Consumer-focused travel website WonderlustTravel.com will soon introduce its own list of travel specialists, the Wonderlust Travel Stylist Network, connecting readers with a curated group of travel planners, including tour operators and travel agencies.
For WonderlustTravel.com editor and publisher Bob Guccione Jr., the list is a natural progression for Wonderlust: The site can tell readers about interesting places to go and things to do, then tell them how to get there.
"That was our objective," Guccione said. "How could we bring the most interesting experiences in the world, literally, to our readers? Not just write about them but actually say, 'You can access this. This is how we're going to bring you there.'"
The Travel Stylist Network joins a handful of other top travel specialist lists, including Conde Nast Traveler's top travel specialists, Travel + Leisure's A-List and Wendy Perrin's Wow List.
Guccione's network is by invitation only and carries no fee to be included. It's "based on pure merit," Guccione said.
That differs from Travel + Leisure, which in 2018 shifted to a paid model in which specialists pay $4,000 annually to be included. That fee includes benefits, like a dedicated page for each specialist on Travel + Leisure's website.
Guccione won't be charging because he said it could leave readers with the perception that travel specialists could buy their way onto the list.
Not charging for inclusion, he said, "goes against the conventional train of trying to squeeze a dollar out of everything you do, but I think there's enough people doing that. I think it's actually more interesting to not do it and to solidify your business, your base."
In the future, when Wonderlust is sending a large volume of traffic to its specialists, Guccione said he would consider asking for some type of commission for referrals.
Bob Guccione, Jr.
The list will likely debut in March. Right now, Guccione has about 50 specialists lined up. The complete list will be capped at between 100 and 150 specialists, with a dozen or so travel agencies.
One of the travel companies already known to be on the list is Skylark Travel, a New York-based, luxury-focused agency that marries the traditional agency model with an OTA model.
Travel Stylist Network members will be listed on Wonderlust's website.
"It will be like this magical Yellow Pages for the entire world," Guccione said.
Specialists will also be included in editorial content. Every few days or every week, a specialist will be featured in profile format. They will also be used as sources for stories and mentioned at the end of articles when appropriate. For example, Wonderlust's article "The Bird Singing Club of Singapore" would include a link to its Singapore expert at the end of the article.
There will be some overlap in specialists who cover a destination. In that case, Guccione said Wonderlust would pick which specialist to feature at the end of articles.
"I think we greatly, exponentially, enrich our editorial environment by involving these people, because now we're tapping into a network of advisors that is 150 strong around the world," he said. "And at the same time, we're providing a key to our readers to be able to tap into real expertise for their own journeys."
Wonderlust plans to introduce a small number of its own tours. In many cases, it would also be appropriate to work with its Travel Stylist Network, another way of leveraging the specialists.
Guccione founded Wonderlust two and a half years ago, but he was no stranger to publishing. He founded Spin magazine in 1985, and after selling it in 1997, he worked on Gear and Discover magazines. Then he got to thinking about the travel business and how it lends itself to storytelling. Hence, the birth of Wonderlust.
"The very first story ever told was a travel story, because by definition it had to be to get us out of the caves," he said. "Someone had to say, 'Go here, not there' and say why. So it is this sort of primal foundation for all storytelling."