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Camp Cable: TV, Travel Companies Team Up

Channels see a financial benefit--and little risk--in offering the themed tours.

July 14, 1999|LISA MEYER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Cable TV channels are teaming up with companies in the travel business to elevate their images with viewers.

The History Channel, working with two tour operators, offers guided historical vacations in the United States and six foreign countries. The Golf Channel, in partnership with a travel company, has tours to golf resorts in Scotland, Ireland, Florida, Hawaii and North Carolina.

And the Discovery Channel this month opened a children's day camp at a Bahamas resort so kids can go on underwater explorations while parents bask in the sun.

The deals give cable channels a chance to bring in licensing revenue while carrying their programming themes into real-life experiences. Travel companies get use of a well-known name to help them attract vacationers.

The deals could backfire if tourists have a bad experience. But the cable channels, which have little financial investment in the deals, believe the risk is small.

The vacations are a new twist on an old idea. Museums, such as the Smithsonian, have long offered educational vacations. The 24-year-old Smithsonian Study Tours, for example, is a model for many companies entering the branding vacation business. It offers 360 tours to 250 destinations each year.

And magazines are jumping into the vacation business as well.

Better Homes and Gardens recently announced a joint venture agreement with Global Vacations Group, based in Washington. Beginning in January, Global Vacations will offer Better Homes and Gardens Vacations to domestic and international locations, splitting the costs and proceeds with the magazine.

Global obtains access to Better Homes' 7.5 million subscribers and the 60 million households in Better Homes publisher Meredith Corp.'s database, said Roger Ballou, chairman and chief executive of Global Vacations. In turn, Meredith gains potential revenue.

"Leisure travel has enjoyed 14 years of 6.4% compound growth, and the outlook remains positive," Ballou said.

The Discovery Channel said its camp, located at Sun International Hotels Ltd.'s Atlantis resort, is part of an upcoming licensing and merchandising program. Promotions will include a sweepstakes offering trips to Atlantis.

Since the camp opened July 1, about 1,100 youngsters between ages 5 and 12 have gone on underwater explorations or "archeology digs."

In exchange for using Discovery's name, Sun International gives the channel a percentage of its camp revenue. The companies are jointly developing the programs and the marketing strategies for the camp, but Sun International alone is responsible for operating it.

The arrangements are similar for the history and golf channels.

Though the cable channels see the tours as a way to leverage and enhance their association with science, history or golf, they don't see them as a way to attract new viewers.

But at least one History America Tours customer began watching the History Channel after his vacation.

"It's like a romance with me," said Bill Plant, 72, a retired history teacher from Pacific Palisades. "I like to see the places I've been."

Notes

The MGM Grand Hotel/Casino said it plans to generate additional income by entering into a sponsorship deal for its 15,157-seat arena. Now known as the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the facility hosts concerts, boxing matches and made-for-television events such as the Fox Billboard Music Awards. The hotel and casino has contracted with Envision, a Los Angeles-based marketing firm, to handle the planned naming rights deal. "The potential in this deal is huge," said Envision founder and President Jeff Knapple. "The sponsor will not only have their brand name attached to the venue and access to the global viewing audience of championship boxing, but also to a broad demographic that view other events at the arena," Knapple said. "It's a comprehensive package."(Greg Johnson)

New York-based HotJobs.com hired Burson-Marstellar, the New York-based unit of Young & Rubicam, to handle its public relations. . . . MasterCard continues its "priceless" advertising campaign from McCann-Erickson with a commercial featuring baseball greats Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, George Brett and Barry Bonds. . . . Thomas Potratz was named publisher of Discover magazine, a unit of Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Magazines Inc. He previously was advertising sales director for Scientific American.(A Times Staff Writer)

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