The best strategic partners go together like hiking trails and trekking boots — you can have one without the other but their complementary features enhance each other. These partnerships enrich overall product offerings, give companies access to a more diverse customer base, allow for deeper marketing and promotional efforts, and amplify meaningful company philosophies. Though an increasing number of adventure travel-focused companies are developing strategic partnerships with each other, those stretching beyond the industry’s niche have demonstrated out-of-the-box collaborations can result in particularly innovative experiences.
“Life is good. Honestly, that isn’t just a flippant statement,” said Dan Austin, president of Austin Adventures about his company’s partnership with Life Is Good, a gear brand and self-proclaimed “hub of optimism,” that grew out of professional connections, networking, and an aligned synergy. The Life Is Good philosophy embodies nine “superpowers” — fun, openness, creativity, courage, compassion, love, authenticity, simplicity, and gratitude — that Austin Adventures has infused into its co-branded trips. “All the superpowers are already top of mind and built into the ethos of adventure travel, especially for Austin Adventures,” Austin said. “This is the world we live in, even before Life Is Good.”
Guides on these trips are trained as “playmakers,” the term Life Is Good uses to describe someone who spreads the power of optimism to children. “Throughout each trip, we have special Life Is Good touches that promote the nine superpowers Life Is Good lives by,” Austin said. “We don’t push too hard, but we do reflect and practice the superpowers throughout the week. We have tweaked the itineraries to allow more time to reflect on the same.”
Putumayo World Music’s collaboration within the travel industry is also designed to enhance the traveler experience with an eye on its ethos. For 25 years, the company has featured a rich library of international music but also expanded its brand to include greeting cards and children’s books. With a commitment to sharing the world’s diverse cultures in a positive way, the company recently partnered with insightCuba/Masala Expeditions and launched Putumayo World Travel to offer listeners and fans real-world experiences. “Over the years, we’ve been traveling the world in search of compelling songs that would transport people and offer new experiences,” said Jacob Edgar, a Putumayo music researcher who leads the trips. “We realized it made sense to bring our fans on an actual journey, to enable them to join us on explorations of our fascinating planet.”
Putumayo’s partnership was seeded many years ago when the company began supplying copies of its Cuba CD to insightCuba to distribute to travelers on its trips. With the release of a new collection, Cuba! Cuba!, Putumayo founder and CEO Dan Storper reached out to the tour operator about kick starting that effort again. “We got to talking about music and tourism and decided that it might be a good idea to try out a Putumayo/insightCuba tour,” Storper said. Storper, who is also a music researcher, makes the final decisions for the trips.
The company has already hosted two trips to Cuba, and two additional trips are planned for New Orleans (March 2019) and Peru (September 2019). “Music breaks down boundaries between people,” Edgar said, and he takes that concept to heart when looking for ways to bridge the divide that often keeps visitors from having meaningful interactions with locals. During Putumayo World Travel trips, travelers visit venues frequented by locals, rehearsal spaces, private homes, and music venues — all enriched by Edgar’s ethnomusicology background and Putumayo’s research.
Though every partnership is outlined and executed on a case-by-case basis, one of the key benefits of a co-branded experience is the ability to reach a potentially new audience — especially for those companies with partnerships outside the travel industry — while strengthening brand value. “Introducing our product to a new and yet loyal audience is a great way to extend market reach. Loyal followers of one brand are more trusting of an introduction to a new product by a trusted source,” Austin said. “The fact that, out of the hundreds of tour operators, Life Is Good chose Austin Adventures is a defining credibility statement.”
Austin Adventures’ partnership with Life Is Good has introduced the already well-established travel brand to millions of followers through Life Is Good’s social media accounts. Likewise, Putumayo has also benefited from its partnership. “We each use our consumer and tastemaker databases, websites, and media efforts to promote and market the trips. And, of course, now that we’ve had a couple of successful Cuba trips, we’ve noticed increasing word-of-mouth,” Storper said.
These partnerships obviously offer valuable brand extension and marketing opportunities for collaborating companies, but the ultimate winners are travelers who are treated to the benefits partners bring to the table. “Austin Adventures takes the lead on product development, however Life Is Good has a very active voice. Life Is Good takes the lead on branding and marketing the trips,” Austin said. “We work together to create itineraries that reflect the best of both brands.”