UN honors alumna Maureen Wheeler

One of La Trobe University’s distinguished alumna has received a major award for her contribution to global tourism.

Maureen Wheeler, who with her husband Tony founded the universally popular Lonely Planet guidebooks, has received a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award recognises the Wheeler’s “visionary leadership and significant contributions to the global tourism sector”.

The Wheelers published their first Lonely Planet book in 1972 and have since sold more than 100 million copies in English and other languages.

Maureen Wheeler completed a Bachelor of Social Work at La Trobe in 1980 and returned in 2005 as an Associate Professor in the former School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.

“The skills I learnt while a social work student at La Trobe University have stayed with me all my life,” Mrs Wheeler said.

“Despite not making social work my career – I was too busy with Lonely Planet – I found that the mindset developed during the course gave me insight into human behaviour that enabled me to manage staff in a constructive, positive and effective manner, which benefitted our business as a whole.”

La Trobe Vice Chancellor Professor John Dewar congratulated Mrs Wheeler, who is also an Officer of the Order of Australia, on her latest award.

“A lifetime achievement award from the UN is an outstanding honour,” Professor Dewar said.

“Millions of people have discovered the world through Lonely Planet guidebooks and developing nations have benefitted from projects run by the Planet Wheeler Foundation.

“Maureen has achieved great things and La Trobe is proud to have played a part in her success.”