Why a timeshare brand just bought Travel + Leisure magazine
One of the world's most iconic travel brands has been bought by a timeshare company.
Wyndham Destinations, which operates hundreds of timeshare resorts, acquired Travel + Leisure magazine from media company Meredith Corp. for $100 million, The Wall Street Journal reported last night. Collectively, the company — which will change its name to Travel + Leisure Co. early this year — will now have resort, lifestyle and travel club brands. Meredith will continue to publish the magazine under a 30-year licensing agreement.
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" ... We have laid the foundation to expand our footprint beyond our core vacation ownership business, and today we add one of the most trusted and influential brands in travel through the acquisition of Travel + Leisure,” Michael D. Brown, president and CEO of Wyndham Destinations, said in a statement.
“As new stewards of the Travel + Leisure brand, we are committed to ensuring that the integrity and independence of its trusted, authoritative journalism remains uncompromised," Brown added, saying that Jacqui Gifford will remain at the helm of the magazine as editor-in-chief. “For 50 years, Travel + Leisure has offered travel inspiration to tens of millions across the world ... and we look forward to supporting Meredith as it continues that mission.”
Acquisitions in media aren't exactly uncommon. During the years I worked at Travel + Leisure, ownership changed hands twice. Time Inc. bought the brand from American Express Publishing in 2013, and Meredith Corp. acquired Time in 2018.
And the pandemic has been an incredible hardship for both the travel and media industries. Skift reported that Meredith Corp. posted a $289 million loss in the third quarter of 2020. But even with vacation club revenue down 44% year-over-year during the same quarter, Wyndham Destinations still reported a $40 million profit across its operations.
There's also a precedent for hospitality brands using magazines to reach new audiences, and leveraging a trusted media name. In 2017, suitcase brand Away launched its own print and digital travel magazine, Here. That same year, Airbnb collaborated with Hearst Corporation on a namesake publication. And Skift pointed out that RCI, a timeshare exchange brand owned by Wyndham Destinations, already has an eponymous magazine, formerly known as Endless Vacation.
For this newly formed company, the Journal said the goal is to "grow ... membership travel-club businesses, offer new travel services and expand licensing agreements."
Related: How to use Wyndham Rewards points to book timeshares
But by aligning itself with a renowned travel magazine, getting access to all its platforms (including an Instagram account with 5.6 million followers, compared to Wyndham Destinations' current 4,087) and rebranding, Wyndham Destinations will also be better positioned to appeal to a new, younger and more affluent demographic of travelers. Skift underscored the company's persistent efforts to reach younger travelers and refashion the perception of timeshares.
“This strategic alliance brings a new, innovative approach to media brand development," Meredith chairman and chief executive Tom Harty said in a statement. “This is a great demonstration of the value that strong brands deliver when expanded beyond the media space,” Harty added, suggesting there might be more "value-enhancing programs" in the media conglomerate's future.