Discovery to offer adventures with travel firm

Discovery Communications is betting that there are a lot of people who'd like to vacation in exotic places — but only with the reassuring presence of a familiar brand.

The cable programming power will unveil on Monday a partnership with travel firm G.A.P. Adventures to create Discovery Adventures, which will offer trips to 30 locales including the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, Kenya, Egypt, India and China.

The partners will launch a website in late July where consumers can sign up for excursions, each running seven to 15 days, beginning in early 2010. Costs go as high as $3,000 a person.

"There's a whole new push toward lifelong learning in the last three to four years," says G.A.P. Adventures CEO Bruce Poon Tip. "So it's a natural fit with (Discovery's) brand."

The three-year deal will provide Discovery DISCA with an undisclosed fee for the use of its name. It will market the trips on TV, websites and DVDs.

"Some of our trips could include our on-air talent as guides as well as photographers and cameramen that we use to film the shows," Discovery Commerce and Digital Media COO Kelly Day says.

Despite the tough economy, "It doesn't sound like a big risk if it doesn't work," says Vogel Capital Management CEO Harold Vogel. "And if it does, then it's a logical extension."

It's Discovery's most ambitious effort to create a non-television business since 2007 when it closed 103 Discovery Channel retail stores that had become a cash drain.

Afterward, the company decided to keep expanding through licensing deals and partnerships. Discovery Adventures "is part of a broader lifestyle push that we're making," Day says.

Last year the company began to offer day trips through its Discovery Experiences partnership with Excitations. It recently announced plans for a Discovery Expedition line of branded products that will include clothing, electronics and outdoor gear.

Discovery's travel plans come as several companies seek to make tourism more entertaining and reassuring.

Last year, in conjunction with the release of the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, G.A.P. teamed with Expedia to offer trips to sites including Italy, Peru and Jordan that had been featured in the series.

"When someone decides to take a trip to Nepal or Everest, it's a fairly intimidating thought," Poon Tip says. "It's more comfortable to book a trip like that when you identify with a brand or company."

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