'Have glossy magazine. Will travel'

With the affluent taking four holidays a year, publishers are exploiting what they think is a new market in travel magazines. By Mike Gerrard
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Indy Lifestyle Online
You will have heard of Conde Nast Traveller (CNT), of course. If you haven't, then someone is wasting pounds 750,000. That's the promotion budget for the British version of the glossy American travel magazine (circulation 850,000), and it's being launched on Thursday.

Conde Nast has gone to the lengths of recruiting experienced staff such as editor Sarah Miller, from the Telegraph Magazine, and news editor Rob Ryan, from the Sunday Times. But the appointment last week of Paula Reed, formerly at Harpers &Queen, as style director of CNT suggests that glamour and exotic images rather than travel journalism will be at the heart of the project.

Style aside though, CNT are not the only people trying to tap into demand for travel magazines at the moment. Magazine publisher IPC is known to be working on plans for one, Harpers & Queen is testing the water gently with its bi-annual travel supplement, Harpers Abroad, and in July Travel Africa was launched. But all this comes despite the fact that Britain's main travel title, BBC Holidays, folded last year due to falling sales. So who is going to buy a travel magazine?

CNT's publishing director, Deborah Gresty, told me that they were aiming for a settle-down circulation of about 80,000. "Travel is at the forefront of people's minds at the moment," she says. "More money is being spent on it than ever before, and the biggest growth is at the top end of the market. The travel market has grown by 164 per cent in the past four years. There are 600,000 people in the AB bracket taking four or more holidays per year."

Six hundred thousand people waiting to buy it? "It's obviously a risk," says Miranda Haines, editor of the quarterly Traveller, "if you think of what happened to the BBC magazine. But I'm sure that, being Conde Nast, they'll have done their homework and will get it right."

Getting it wrong, seemingly, is IPC. It rushed in with plans to launch a travel title simultaneously with CNT, but nothing is ready. Rumours have it that they can't make up their minds whether to go for a National Geographic-style production or a proper travel magazine with consumer articles.

Watching the battle with interest is Lyn Hughes, editor and founder of the bi-monthly travel magazine, Wanderlust, which celebrates its fourth birthday next issue. Lyn and her partner, Paul Morrison, started the magazine without the benefit of extensive market research or a pounds 750,000 promotion budget.

"Wanderlust was totally self- financed," Hughes says. "Paul and I were marketing consultants in our thirties, but there wasn't a travel magazine then which appealed to us. We felt there must be other people like us who would buy a magazine like Wanderlust."

But while Deborah Gresty is looking for sales of CNT to settle down to its 80,000 copies, Lyn Hughes can only dream of that number. "The print- run for our next issue is 36,000," she says. "I'm very proud of that as our first print run was only 5,000 and sales have increased with every single issue."

Miranda Haines of Traveller magazine also claims an upward trend for sales. Hughes and Haines both welcome the launch of CNT. "I don't see them as rivals," says Hughes. "We'll be aiming for different markets, with maybe a tiny overlap. The arrival of the new magazine will raise the profile of travel magazines generally. Being the only one around is not necessarily advantageous. At present, people don't go into newsagents and look for travel magazines because there isn't a section on the shelves. After Conde Nast arrives, there probably will be. I do think that in five to 10 years we'll have several well-established travel magazines."

Meanwhile, Lyn Hughes has no plans to appoint a style director.

FACT FILE

Conde Nast Traveller is launched on 18 September, price pounds 2.70.

The next issue of Wanderlust is out on 26 September, price pounds 2.80.

Travel Africa is available by subscription only, pounds 18 per annum;

tel: 01491 836106.

Traveller magazine is available only to subscribers of the WEXAS travel club, pounds 39.58 p/a; tel: 0171-589-0500.

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