NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Airlines are hurting and staycations are in vogue but an American entrepreneur is betting that even in a troubled economy wanderlust and curiosity will keep people jetting off to far-flung places.
And instead of escaping from the hum-drum of daily life to luxury hotels in exotic locales, or the usual tourist haunts, they will be looking for new experiences and to learn about the countries they are visiting and the people who live there.
“When times are difficult people are looking for something different. Afar is different,” said Greg Sullivan, about the new travel magazine he will launch this month.
Through Afar, which will be published six times a year, he plans to create a voice for people interested in experiential travel -- traveling to connect with the essence of a place and its people.
“I really believe that more and more Americans are looking to travel differently and they are looking to understand other people and other cultures,” Sullivan, the founder and CEO of AFAR, added.
International travel grew two percent globally in 2008 to 920 million arrivals. It is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2020, and more than 375 million will be long-haul travelers, according to the World Tourism Organization’s long-term forecast.
The top regions will be Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, with cultural, educational, eco, adventure and purpose-driven travel becoming increasingly popular.
Sullivan conceived the idea for Afar with co-founder Joe Diaz over a beer on a beach in Goa, India in 2007. They realized there were no guides or magazine for people like them who want to “go beneath the surface of a place” for experiences that enrich them.
“We are creating a voice for this type of traveler,” Sullivan said.
Editor-in-chief Susan West said Afar is targeted for a smaller audience, aiming for an initial readership of 50,000, growing to 100,00 in 2010 and later to 300,000.
West plans to achieve that with stunning photographs, regular stories on trips off the beaten path, local arts, music, food, accommodations, listings and ways to find unusual access into the local culture.
The first issue includes a peek into Tokyo’s concept cafes, a foray into Morocco’s Bergen territory and a bog snorkeling competition in Wales.
Sullivan admits it is a challenging time to launch a new magazine when so many others are closing. But he believes AFAR is offering something new and different.
“I think there will be a smaller magazine industry and I‘m happy that we are going to be positioned to be part of that.”
In addition to the magazine, a website will be launched early next year and books, radio and television projects are also planned.
The Afar Foundation, in a partnership with the non-profit Global Explorers, will also launch a year-long pilot program to award students in the New York City and San Francisco areas with scholarships to visit and study about Costa Rica.