Lonely Planet axes Thorn Tree travel community

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Lonely Planet has taken another step toward removing itself from its roots by closing its popular Thorn Tree online community and forum.

The site was created in 1996 as a mechanism for travelers to share recommendations and discuss destinations and services ahead of, during and after their trips.

It was considered the largest and most popular forum on the internet and acted as a complimentary, reader-led area of the brand alongside its guidebooks and online content.

But after 25 years, the organization has decided to close the service, 18 months on from suspending it at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company said: "The world of travel is changing. Following the global upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided to put our beloved forum, Thorn Tree, into 'read-only' mode, which prohibited the creation of new posts. This helped to curb the spread of information that would lead to unsafe travel in a rapidly shifting world."

Lonely Planet added that it has taken a "difficult decision" to completely close the Thorn Tree community but says an "all-new Lonely Planet" is in development.

"Now, in 2021, as we continue to live with the effects of the pandemic, we recognize that travelers need different kinds of tools to navigate this unpredictable landscape," Lonely Planet said.

As well as shutting the forum, Lonely Planet is also deleting the existing content, a move that some believe is a shame for those who might have wanted to take note of the tips and their own contributions.

Stuart McDonald, co-founder of the TravelFish travel guide site in Southeast Asia and publisher of the Couchfish newsletter, wrote: "So perhaps Lonely Planet is ahead of the game here, figuring their efforts are better off applied elsewhere. Still, it hurts. I used the forum for years -- it was everything TripAdvisor wasn't (yeah I know, a low bar). I made friends through it and found and learned stuff I otherwise wouldn't have. It was, for me, my first online travel community.

"It isn't just gone. It has been splintered and turned into firewood. There was no notification (not that I received anyway) for people to grab what they'd posted -- there was plenty in there that would have been nice to keep. Who knows why -- some lawyer screaming liability for old advice perhaps -- I have no idea.

"I think also, it isn't just that people are collating their travel intelligence differently now, they're traveling different too."

The Thorn Tree service hasn't been without controversy over years, including a spell in 2013 when Lonely Planet's then-owners, BBC Worldwide, temporarily closed off access to it due to "inappropriate content."

BBC Worldwide sold Lonely Planet to NC2 just two months later for a loss of 80 million British pounds.

Red Ventures snapped up the brand for an undisclosed price in December last year.

Source: PhocusWire

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