
The guilt that’s become attached to travel over the past 24 months. That people who want to go overseas and help developing economies feel bad about doing so because their journey involves getting on a plane is wrong – especially when the same people aren’t making changes elsewhere in their lives that can have a bigger impact, or getting involved in pressuring government’s and multinationals to me really meaningful gestures on carbon reduction.

What have the last 12 months been like for you?
Busy and challenging! Lonely Planet never seems to stand still and we were recently bought by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. We’re waiting to see what this means for the plans we’ve discussed for making Lonely Planet a more eco-friendly place, whether that’s through our books and online content or through how we go about the nuts and bolts of our business.

What were you doing before this?
I was working on online projects and journalism for Lonely Planet as well as freelance projects.

What was your very first full-time job? I was barman at a pub in Holborn in London.

What advice would you give to someone wishing to embark on the same sort of work as you?
People assume that working for a fairly glamorous organisation like Lonely Planet or getting involved in travel journalism or and publishing must be a closed shop. It’s not. You need to be prepared to wonk about a bit at the bottom, or get relevant skills and experience to come in at a higher level. However, ‘wanting to work for Lonely Planet’ is not enough. You need enthusiasm, dedication and a willingness to learn the business inside out.

Have you got any plans for the next 12 months you’d like to share with us?
I hope in twelve months time Lonely Planet has pushed ahead with plans to help travellers get to their destination without getting on a plane, and has become more of a voice for sustainable tourism through both products and strategic partnerships.

What do you do to relax?
Running, cycling, going to watch Arsenal Football Club and hanging out with my nine-week old son, George.

Who do you live with?
My wife Imogen and George

Whereabouts do you live? St Pancras in London

If you were Prime Minister, what’s the very first thing you would do? Slash fares on Eurostar and compel my European colleagues to do the same on their rail networks.

As cheap and easily available oil is expect to run out in the next couple of decades, what do you think will be the predominant form of transport in 2027?
Almost certainly hybrid fuel road transport, though I am hopeful that trains will be far more important than they are now, especially in Europe. More cities will, I hope, by truly bicycle friendly.

Have you got any guilty carbon secrets?
Working for Lonely Planet and travelling frequently, I am sure there are people reading this who would be appalled at my personal carbon footprint, even if I do offset everything.

What have you done that you were most proud of?
Whacking half an hour off my personal best last time I ran the London Marathon felt pretty good, especially as it was for a good cause.

What single issue are you most concerned about in the world at large?
I have dark visions of the amount of waste that we’re generating on a daily basis. If you think about it, the sheer volume is incredible, and worrying.

Which person in the public eye do you most admire and why?
I find the way super-wealthy businesspeople think they’ve got the answers to the world’s problems pretty unpleasant. People getting on with things rather than harrumphing on is to be applauded – Mark Smith, the founder of is to be particularly applauded for his contribution to exciting travel without flying.

What’s your website address?

What are your three favourite other websites of the moment? is a great fun travel blog
I read Simon Calder’s travel column in the Independent every week:
And for fun there’s always something interesting at

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