TRAVEL MEDIA: SUN, SEA, SEX, SAND AND MEDIA - Travel is enjoying a boom - and companies want to sell themselves to both the business and leisure sectors, Belinda Archer explains

Do you fancy a fortnight in a ’luxury air-conditioned waterfront home in the sub-tropical paradise of Florida’?

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.