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Thrillist becomes the latest publisher to launch travel packages in revenue diversification bid

Food, travel and entertainment digital media site Thrillist is the latest publisher to move into travel packages as a way of diversifying revenue.

Thrillist, a Group Nine Media brand, has partnered with educational travel provider Academic Travel Abroad, Inc. to curate immersive trips for ‘intellectually curious and adventurous global travellers.’

Curated trips make a great deal of sense for Thrillist. The publisher already has a rich travel database thanks to its editorial coverage, with a wealth of local knowledge to draw on.

“At Thrillist, we have such a rich travel database, which has grown over the years,” explained Ocean MacAdams, President of Thrillist. “We tapped into our massive, engaged community of global travellers to identify the most desirable travel destinations and activities that people have been seeking out.”

Their partners, Academic Travel Abroad, Inc. have a 60 year heritage in creating educational and branded group travel, and also offer study abroad programmes, international conferences, and more. This means they will be able to support the practical and logistical side of the trips, combined with Thrillist’s marketing and editorial power, and crucially, their insight into which destinations will be a hit through audience data.

The first two travel packages on offer are ‘Mole and Mezcal: a Taste of Oaxaca’ in Mexico, and ‘The Best of Marrakesh: Day to Night’ in Morocco. Both trips are scheduled for the end of the year, with Thrillist aiming to create an additional eight to ten trips in 2021.

Travel packages are not a new revenue stream for publishers. Just last month, Lonely Planet partnered with Intrepid Travel to launch Lonely Planet Experiences, offering over 300 sustainable and carbon-neutral group tours around the world.

Even newspaper publishers have established streams of revenue through travel. The Times Expert Traveller is just one example in the UK which combines ‘the best travel journalism from The Times & The Sunday Times with incredible holidays from our trusted partners.’ The site also has its own dedicated annual holiday magazine with hand-picked holidays for Times subscribers.  

Culture Trip, a start-up ‘inspiring millions of people to explore the world’s culture and creativity’ has taken the move beyond content and affiliate links one step further, and launched their own online travel agency in August last year. The launch was made possible in part by $80 million of Series B funding, but continues to work with affiliates and partners like Expedia, AirBnB and Hostelworld.

Dmitry Shishkin, Chief Content Officer at Culture Trip told the Global Editors Network that the agency will “allow us to offer users who came to us for our content a chance to complete their travel planning with us, via a wishlist functionality content that helps people to orient themselves and plan their itinerary.”

All this prompts a question which seems to be asked with increasing frequency these days: at what point does a publisher stop becoming a publisher, and start becoming a travel agency, retailer or car sales platform?

Shishkin believes that “content is the anchor” for all the revenue streams. For now, publishers continue to tread ever finer lines between editorial content, and content marketing.