Lonely Planet, the travel bible for backpackers across the globe, is to triple its publications on the mainland in the next five years, at a time when outbound tourism is approaching 100 million a year.
"We would like to take our business in mainland China to the next level," said Anthony Dorment, the general manager for Asia and global strategy at Lonely Planet.
When Lonely Planet first came to the mainland in 2006, it mainly provided content to then-partner SDX Joint Publishing for translation into Chinese.
But now it is in the process of setting up its first office in Beijing and hiring its own staff so as to gain more control of its publications.
The company is now in the final stages of identifying a new joint-venture partner after it terminated a four-year partnership with Joint Publishing, a Beijing-based publisher, at the end of last year.
The one-year cooling-off period provides a buffer for its old partner to sell off the existing guide books, including 55 Chinese-translated guide books and eight guide books written by mainland writers.
Dorment said the company had set itself a target of tripling its titles to 180 on the mainland from 63 at present.
In light of the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, the firm will also increase its product mix to mobile applications, electronic books and other online functions.
The percentage of online Lonely Planet users increased to 25 per cent across the globe from 9 per cent in 2007. "The mix will eventually shift to 50-50 and the growth of online products in China will be even faster," Dorment said.
He said competition in the mainland market was much fiercer than it was when Lonely Planet first came to the country.
To maintain the loyalty of old readers and extend its readership to new clients, Lonely Planet has opened an account on Weibo, the most popular microblogging website on the mainland. The followers of Lonely Planet's Weibo, on which viewers can exchange their travel experiences, increased to 130,000 from 12,000 within a year.
"The influence of print products will change over time but it will not disappear," Dorment said.