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Behind the Page: Condé Nast Traveler’s Corina Quinn shares the brand’s pandemic content strategy and responsibility to its readers

Italian infatuation

Corina Quinn flew to Italy to follow a nomadic beekeeper as he transported hives to capture flowers while they bloomed across Trentino, Venice and Sant’Erasmo.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” Quinn remembers. Watching the beekeeper work in tandem with a chef to utilize Italy’s flora in the creation of local honeys gave her an entirely new perspective on the country’s food culture. That attention to nuance and the deft ability to reconcile cultural complexities is something Quinn brings to all stories she touches, both as an editor and as a writer.

Today, Quinn is Condé Nast Traveler’s City Guides Director. It was not an easy road. After spending seven years as a senior editor for a niche Italian food magazine (in Quinn’s words, “Take a really niche, boutique culinary magazine and make it even more niche”), she took a freelance job as a fact-checker at Travel and Leisure. Six months later, she was helping design the brand’s digital city guides.

Redefining luxury

Corina Quinn headshot, brown short hair, jean shirt
Corina Quinn

One of the first things you notice when talking to Quinn is not just how instinctively she understands the Condé Nast Traveler brand, but also how passionately and intuitively she protects and serves her readers.

Quinn makes sure her digital city guides take advantage of all the unlimited possibilities of a digital platform. No longer limited by space like a print magazine, Quinn’s guides are expansive multimedia compilations curated by passionate travelers for passionate travelers. Her team includes story editors, photo editors, SEO specialists, publicity coordinators, and a highly respected pool of freelance writers and contributors who specialize in hyperlocal storytelling. They used this emphasis on precision to make sure readers never missed an opportunity while traveling. Time became the new definition of luxury.

And in a short time, luxury developed an entirely new meaning to the brand once again.

Cities and stories in a pandemic

In early March, Quinn and the rest of her team found themselves reevaluating how to serve their readers eager for travel in a world where travel simply was not possible. They tried a news-focused strategy when the quarantines first swept the country, addressing which hotels were closed and which were open, but that did not do the trick. Then Quinn had an idea. She commissioned an article from Nicky Swallow, one of their regular writers in Florence, about what the lockdown- one of Europe’s first and most stringent- had done to Italian culture and daily life. It became What it’s like to be in Italy under coronavirus lockdown.

“You know what Italian culture’s like,” Quinn told Swallow. “You know how this lockdown is drastic and fast and you weren’t prepared. And also, you know that it’s coming here. It’s a lot of responsibility but I kind of want you to share that.”

That story was one of Condé Nast Traveler’s most successful in the quarantine. It garnered high engagement ratings and gave Quinn and her team a blueprint for the kinds of stories their readers wanted: real stories and updates of the places they loved but could not visit. She later engaged Swallow again to write about Italy’s process of opening back up and “Stage 2” of quarantine as restrictions eased but Italian life still little resembled what it had been before. 

“Those are things that I felt really proud to work on because they were relevant,” Quinn reflects. The detailed insights from local writers into quarantines across the globe kept her readers connected and instantly negated the distance between favorite destinations like Florence, Barcelona and Hong Kong. With the world in quarantine, grounded travelers could find more in common with their counterparts across an ocean than ever before. 

Quinn and her team also discovered a new opportunity to serve both readers and the people who fuel the magazine’s content: the travel industry. Condé Nast Traveler’s partnership with the travel industry is deep-rooted and based on a mutual desire to introduce people to new places, new ideas and new ways of living. 

Condé Nast Traveler editors began seeking out the stories of hotel managers, tour guides, and employees who suddenly found themselves either without work or having to drastically adapt the way they serve their clients. These stories give a human face to the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry. Quinn is passionate about that and adamant about her responsibility to her readers to show them how the industry is changing not just for travelers but also for the people who make travel possible:

“We also want our readers to care about the industry the way that we do so that they don’t lose sight of the fact that these people, these places, these employees need our support more than ever, too.”

Among the stories Condé Nast Traveler has run during the pandemic are a dispatch from a Tanzania safari guide explaining how the lockdown is affecting poaching, an article from a Beijing hotel manager working to keep employees and guests safe, and a cruise ship entertainer’s perspective from quarantine on the uncertain future of her career.

What began as a brainstorm for relevant content quickly became something much more: it became a means of connecting the community Condé Nast Traveler has cultivated with its readers. Quinn and her team redefined once again what it means to be a traveler in a time when travel is not possible. And in the midst of a global call for racial equity and inclusive representation in the media, they have recommitted to stories told by writers of color about their communities across the world.  

Travel magazines look different right now, much as even the most mundane daily tasks looks different. But when everything else is stripped away, the stories are still there. They might even be more needed now than ever before. 

Jessica Gable

LinkedIn