Meet The Reclusive American Billionaire Who Bought Lonely Planet

Last year, the Wall Street Journal called Brad Kelley “the man with a million acres.” Now the American billionaire and land addict has expanded his kingdom to include the world’s biggest travel-guide publisher. Kelley’s NC2 Media bought Lonely Planet from BBC Worldwide in a deal announced yesterday.

Most of the headlines focused on the huge loss BBC is taking by selling the company for about $78 million. It paid double that to buy the Melbourne-based publisher a few years ago. Some travel insiders are wondering if NC2, a small firm based in Nashville, Tenn. and specializing in digital development, will continue to publish the familiar blue-covered guides while devoting energy to digital expansion. NC2’s chief operating office, Daniel Houghton, made some routinely vague comments about being committed to the brand’s roots in publishing in a Q&A with Skift Travel. NC2 also produces “Outwild TV,” a story-rich Web series on adventure travel:

A fair amount of the chatter surrounding the news questions whether NC2 will have any more luck than the BBC did with the brand, which was portrayed as struggling financially and with digital innovation. But Kelley surely knows what he’s doing. He didn’t become a billionaire by making bad deals. (Actually, he earned his fortune in the cigarette business.)

Kelley, who’s on the Forbes 400 list of the world’s richest people, must know a promising brand when he sees one. Lonely Planet is the world’s largest travel-guide publisher with 40 years under its belt and 120 million books sold. The BBC grew it from the third most-popular guidebook series in the U.S. to the first.

Kelley, though, is the anti-Trump, with about as much flash as the Amish. The Wall Street Journal called him “deeply private” and claimed he doesn’t use Twitter or email (as of last fall). His hobbies, according to the article, include making bourbon and raising exotic animals; he’s also passionate about conservation. Most of his land – which is concentrated in Florida, Texas and New Mexico and in total outsizes Rhode Island – is devoted to ranches, and his holdings make him one of the top three or four land owners in the country, right up there with Ted Turner.

According to the WSJ, Kelley grew up as the son of a tobacco farmer in Kentucky and bought his first piece of land at 17. He maintains his primary residence in Franklin, Tenn., a town with about 65,000 residents.

That description might seem to cut against the image of an innovative digital firm and the exotic locations on which Lonely Planet is an authority, but in the WSJ Kelley talked about his land habit in financial terms, not romantic ones: “It’s a nonperishable commodity and it’s as good a place as any to put my money,” Mr. Kelley says. “It’s better than derivatives.” The article reported that “the national average value of U.S. ranchland rose 12% compared with five years earlier; in Texas, it is up 30% compared with five years ago.”

Lonely Planet is now based in a state that doesn’t warrant a blue-spined guidebook of its own, but it may well be in better hands.

[Photo credit: Joshua Alan Davis via Flickr]

Cochon 555 Pork Competition Turns Five, Kicks Off February 17 In Atlanta

baconMuch ado about pork products is made on Gadling, with good reason. Even if you’re sick to death of pork-centric eateries, and lardo this and sausage that, it’s hard to deny the allure of the other white meat (I can’t tell you how many vegetarians and vegans I know who still have a jones for bacon).

For those of you wanting to attend the ultimate porkapalooza, get your tickets for Cochon 555, a traveling, “National Culinary Competition & Tasting Event Dedicated to Heritage Pigs, Family Wineries & Sustainable Farming.”

The 10-city tour kicks off February 17 in Atlanta, and will include stops in New York; Boston; Chicago; Washington, DC; Miami; Vail; Seattle; San Francisco; and Los Angeles, before culminating in the dramatic Grand Cochon at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen on June 16. Notice that Colorado gets two Cochon visits? The South isn’t the only place that appreciates pork.

Cochon was created by Taste Network’s Brady Lowe to raise awareness about, and encourage the sustainable farming of heritage-breed pigs. At each destination, five celebrated local chefs must prepare a nose-to-tail menu using one, 200-pound, family-raised heritage breed of pig. Twenty judges and 400 guests help decide the winning chef. The 10 finalists will then compete at the Grand Cochon for the ultimate title of “King or Queen of Porc.”

Depending upon venue, attendees can also expect tasty treats like Heritage BBQ; butchery demonstrations; mezcal, bourbon, whiskey and rye tastings; specialty cheese sampling, cocktail competitions; a Perfect Manhattan Bar, raffles, and killer after-parties.

For additional details and tickets, click here. Partial proceeds benefit charities and family farms nationwide.

[Photo credit: Flickr user out of ideas]

How To Find The Best Souvenirs While Traveling On Business

Souvenirs are tricky for business travelers. It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by work or a busy itinerary only to find yourself grabbing something in duty free in the airport – or stopping by a gift shop to purchase an anonymous object created 12 time zones away from your destination. A T-shirt of thin cotton made in Bangladesh that says, “I Heart Vienna” may be fun in a kitsch sort of way, but it’s not really a good souvenir.

To find a good souvenir, be guided by this question: What is produced locally? Think about “production” broadly – in addition to crafts and art objects, think of clothes, food, accessories, and housewares. If you’re in a destination where very little is made, move on to this follow up question: What is collected locally?

By frequenting flea markets and local arts and crafts stalls, you can find locale-appropriate souvenirs of great and enduring value. Guidebooks and hotel concierges can direct you to local markets, flea markets, galleries and other shops where items of local value can be found.

Lastly, by paying attention to the beauty of the incidentals of your surroundings, you might very well chance upon the most sentimentally valuable souvenirs of all – commonplace objects designed markedly differently than comparable objects at home.

1. Local products. Pricing, materials and goods vary radically from place to place. An item created by artisan producers local to your destination – assuming high quality, of course – expresses the culture of a place powerfully.

2. Flea markets. The strangest cast-offs can be found in flea markets. Sometimes these objects are prized antiques, and other times they have virtually no value, having just been dragged from a heap at the bottom of a closet. But there’s no better way to get a sense of a location than at a flea market or its local equivalent.

3. The incidentals of your surroundings. What actually triggers memories and nostalgia? The ticket stubs, paper menus and products that you come across on your travels. That glass yogurt container. That tram ticket. That theater program. These objects can be framed, used as scrapbook materials, or simply displayed at home. These objects permit a thoughtful, if passing, consideration of the fact that travel creates opportunities to reconsider the incidental trappings, the very packaging, of our lives.

[Flickr image via laszlo-photo]

10 Smartphone Apps For Business Travelers

Traveling for business can be stressful. Juggling clients and projects away from your desk with unreliable Wi-Fi, especially in an unfamiliar city, will make you wish you had some serious help. For assistance on the road, check out these 10 apps for business travelers.

TripIt

The first step to getting work done efficiently while traveling is to be organized. TripIt allows you to forward your flight, hotel, car rental, tour confirmations and travel information to one place and creates an easy-to-read trip itinerary for you. You’ll also be able to add maps, travel notes, photos and recommendations.

Evernote

Evernote started as an easy way to take notes, and transformed into a tool for users to always remember their brilliant ideas. Notes can be saved as text, pictures, audio files, websites and more, and is sorted into notebooks, which can be efficiently tagged. And coming in December, the app will be adding new tools for businesses.

Dropbox

One of the biggest hassles when traveling is not having access to your files. Dropbox solves this problem by creating a place where you and your coworkers can save and access shared text, audio and video files. No longer is it necessary to email yourself or attach files.JetSet Expenses

While on the road, it can be difficult to keep track of what you’re spending. JetSet Expenses allows users to track expenses, create expense reports and get paid in a timely manner. It’ll help you save money, and reports can be sent directly to your boss.

Wi-Fi Finder

To do work, you’re often going to need Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi Finder uses GPS to find hotspots. Additionally, you can download locations offline if you’re not going to have good cell service.

QuickOffice

QuickOffice‘s mobile app allows users to view, edit and exchange Microsoft Word and Excel documents, as well as PowerPoint Presentations. You’ll also be able to get and send files from the cloud quickly and efficiently.

Asana

Asana, a “shared task list for your team,” allows for you to create and collaborate with coworkers. Make and assign job duties, add due dates, view projects and make edits in real-time.

AwardWallet

Many business travelers have a large reserve of points and miles. AwardWallet keeps track of your loyalty programs, frequent flier miles, hotel and credit card points, allowing you to view and manage them all in one place.

FormMobi

FormMobi is useful for when you want to create personalized forms, film out and sign documents and store data that can be shared with your team. With the option to drag form elements you want, making your own is simple, and photos and voice notes can be added at anytime.

HoursTracker

While traveling, you’ll often be accounting for your own work and hours. HoursTracker allows you to choose between manually inputting your hours or setting a timer. You can track your hours and overtime in the app, as well as send the timesheet to your boss.

[flickr image via Johan Larsson]

Airline Fees: You Get What You Pay For Or Weapons In Travel Class Warfare?

airline fees - plane seat meapLast month, the media was abuzz over increased airline fees for pre-assigned seating, with many concerned that it would especially affect families who want to sit together for no additional cost. Even New York Senator Chuck Schumer got involved, asking airlines to waive fees for families traveling with children. Rather than look for victims or call airlines “anti-family,” however, look at the bigger picture. Airline seat fees are nothing new, but they are increasingly being used as another weapon in the arsenal against the airlines’ least desirable customer: the infrequent flier. If travelers will choose airfares based on a difference of nickels and dimes, does this force the airlines to nickel and dime the traveler?

The real divide in travel now isn’t between business and leisure travelers, families and singles, or even first class and coach; it’s between frequent fliers with airline loyalty, and price-conscious consumers who won’t hesitate to switch carriers for a cheaper fare. Savvy travelers who fly more than a few times per year understand that it pays to be loyal to one airline. In addition to earning miles for future trips, frequent fliers can jump to the top of upgrade lists, skip long check-in and security lines, and even waive many of the fees not included in the base fare. Travelers who fly only a year or less are more likely to book the cheapest ticket they find, even if the difference between carriers is just a few dollars, assuming the service will be similar (or worse, the same as they remember the last time they flew). What’s the incentive for airlines to give such passengers anything for free if they might never fly them again? “The customers that are more loyal, who fly more often, we want to make sure they have the best travel experience,” said American Airlines to Associated Press.

People are quick to call airlines greedy, and while they are looking to make money, running an airline is hardly a lucrative business these days. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a nifty graphic breaking down the cost of an average flight, showing that on a 100-person flight, the airline is making a profit off only a single seat. Between the rising costs of fuel, staff, security, insurance, and maintenance, most airlines are struggling to avoid bankruptcy or just stay in business. While you shouldn’t feel sorry for the airlines, understand that the alternative to fees is increased base fares, where you may be stuck paying for amenities you don’t need or want.As I’ve lived abroad for two years, I’ve become loyal to Turkish Airlines. They not only have the most flights from my current home airport in Istanbul, but I know I’ll always get a meal even on short flights, never have to pay fees outside of excess baggage, and even be able to use a dedicated check-in desk for travelers with children at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. I’ve often paid more to fly on Turkish Airlines than other carriers on the same route to guarantee the same standards of service. This makes me a valuable customer, and the more money I spend with them, the more perks I receive.

Earlier this year, I was looking for tickets from New York to Austin for a friend’s wedding. It was slightly cheaper to fly on American Airlines (my preferred carrier when I lived in New York) than Jet Blue, but as a solo traveler with a baby, I knew I’d be checking a bag and wanting to take my stroller up to the gate. Jet Blue would offer these services for free (American wouldn’t let me gate-check the stroller, but I could check it at the counter for free), and the overall cost would be about the same, plus I’d get free snacks and entertainment. In the end, I chose Jet Blue and was even given a priority seat without charge because the flight was relatively empty. If I were still based in New York and flying frequently, it would be more worthwhile to me to fly American to build my frequent flier status and miles for places I’d like to go.

As a parent who travels frequently with my child, I understand the potential nightmare separate seating could cause, but I also understand that airlines can’t make exceptions without making some passengers unhappy. If airlines were to waive a seating charge for families, travelers would complain about special treatment. Fliers with elderly parents would ask for exemptions to sit together, people with a fear of flying would want their travel partner close with no fee, and single travelers would feel they were being forced to subsidize everyone else.

Over at Huffington Post, my colleague (and fellow baby travel expert) Corinne McDermott contacted all of the major airlines regarding pre-assigned seating fees. Only Spirit Airlines explicitly said families should pay fees to be guaranteed adjacent seats. In fact, much of the hype about families being separated might really just be that: hype. Most airlines will try to accommodate people traveling together, just reserving preferred aisle and window seats to reward frequent fliers, or sell for an additional fee. It makes sense for an airline to offer a premium like preferred seating for free to a loyal customer, and instead try to make as much money as possible for a customer they may never have again.

Instead of spending time writing angry comments online, spend that time educating yourself about the full cost of an airline ticket and decide where your priorities lie: do you want to pay the absolute lowest fare and expect nothing more than a seat, or do you want to pay for service instead surprise fees? The old axiom “you get what you pay for” is the new reality in airline travel.