Skift Take

The line between editorial and advertising is blurring for many travel publications. Branded vacations are just the next step in making more money by riding this line.

It’s the new normal for top travel media brands to partner with members of the travel industry to sell branded vacations and experiences.

Travel + Leisure will now sell custom itineraries to readers as part of a partnership with travel agency Black Tomato. The October issue of the magazine will even feature the new product on the cover, along with a 13-page spread inside.

T+L editor Nathan Lump told Skift that the new Travel + Leisure Journeys product is the result of his desire for the magazine’s editorial point of view to directly contribute to the travel experiences of its readership.

“The editors at Travel + Leisure came up with places that we were interested in building these trips around, and we worked with Black Tomato to develop the itineraries,” said Lump.

T+L partnered with leisure travel agency Black Tomato after being impressed by the agency’s digital presence. The T+L ideas came up with the locations and experiences for each vacation; all the itineraries “began with the editorial point of view,” according to Lump.

The trips themselves will be booked and customized by Black Tomato agents; 20 itineraries will be available immediately, all of them private. Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, is also a member of T+L’s advisory board.

A robust online presence is also available for readers who want to learn more about the individual vacations available through the program.

Readers can expect more coverage of Travel + Leisure Journeys in the magazine as more offerings are made available to the public. “We hope to create more [spreads about itineraries] for future print issues and online releases, as we uncover new offerings we want to bring to our audience,” said Lump.

Unlike other similar products branded by travel publications, Lump said that the curation of the destinations and activities will help provide more value to consumers.

“They’re not fixed departures, not group trips, and its not like we have editors going on the trips,” said Lump. Lump said he has wanted to create a similar program for the last 15 years.

A Crowded Field

Many travel publications choose to collaborate with tour operators themselves, and not travel agencies, on upscale branded product. Travel + Leisure is a relative latecomer to the field.

NYT Journeys, which launched in 2012, offers small-group tours that have been white-labeled from a variety of tour operators including Judy Perl Worldwide Travel and Abercrombie & Kent. Times journalists and other experts are always involved in the itineraries.

National Geographic Expeditions partners with a variety of tour operators to run its land vacations, jet adventures, and train journeys. It has a partnership at sea with Lindblad Expeditions to sail National Geographic-branded cruises.

Conde Nast Traveler Voyages’ tours are re-branded Cox & Kings products, while Afar offers customizable Afar Journeys in selected locations.


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Tags: travel + leisure

Photo credit: Detail from the cover of Travel + Leisure's October issue. Travel + Leisure

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