Do you fancy a fortnight in a ’luxury air-conditioned waterfront
home in the sub-tropical paradise of Florida’?
Or a well-earned spell in a ’Provencal villa with stunning views of the
Med’? Maybe white-water rafting is more your bag, or surfing in
I’ve got you going, I’m sure. You can almost smell that sea breeze and
feel the sand trickling between your bronzed toes at these choice quotes
from a few small ads in the latest travel section of the Sunday
The promise of stepping off the treadmill into a far-flung world of
exotic temperatures, fancy foods and shapely locals is what keeps most
of us sane for most of our working lives, and it seems that we are doing
it more now than we have for several years.
A combination of the Gulf War, bad judgment by tour operators and a weak
home economy led the holiday market into the doldrums, culminating in
the decidedly bleak summer of 1995. Since then, however, it has been
recovering steadily, as has the business travel sector, on the back of
the strengthening pound and the return of consumer confidence. The
result is that travel companies - embracing the four core areas of tour
operators, travel agents, airlines and tourist boards - are busily
spending money advertising their wares.
Official adspend figures show that the UK travel market is in truly
robust form. According to the latest MMS data, the sector spent pounds
267 million on advertising in the year ending February 1997, compared
with pounds 232 million for the previous 12 months. BA, the UK’s biggest
travel advertiser, also hiked its spend by 57 per cent last year to a
hefty pounds 18.91 million, according to Campaign’s Top UK Brands report
published in April.
There is a whole host of media for the travel-related advertiser to
choose between, from TV travel programmes, airport magazines and
hoardings and special sections of national newspapers, to inflight
media, home shopping Internet sites and even a cable TV channel. Every
leg of the journey, from the ride to the airport, the check-in area, the
departure lounge, the duty-free zone, the flight itself and the arrivals
area at the other end, is covered by some medium or other.
The market is dominated by the press, however, with about 58 per cent of
the total travel adspend to February 1997 falling in newspapers and
magazines, according to MMS. Just over 30 per cent went on TV over the
same period, with 6 per cent on radio, 4 per cent on cinema and 1 per
cent on outdoor.
Media owners tend to focus either on targeting the holidaymaker or the
ABC1 business traveller. The business travel sector is the prime
money-spinning arm of the industry, demonstrated by the fact that the 15
per cent of BA passengers who travel on business account for more than
one-third of the airline’s total revenue.
Executive travellers are catered for largely by a series of publications
distributed around airports, such as London 2000 and Business
Alan Kingston, the managing director of London 2000, comments: ’The
business traveller is a highly attractive target because they are
wealthy, they have disposable income, and they have lots of time on
their hands as they wait for their flights or their baggage. Heathrow is
especially attractive because it is a business airport - not for the
bucket-and-spade brigade going to Benidorm.’
London 2000 is a bi-monthly controlled circulation title which focuses
on the international business traveller and can be found in select
business-class lounges at Heathrow.
The title is funded entirely by advertising, and its clients include an
enviable array of blue-chip names and quality branded products, from
Gucci and Marco Polo Hotels to Elizabeth Arden.
Business Traveller, a rival publication, is a more established title,
having launched in 1976 when only one airline had a business class. Its
readership embraces frequent travellers and frequent hotel users.
Advertisers, which provide 70 per cent of the magazine’s revenue,
include big international airlines and the major hotel chains rather
than lifestyle products, but there is also a sizeable chunk of ads from
Asian companies eager to reach UK business travellers when they fly
Nick Perry, the title’s managing director, says: ’The UK business travel
market is buoyant. New products are constantly being developed for
business travellers; they have to promote those.’
So far there have been no TV programmes aimed specifically at business
travellers. Television does not really cover the market, while magazines
and national newspapers only sometimes carry business travel
Weekly pan-European titles, such as Time, Newsweek and the European,
also cater for the international executive, but they tend not to be
focused enough for some travel advertisers.
Other media owners targeting the business traveller include Sky Sites,
the official airport advertising body which owns the poster contract at
the seven major BAA airports in the UK, including Heathrow, Gatwick and
Stansted, as well as the Eurostar train terminals at Waterloo and
Ashford in Kent.
Guy Cheston, the managing director of Sky Sites, comments: ’The poster
medium is a very powerful way for advertisers to reach the international
business traveller. There is a major challenge to reach the AB travel
market through traditional media, such as TV, at the moment, because of
huge media fragmentation which is diluting the opportunity to reach this
Cheston cites the pan-European press as his main competitor for business
but, he claims, his medium is gaining business that is complementary to
and additional to traditional press advertising. This includes the
duty-free sector, as well as numerous advertisers from overseas who make
up half of Sky Sites’ revenue.
Initiatives to slash contracts from the traditional 12 months to shorter
time-spans has also attracted advertisers that would normally favour
’Over the past 18 months we’ve introduced short-term opportunities to
give advertisers the chance to use the medium tactically. This has
brought growth from UK budgets,’ Cheston says.
Sky Sites also encourages schemes that involve linking up with media
covering other parts of the business traveller’s journey. Its sister
company in France, for example, is negotiating joint packages with other
’At the moment, we cover airports and, once on the plane, it is over to
other companies, but we believe airport advertising is about frequency -
if you can get the same ad in front of an audience before departure in
an inflight magazine, and once again on arrival, the impact, awareness
level and visibility is going to be so much greater,’ he says.
Despite the attraction of reaching the high-earning business travel
market, there are also numerous media that focus on the similarly
attractive ABC1 leisure sector, which is enjoying a boom.
Jeremy Skidmore, the deputy editor of Reed Business Information’s trade
title, Travel Weekly, comments: ’The holiday market is flourishing. Two
years ago there was massive over-capacity and tour operators had to give
huge discounts, but now they have kept capacity tight, so demand is far
more in line with supply.’
Demand is rising steeply this season. Skidmore estimates it is 15 per
cent up on the same period last year, and predicts that tour operators
are likely to run out of holidays for the peak period.
Sections in national newspapers and glossy coffee-table titles provide
the bulk of opportunities for reaching the UK holidaymaker. The Sunday
Times and the Mail on Sunday carry huge banks of classified ads for
holidays at the weekend, while the business community is targeted by
run-of-paper ads for airlines, hotels and car rental.
To date, no consumer travel magazine has survived: BBC Magazines had
Holiday, which folded after three years in 1995 because sales failed to
rise above 50,000, but Harpers and Queen has launched a travel spin-off,
Harpers Abroad, and Conde Nast is launching the Conde Nast Traveller,
aimed at the upmarket holiday traveller, in September. Both titles
should prove an interesting test of the travel ads market where glossies
and broadsheets have traditionally made the running.
The arrival of the Travel Channel, a dedicated cable TV station which
launched in February 1994, has opened up TV opportunities to a broader
catch of advertisers that have traditionally spent only on press.
Steve Ruda, the channel’s head of advertising sales, comments: ’We are
providing an opportunity for the travel advertiser to target a captive
audience that is planning a holiday or dreaming about the next one, but
we are focusing on press because that’s where most clients spend. We try
to get the message across that we are affordable and that the size and
delivery of our audience is similar to that of a national
The channel is hooking advertisers from the four main travel-related
areas as well as independents, such as coach companies and flight-only
operators, and other related advertisers from finance, motoring, fmcg,
confectionery and insurance: ’Everything from Amex to Kellogg’s and
Pedigree Chum,’ Ruda says. He adds that the station is also persuading
advertisers to book throughout the year, avoiding the seasonal focus
that the market has experienced to date.
Inflight media are also a burgeoning area of interest for advertisers
targeting both the business and leisure markets. The prospect of a
one-to-one dialogue with someone who is voluntarily strapped into an
armchair for several hours, fed and watered and kept comfortable, is
proving to be a winner.
According to IMB data, around dollars 350 million was spent globally on
inflight media in 1996, compared with dollars 270 million the year
Charles Vine, the account director at Spafax Inflight Media, the
12-year-old inflight entertainment and media company which works with 40
of the world’s airlines, says: ’Everyone wants the business traveller
who is an ABC1 decision-maker, a light TV viewer, and is thus elusive to
reach on the ground. But we don’t just target them as business people,
because they go on holiday too. The demographics in the back of the
plane are also very good.’
There are more than 300,000 people flying around the world at any time
and, whether they are there for work or play, they are a key market for
Inflight interactive services provide enviable niche targeting to the
couch-potato audience, identifying them precisely by route structure,
class and even journey purpose. The services can be devised for a
business audience, or can work across the plane from executive class
back to economy, offering travel-related advertisers the chance to book
into movies, video games, shopping, gambling, destination information
programming and services such as car hire.
Inflight magazines, such as BA’s High Life and Virgin’s Hot Air, are
gaining greater credibility almost as mainstream lifestyle titles with a
broad range of advertisers, and recognition alongside newsstand
publications in terms of editorial quality and production values.
Ambient media are also developing for the travel sector, with
advertisers booking anything from welcome mats in the business
traveller’s limo to commercial messages on tickets and ticket wallets
and boarding card promotions.
’With the right co-operation and involvement from airlines’ other
departments, such as catering and duty free, we can knit all sorts of
things together. So long as it is entertaining and valuable to the
passenger, you can catch them at any point along their journey,’ Vine
The travel boom seems to have sparked a near-frenzy of activity from
both advertisers and media owners striving to open up new opportunities
for those advertisers. From limo to touchdown, from train station to
Torremolinos, you can bet you will be hit by an endless string of
commercial messages if you belong to the elusive, highly desirable
brigade of British travellers.
Such activity should be circumscribed, however, according to Bridget
McCarney, the sales director at Katz International, which sells all BA’s
media space. She says: ’There’s a fine line between bombarding a
passenger with endless ads and getting the balance right. We are very
conscious not to make it a media circus.’ Wise words indeed.