MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; TRAVEL MAGAZINES: Is there a big enough market in the UK for two travel titles?

How will Conde Nast and NatMags fare in this new sector?

How will Conde Nast and NatMags fare in this new sector?

Travel journalism does not exactly have a distinguished history. The

only established travel magazine of merit is National Geographic - and

that is arguably a science and discovery title in any case. Your average

newspaper or consumer magazine coverage is usually a PR puff piece. And

the absolute nadir of the art form is to be found in the dreaded

inflight magazine. Doesn’t Michael Aspel ever get tired of going to the

Hong Kong waterfront and eating prawns?

Conde Nast and the National Magazine Company believe it’s time to change

all that - Conde Nast claims that it has already begun to revolutionise

the US market. It now intends to launch a UK version of its American

Traveler magazine in September 1997. NatMags doesn’t have a US travel

title, but it will beat its rival to market by launching a Harpers and

Queen travel spin-off - entitled Harpers Abroad - next spring (Campaign,

last week).

Can these two titles really work? Or are they destined to be inflight

titles for readers who’ve not yet decided which flight to catch? Not at

all, says Jamie Bill, the publisher of Harpers and Queen. He is

confident that there will be a real appetite for quality.

‘We will launch a magazine with quality writing and quality photography.

In the past, some magazines have run good-quality visuals with second-

rate copy. On the other hand, review sections of newspapers, for

instance, might have been running quality writing which is let down by

the quality of the photography. Good travel writing exists. The great

growth in the popularity of travel books in recent years not only shows

that it can be done, but that there is a great appetite for it,’ he

says. He also points to the number and variety of travel programmes on

television - and he’s thinking more in terms of Michael Palin than

Judith Chalmers. If Harpers Abroad is successful, NatMags will seek to

extend the brand on to TV.

Conde Nast, unsurprisingly, will go down the same glossy route. Nicholas

Coleridge, Conde Nast’s managing director, says that the timing couldn’t

be better. ‘The number of independent travellers has really shot up in

recent years. People are seeking out more exotic destinations and making

their own arrangements about how they get there. They don’t want to be

herded around on package tours any more,’ he points out. ‘Also, the

number of business travellers keeps increasing. There isn’t enough

independent analysis and coverage of the options and issues. That’s what

we will provide.’

It follows, of course, that those at the upmarket end of the travel

market are those with impressive levels of disposable income, so both of

the new titles will have a heavy ‘lifestyle’ slant, giving the sales

teams every chance to pitch for everything from suntan products through

fashion and luxury goods to cars - as well as its core target of airline

and independent travel operator advertising. Conde Nast’s US Traveler

title sold 1,200 pages of display advertising last year. Will the UK

market go for it in such a big way?

Andrew Sherman, a group media director at M&C Saatchi, handles media

planning on the BA account. He’s enthusiastic about the planned

magazines. ‘They are a brilliant idea,’ he says. ‘I really like Conde

Nast’s US title and would certainly welcome the same here. Both

publishers can deliver the quality titles that will fit into this sector

and Conde Nast never launches magazines on a whim - it will have done

its homework.

‘In the past, where its product-support advertising is concerned, BA’s

focus has been on products aimed at businessmen, so we’ve used the

business press. But if you look at all the forecasts, it’s the leisure

sector that has been growing rapidly. These magazines will hopefully

reflect that trend.’

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