YouTube Launches Branded Travel Channel

YouTube (s GOOG) has launched a new travel channel in conjunction with Norwegian Cruise Line for videos highlighting travel ideas and advice. The new YouTube Vacationer travel channel includes videos from experts at Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Travel Channel and Howcast, among others.

In addition to watching video clips showcasing vacation tips for U.S. and Canada, Caribbean, European and “exotic” locations, the channel allows users to create their own vacation videos with the interactive “Vacation You” feature. The interactive feature enables users to create videos from more than two million combinations of video content and is one example of how YouTube seeks to create a more engaging experience for visitors to the site.

With the “Vacation You” feature, users select from a series of video clips to produce a customized 60-90 second video montage of their perfect vacation. They can then share the interactive video through email, Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. (s NWS) The social aspect is an interesting way to tie in new viewers to the channel and also to promote the Norwegian Cruise Line brand.

This is one of YouTube’s first efforts in building a branded channel, and one more way that it can monetize existing video assets on the site. YouTube is already serving some 2 billion ads per week against its videos, which is up from 1 billion video ads per week last October. Despite only monetizing about 14 percent of the videos that are available, the Google-owned site could reach profitability this year, on nearly $1 billion in revenues, according to some financial analysts.

But while much of YouTube’s existing monetization plans have come from display ads, homepage takeovers and some video overlays, branded channels could provide a new outlet for the site to cater to advertisers and marketers looking to reach its vast audience.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: A Guide To Online Video Monetization Options (subscription required)