The washed-out summer of 1998 goes a long way toward explaining why
the British holiday business is in such rude health.
According to market analyst Mintel, the UK spent more than pounds 12bn
on travel last year representing 29 million holidays.
Not only is the number of holidays on the up, but consumers are showing
greater independence in their choice of trip. More people are planning
their own holidays rather than relying on packages from tour operators,
and the amount spent on exotic long-haul destinations is growing
Not surprisingly, this growth in the volume and range of holidays has
been matched by a burgeoning travel media. Television, national press,
radio, outdoor, magazines, text and online services all contribute to a
Although TV accounts for a large chunk of ad spend, the national press
is the largest medium. The likes of The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday
Times, The Guardian and The Observer all carry stand-alone travel
sections. Even those which don’t, such as the Daily Mail, carry upward
of ten pages of travel editorial and ads on Saturdays. The Mail on
Sunday carries nearer 20 pages while the Weekend FT sets aside five
Stephen Dunk, the Daily Telegraph’s travel sales manager, which claims
to be the market leader among the qualities by ad volume, says:
’Everyone has latched onto travel in the past couple of years because
there is a considerable amount of money to be made in advertising.’
Typically, says Dunk, Daily Telegraph Travel, a 20-page plus supplement
published on Saturday, will cater for ’the aspirational armchair
traveller and the person who is looking for reliable data before booking
a particular holiday.
The client-base varies ’from someone placing a two-line ad renting their
cottage in Devon to national tourist boards, airlines and tour operators
such as Club Med, Page & Moy, Kuoni, Swann Hellenic and P&O Cruises,’
A number of factors make the national press a key media choice, he
First, newspapers are flexible enough to run late holiday deals and
responsive enough to accommodate brochure hotlines.
Second, the press is a crucial alternative to the vertically-integrated
tour-operator/ travel agent combines on the high street. ’A lot of
small-medium or independent operators find it difficult to get rack
space in the big travel agents,’ says Dunk.
’Our 1.2 million circulation offers a cost-effective way of reaching a
big up-market audience.’
The message is similar from the Daily Mail. Display ad executive Richard
Donegan says: ’The Mail reaches ABC1 readers who go on long-haul
holidays, three-star plus package holidays and cruises. We don’t do much
in the domestic holiday camp market which tends to be aimed at the
readership of the popular tabloids.’
Donegan confirms that ’travel display advertising is very big business
for papers like the Mail. We have clients such as Thomas Cook, Thomson,
Kuoni, P&O, Carnival and Royal Caribbean.’
The travel sector also lends itself to big-ticket competitions.
Currently, the Mail is running a token-collecting promotion for the RAC
which offers 25 US fly-drive holidays with Virgin Holidays.
While the newspaper sector remains strong, the advent of new-media
options is redefining the buying and selling of holidays. The pioneer in
the field is ITV’s text service, Teletext, which has emerged as a major
travel advertising vehicle.
Lawrence Lawson, Teletext’s commercial manager, reckons that around 10%
of all holidays are bought via Teletext ads. He estimates that around
half of all UK holiday business done by phone emanates from
’We carry about 300 holiday advertisers,’ says Lawson. ’Our peak season
is summer when around six million people a week view 1500 pages of
advertising. We offer a complete range of products and provide back up
information on foreign exchange rates and the weather.’
Lawson cites four factors in Teletext’s growth. A wide choice of
products and retailers, competitive pricing, the convenience of buying
from home, and consumer confidence in the information. ’We do spot
checks on the accuracy of prices and availability to ensure that as far
as possible what you see is what you get. The ITC is also a stringent
regulator in this field.’
Compared with the press, Teletext’s main advantage is its ability to
track up-to-the-minute availability of deals. ’Seventy of our
advertisers provide data to Teletext straight from their offices which
means we can change information rapidly.’
The success of Teletext’s travel pages was not lost on Channel 5, which
launched a rival operation called 5Text a year ago. The service, which
is a joint-venture with Sky, has travel as its core proposition.
5Text runs up to 400 pages of travel on behalf of 50-150 advertisers
depending on the season. Its point of difference is more travel
editorial, says Verity Jowett, marketing manager.
’The text market wasn’t meeting the needs of the public. So we made sure
there were features about destinations and travel advice as well as late
availability ads.’ She also says that fewer pages and more links make a
Jowett claims that 5Text has been welcomed by the travel industry which
is ’glad to see an alternative distribution mechanism’. Currently, 5Text
reaches 3.17 million viewers a week. ’That’s an increase of 38% in six
months,’ says Jowett. ’But we are dependent to a large extent on the
success of C5 in building our audience.’
Not surprisingly, the Telegraph’s Dunk is unimpressed by the claims of
text. He says the value of Teletext-triggered transactions tends to be
lower than the upmarket press which ’wins hands down because of the
quality of its editorial environment’.
He also believes that the text-based services will struggle as online
travel transactions grow. ’We are preparing for the future with a site
on the Electronic Telegraph called The Planet,’ says Dunk. ’Online is a
quick, easy and efficient way to book last-minute holidays - and it will
make things harder for Teletext.’
The online market is hotting up. In the past month, two major US
players, Microsoft’s Expedia and Travelocity, have launched online
booking services in the UK. As a sign of things to come in Europe,
market analyst Jupiter Communications reckons that within three years US
consumers will spend dollars 30bn a year online.
In the case of Expedia, the service allows internet users to plan and
book their own travel by selecting up-to-the minute deals on air
tickets, cars, hotels and late availability holiday packages. According
to Microsoft, 75,000 holiday bargains will be available and updated
every 30 minutes.
It is also planning in-depth destination content, maps, travel news,
currency conversion and links to other travel sites.
Alongside online has come the emergence of TV Travelshop, an analogue
and digital satellite television service launched in partnership with
Flextech. The 24-hour schedule is a compilation of 20-30 minute films
which review a range of resorts at key holiday locations. The cost of
programme production is borne by TV Travelshop which also sells holidays
over the phone based on its on-screen promotions.
Harry Goodman, joint managing director of TV Travelshop, says: ’We
present the best value deals from a range of suppliers which includes
Crystal, Nielsen, Airtours, Virgin, Sunworld, First Choice, Kuoni, P&O
Cruising, Royal Caribbean and BA Holidays. We don’t ask for ad revenue
from operators. Instead we get a higher than usual percentage for
selling the holiday.’
According to Goodman, the service reaches a potential audience of six
million. The 250-strong call centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a
week so that people can book whenever they want. There is also a text
To date, TV Travelshop has shot 53 location films on destinations such
as Mallorca, the Caribbean, Florida and the Maldives. It will keep
making new films as well as re-editing old ones. Goodman is confident
that as the service develops it can win 5%-8% of the total holiday
purchase market in the UK. He also expects sponsorship as tourist
boards, luggage manufacturers and theme parks come on board.
Although such services are sure to become significant players,
Teletext’s Lawson rejects the suggestion that they spell the end of text
for two reasons.
The first is branding. ’It has taken us ten years to get where we are in
terms of consumers trusting our brand,’ he says. ’Telephone selling is
strong now and it will take some time for consumer behaviour to change
again. In the meantime, we will launch an enhanced Teletext service on
digital and online and build up a transactional capability.’
The second is the vested interest of high-street travel agents. ’Tour
operators are always looking to sell customers ancillary products and
encourage long-term loyalty. It won’t be in their interest to go online
and cut out middle men.’
TV Travelshop’s Goodman agrees with Lawson that branding is key.
’Everyone is seduced by digital but the fact is that if you haven’t got
analogue distribution you’ve missed the boat. We have at least a
three-year start on digital players. By then we will have established
the brand and moved onto ten digital channels.’
Interest in new media has not put a stop to developments in the
publishing world. Upmarket glossy Conde Nast Traveller launched in
September 1997 and now has a circulation of 60,000. Publisher Deborah
Gresty believes it is catering for what had been an unserved market of
’30-plus professionals with high disposable income who are passionate
about travel. It was very much a response to the growth in independent
travel among sophisticated readers who were looking at new
Traveller’s journalism is a combination of authoritative and unbiased
information on ’hot villas, weekend breaks and exotic destinations’
backed by ’intelligent travel writing’, says Gresty.
Colin Thubron and Anthony Mingella are recent contributors. The typical
Conde Nast household spends pounds 5000 a year on travel, but the
magazine is ’not intended to exclude the aspirational readers’.
Gresty believes the magazine offers advertisers an upmarket audience
without wastage. Its client list includes Elegant Resorts, Abercrombie,
Mauritius Tourism, Abu Dhabi Airport and a host of luxury hotels such as
the Marriot, Sheraton and Four Seasons chains. However, the glossy
environment also appeals to Mercedes, De Beers, Gucci, Renault and
The title’s long-term prospects are hard to judge. The US version of
Traveller has a strong circulation base - but doesn’t compete with the
sort of overcrowded newspaper market seen in the UK.
The potential of travel revenue has not gone unnoticed by leading
in-flight titles such as British Airways’ High Life - which is published
by Premier Magazines.
Editor Mark Jones says recent articles by Mark Tully on Bangladesh,
Nigel Williams on Spain and Arthur Smith on New York show that ’the
environment is right. People have time to read when they are travelling
and suspend their usual prejudices. They are open to new experiences
whether that be food, drink or hotels.’
Craig Waller, Premier managing director, agrees but admits there are
barriers. ’Our rates are around pounds 10,000 a page which excludes a
lot of travel advertisers from the Sunday supplement,’ he says. ’We tend
to appeal to frequent travellers seeking hotels and car hire rather than
someone who goes to Lanzarote once a year.’
There is also the fact that most people have made their holiday
decisions by the time they take-off. ’High Life needs to look at what it
can do online or via the news stand to develop the business in that
way,’ says Waller. In a separate project, however, Premier has created
an inflight listings magazine for BA’s cut-price airline, Go, which he
claims is a roaring success.
Clients’ assessments of these media options are coloured by their
individual needs. However, branding is clearly key in such a confused
market. First Choice marketing manager Virginia Dick says: ’The plethora
of media means there is a danger of clutter. The challenge for us is to
try to stand out.’ For First Choice, branding is achieved primarily
through a combination of TV and outdoor - though radio can contribute
through on-air promotions endorsed by DJs and celebrities.
In terms of tactical media, Teletext is key because it is ’immediate,
cheap to set up, has high household penetration and is liked by
consumers,’ says Dick.
Newspaper supplements are also used for tactical promotions but are not
as effective for First Choice. ’Teletext is cheaper and I get more
response than from quality nationals,’ says Dick. ’But that might be
different if I were an operator like Royal Caribbean.’ Regional press is
used to support activity around local airports.
Dick expects the internet to become a significant force in travel
marketing but not yet. Currently it is used by First Choice to drive
business back in the direction of high street travel agents.
The emphasis on branding is similar at travel agent Going Places -
though the marketing balance is different. ’We get great awareness
through our 700 high street outlets,’ says marketing and business
development director Francesca Ecsery-Merrens, ’but we also look to
build awareness through creative means such as our sponsorship of Blind
Teletext and newspaper supplements generate phone calls and sell
holidays for Going Places but it is ’less clear what impact they have on
getting people to come into our shops,’ says Ecsery-Merrens.
Despite the growing impact of self-selected holidays on the internet,
Going Places is working hard to encourage purchase in its shops through
a system called Holiday Matchmakers. ’All of the financial and family
pressures on making the right holiday purchase mean people still want
the reassurance of a travel agent. Our Matchmakers system drills down
through our database of information to get the right holiday for an
This is being supported by Going Places’ efforts to market direct to
potential customers, says Ecsrey-Merrens. ’We are looking at simple,
relevant messages that will prompt people to go into our shops. The
expertise available there is simply not on the internet at present.’
Leading tour operator advertisers in the main media,*1997
Name pounds 000 %
Thomson & Portland 13,004 21
Airtours, Aspro, Eurosites,Tradewinds 8,304 13
Page & Moy 3,447 5
Saga 2,859 5
First Choice & Eclipse & Enterprise 1,642 3
Unijet 1,409 2
Titan Travel 1,275 2
Kuoni 883 1
BA Holidays 688 1
Crystal Holidays 673 1
Others 28,640 46
Total 62,824 100
Source: AC Nielsen-MEAL/Mintel *May to September