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Culture Trip embarks on new journey with US publisher

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A tour operator dubbed “the Lonely Planet for the 21st Century” is journeying into American ownership after striking a deal with a US-based publisher.

Sky News understands US News & World Report, a digital media company, has struck a multimillion pound deal to acquire Culture Trip.

The agreement, which is expected to be announced publicly on Tuesday, comes about seven months after Culture Trip initiated a review of its strategic options.

Sources said the deal would augment US News’ travel franchise, which includes rankings and advice to aid international travellers.

Culture Trip has been working with Lazarus Consulting, a mergers and acquisitions advisory boutique, on its options since last summer.

Its app has been downloaded more than 3m times, and it boasts millions of monthly users.

“The Culture Trip mission is to connect people through expert reviewed destinations globally and is considered one of the most ‘insider’ resources for travellers deciding where they want to have the best experience,” said Ana Jakimovska, chief executive of Culture Trip Travel UK.

“Adding to this, the ability to experience the travel recommendations via our small, insider-led group trips makes Culture Trip a holistic travel platform.

“We are thrilled about the expertise and resources US News brings in helping us fulfil this mission.”

Culture Trip has raised more than £130m from investors since launching 13 years ago, but like the entire travel sector saw its business badly dented by the COVID pandemic.

It raised money on several occasions, including an $80m Series B round in April 2018.

Set up in 2011, the business grew rapidly, tapping into millennials’ zeal for “authentic” overseas travel experiences.

The company describes itself as “purpose-led”, and operates small tour groups to far-flung destinations around the world.

The firm originally focused on generating revenues from advertising, but in the face of competition from technology behemoths Meta Platforms and Google, it switched to selling hotel bookings.

That in turn took Culture Trip into competition with the likes of Expedia and Booking.com, so it elected to shift its emphasis to selling curated trips focused on the millennial demographic.

“As we continue to find ways to help people make informed decisions, the Culture Trip website is a natural extension of our US News travel business,” said Eric Gertler, US News’ executive chairman and CEO.

“Consumers want information they can trust and resources they can rely on when planning a trip.

“This acquisition now empowers millions of travellers with the tools they need to find the best value and experience.”

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