Exploring Offbeat Travel Experiences, with Ariel Azoff

Episode 349

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Ariel Azoff is the Executive Director of Tourism and Brand Partnerships at Atlas Obscura, a media and experiences company dedicated to sharing the world’s hidden wonders. Ariel’s work has spanned media, tourism, social enterprise, sustainable fashion, government, and international development. She joined Atlas Obscura in 2017 to head up the company’s DMO campaigns, bringing her professional media experience and personal passion for travel and sustainability to the role. An assimilated Brooklynite, Ariel is also a certified NYC Sightseeing Guide and, in her spare time, designs and leads women’s history tours of the city.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Ariel Azoff about how off-the-beaten-track destinations have fueled the growth of Atlas Obscura into a global digital media company. We talk about identifying destinations that spark curiosity and wonder, and Ariel shares more about some of the out-of-the-ordinary collaborations with destinations they are enjoying right now.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Ariel’s diverse background in media, tourism, and sustainable fashion influenced her work at Atlas Obscura
  • Why people are seeking out unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences right now and how COVID-19 has impacted this trend
  • The collaboration between Atlas Obscura and Brand USA for the TV show “Small Town Big Story”
  • How Atlas Obscura works with DMOs to create engaging and informative content about destinations
  • How Atlas Obscura has evolved from a blog to a global digital media company providing not only experiences but online courses and print projects

Creative Partnerships

One example of Atlas Obscura’s creative and collaborative partnerships is their collaboration with Missouri Tourism to write a feature article about the haunted Missouri State Penitentiary. This partnership perfectly shows off the adventurous spirit and unique storytelling approach of Atlas Obscura. By working closely with Missouri Tourism, Atlas Obscura was able to tap into the local expertise and deep knowledge of the destination, ensuring an authentic and compelling narrative.

Together, they crafted an article that delves into the chilling history and paranormal legends surrounding the destination, providing readers with a glimpse into the eerie and mysterious side of the state. This collaboration not only highlights the significance of Atlas Obscura’s dedication to showcasing offbeat destinations but also emphasizes their commitment to working hand-in-hand with destination experts to bring these hidden gems to light. By merging their expertise and resources, Atlas Obscura and Missouri Tourism were able to create a compelling feature that entices travelers to explore the haunted corridors of this historic penitentiary and experience the spine-tingling allure of Missouri’s darker side.

Evolving and Expanding the Offering

Ariel shares how as Atlas Obscura’s popularity grew, so did their ambition to expand their offerings. They recognized the need to provide more immersive and interactive experiences for their community of curious travelers and explorers. This led to the creation of unique experiences, such as visiting the iconic Times Square ball or having a firsthand encounter with wolves at a bar. These experiences allowed travelers to engage with their surroundings in unexpected and memorable ways, further capturing the spirit of discovery that Atlas Obscura is known for.


Integrating destination marketing into mainstream entertainment has numerous benefits for both destinations and the entertainment industry. By weaving travel experiences and unique destinations into television shows, movies, podcasts, or even fictional narratives, audiences are transported to these unusual locations and it not only sparks curiosity in viewers, but also offers destinations the opportunity to showcase their hidden gems to a wider audience. In turn, the entertainment industry gains access to a fresh and unique angle for their content.


I am so excited to announce that my first book, Stronger Together: Building World-Changing Collaborations that Succeed, has been released! Help me celebrate this milestone and expand your knowledge about collaboration. Find out more information here: nicolemahoney.com

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