National newspapers have been major beneficiaries of the British
holiday boom. As the number of trips taken has expanded in volume and
range, travel sections in the broadsheets and mid-market papers have
doubled in size.
The market leader by ad volume is the Saturday edition of The Daily
Telegraph which, in mid-April, was running a 24-page standalone travel
Its nearest rival, The Sunday Times, ran 18 pages in the same week. The
mid-market is equally buoyant. Saturday’s Daily Mail carries 20 pages of
travel coverage in a fixed 96-page issue. Its sister title, The Mail on
Sunday, runs 23 pages.
There is no doubt the nationals are a potent medium for tour operators,
national tourist boards, car rental companies and the like. For a start,
they offer advertisers unparalleled flexibility. From a two-line ad for
a cottage in Devon to a full-page colour ad, clients can choose the
price band that suits them.
This flexibility has grown in importance as the holiday market has
According to Mintel, out of 28 million holidays taken in 1997, 13
million were organised independently.
This preference for tailor-made tours has led to a growth in business
from small to medium-sized specialist operators which do not have a
high-street retail presence and are disinclined to use TV as their
The Guardian and Observer commercial director, Carolyn McCall, claims
that these companies have made the quality press their high street. City
breaks, long-haul, safaris and cruises are just some of the fast-growing
sectors that use the nationals heavily.
The press has also benefited from the increasing number of people who
want to arrange their holidays directly, rather than through a travel
agent, says The Daily Telegraph classified sales manager, Stephen Dunk.
According to Dunk, the number of holidays booked through travel agents
has dropped by 1 per cent in the last five years while those booked
direct has gone up by 32 per cent. As a result, lots of companies are
looking to go direct by placing ads in the press and having their own
call centres as support.
With so much travel-based business at stake, competition between titles
is intense. But there is little to distinguish Saturday and Sunday in
terms of appeal to advertisers. It is no surprise that the largest
titles (The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday)
secure the most business.
With limited duplication of readers between titles like Saturday’s Daily
Telegraph and The Sunday Times, it is possible to build near-national
coverage quickly with a handful of papers on the schedule. However, the
papers have also made efforts to distinguish the editorial positioning
of their travel coverage.
Only The Guardian, for example, would kick off its travel section with a
feature entitled, ’Out and About with the Pink Pound’ (17 April). By
contrast, The Mail on Sunday and Sunday Times in the same week both led
with pastoral features on France - the UK’s number one overseas
destination for independent tourists.
The Independent seeks to distinguish itself with the strapline:
’Independent advice for the independent traveller. From the only
national newspaper travel section that refuses free trips.’ Features on
outback Australia and African safaris underline the holiday preferences
for affluent young Brits.
McCall says: ’We have changed our travel coverage considerably in the
last two years to reflect the interests of our readers. There is no
doubt readership profile is a key factor in the client’s decision about
whether to book into your marketplace.’
In recent times, there has been a tendency to put travel coverage in a
standalone section. Although there is no sectional readership data to
show the impact of this move, it does provide a more flexible
proposition for advertisers.
McCall says The Guardian’s travel advertising has risen 42 per cent year
on year - coinciding with its shift to a standalone travel section.
The Observer’s travel advertising has grown 15 per cent since the
introduction of Escape in January.
The only danger, Dunk says, is that readers may choose to throw the
section straight in the bin. ’We were very careful to make sure our
travel section had developed into a mature business before we broke it
out of the main paper in January 1998.’
The major threat to the national press is the growth of rival travel
media. Teletext, for example, has captured 10 per cent of the holiday
market and expects digital TV to boost its fortunes still further. The
nationals claim, however, that Teletext’s business tends to be more
downmarket and lower value per holiday than that of the qualities and
Teletext’s emphasis is also on last-minute deals, says Daily Mail ad
executive, Richard Donegan, whereas ’people tend to turn to their
newspapers when they are planning their holiday’.
Online and digital services are also a potential source of competition
because of their ability to provide up-to-the-minute data. But so far,
there is no evidence to suggest that nationals are losing out on
late-availability business to online.
Donegan says that clients like Thomson and Unijet are using the press to
shift this summer’s unbooked holidays. McCall says that travel ads can
be changed quickly and cheaply in the national press.
This robust performance is partly a reflection of the immense
penetration of the press in the UK compared to online. But the press
expects to co-opt the net revolution rather than capitulate its
The Daily Telegraph, for example, has a website which Dunk claims can
hotlink to travel sales agents.
McCall sees the internet as complementary to the press. ’Papers prompt
you to look at new ideas while the net helps you go looking for
something in particular,’ she says. ’The opportunity for us is that we
have quality content. We need to work with a partner which can add a
transactional element to whatever we attempt to do online.’
Also to contend with is the growth of travel glossies. In addition to
the long-standing player, Traveller, published by Wexas, the UK market
now has Conde Nast Traveller and CNN Traveller. In reality, however,
limited print runs and less frequent issues mean these titles are
looking to capture the luxury end of the advertising market.
As for general market conditions, there is little sign that the UK’s
’near-recession’ has adversely affected the travel business. If
anything, the collapse of currencies in South-east Asia has made
long-haul even more attractive to Brits.