The return to travel is back in force and for a media brand like Conde Nast Traveler this is music to the ears of their editors.
Like any travel magazine in March 2020, CNT had to change its editorial to include more information on travel restrictions and less on where in the world its readers should fly to. Since then, however, the brand has been able to pull back a bit, only now to add two years of organizational change and international collaboration to its content.
As one of Conde Nast International's brands reorganized to unite all of its seven global editions under one editorial director, CNT has created a series of editorial packages and initiatives that include contributions from writers and publishers in the United States, United Kingdom and Italy , Spain, Middle East, China and India.
But international collaboration has also changed the way London-based Global Editorial Director Divia Thani and New York-based Deputy Global Editorial Director Jesse Ashlock lead their teams and steer editorial direction across multiple time zones.
In the latest episode of the Digiday podcast, Thani and Ashlock discuss how they pursued the return of travel and how they expanded their editorial strategy to leverage the entire Conde Nast Traveler ecosystem after their international reorganization.
Talk highlights have been lightly edited and shortened for clarity.
Travel is back and perhaps more important than ever
Ash: There was kind of an incremental return [last summer] and then it was like a dam burst and I think the dam will be completely washed out on Remembrance Day. There's a lot of travel to make up for lost time, and people are rethinking their approach to travel. [They're] thinking about the trips they didn't take before the pandemic because those trips were available to them whenever they wanted, and then a couple of years went by where they couldn't take that trip, so they say, 'Oh, you better take that long haul, that to-do list, that dream trip and not the weekend at home.
Than I: There were a few stops, starts and breaks last year – and that could continue – but what's happening now is that people are just ready to get back out there again. One big difference we've seen in the last few months is that they no longer cancel trips when something changes in the world. Travelers only change locations if for some reason you are [going to] a place that closes borders, or cases increase, or something like that. They're changing their destination, but they're not canceling their trips anymore.
And they are very optimistic. They book far in advance. It's a bit impossible to have a villa in Greece already for the summer.
The international collaboration was initially born out of necessity
Ash: We had to completely tear apart some issues in 2020 – a lot of people did – and the truth is, it was actually the first time I really realized who Divia is and how great she is when she proposed a global collaboration called "Under One Sky" . [It] This was the first time all of our issues came together before this whole global event happened at Conde Nast, and we did it as a show of solidarity with the global travel community.
As me: it's something that happened completely organically. The seven editors from all over the world came together and we all had to rethink what we were going to do because no one was traveling the world at the time. It was a chance for a traveler to really take a stand and really think about who we want to be in that kind of environment. For us, it became very clear that we were all united for the first time, and it really showed us that this is where we want to be with our partners in the travel industry during their most difficult time. .
This [so] has shown us that we can all work together in really amazing ways as we take a theme and express it differently in all of our regions for our audiences. And I think that's so important to Traveller even now.
The logistics of becoming an international team
When I: jet lag can really kill you. It's very, very stressful to work with so many different markets when there are such different time zones. However, I think a lot of it is growing pains, and when you start working together, it doesn't matter if it's in the same room or on the same team. Obviously it's complicated by the fact that there was a pandemic and we couldn't meet [but] I think we learned that you can build really amazing relationships, even across Zoom.
Conde Nast has been incredibly supportive in bringing the editorial teams together in a variety of ways. And I think they were very instrumental and very understanding that they gave us a huge task. And there was this attitude throughout the company that it will be difficult, but we will make it together and we will figure it out as we go along. And that was the point, where these words, I think, started to annoy us. But I think they are right.
Advantages of internationality
When I: It's been a very difficult year for all of us, [but] I think we've all seen some of the benefits of this organizational change in this new year. And I think you really have to see the benefits before you can really believe it. We are now at the point where we are starting to see the positive effects of all the changes, [like] being able to work with all these people from all these teams around the world. [We're able to get] their expertise and local knowledge, [as well as] insights and stories from around the world that you would never have access to otherwise. [We can call anyone from any of these locations and say, "I have a question about this particular hotel or area."