MEDIA: Fantastic journeys - UK travellers are more independent and enjoying exotic trips in greater numbers. Andy Fry looks at how travel media is adapting

The washed-out summer of 1998 goes a long way toward explaining why the British holiday business is in such rude health.

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

competitive market.

Press ahead

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,’

says Dunk.

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.’

Accurate information

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

faster service.

Audience building

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.

Upmarket magazines

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

individual customer.’

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


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