And before most Americans pack their suitcases, they're buying armfuls of travel magazines to figure out where and what they're going to see and do.
But it's not just the upscale, luxury vacation magazines, like Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler and Travel Holiday, that are doing well this year in terms of both circulation and advertising. A new niche has emerged in the travel market, as evidenced by the success of Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, a segment that until now has been curiously overlooked.
"We feel very strongly that our niche, the budget traveler, has been untapped for too long, and frankly, we're not sure why," says Jacob Hill, publisher of Budget Travel.
"We believe that the vast majority of Americans do travel with cost in mind, and that, while waxing poetic about fantasy vacations is fine, we feel more [individuals] are served by delivering the tools and practical information for making that dream vacation really come true."
Subtitled, "Vacations for real people," the pages of Budget Travel are filled with tips such as how to see the California coast for only $20 a day, as well as how to make trips to more exotic locales -- Katmandu, Nepal, and Australia before the Olympics -- affordable as well.
"We are in an incredibly good economy. Many people have more disposable income than they've had for years, and many people feel that now is the time to travel," says Roberta Garfinkle, senior VP-director of print media, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York. "Other travel books are more aspirational, and it makes sense to have a travel magazine that appeals to another important constituency. Even people on a budget can get out and explore the world."
ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE
"What's really striking in the travel category is that travel is not viewed as a luxury anymore," agrees Ed Kelly, publisher of Travel & Leisure, published by American Express Publishing Corp. "Travel, even to unusual places, is increasingly accessible to almost anyone."
That accessibility is showing up in the numbers of advertisers outside the travel industry that now want to reach the traveling public. In the pages of Travel & Leisure, for one, ads from fashion designers such as Fendi and Ferragamo are increasingly common, while Budget Travel has ads from Pacific Trail clothing and Philip Morris' Virginia Slims fashion and accessories collections.
"Certainly, most of our advertising is travel-and-tourism-related, but our audience is such a viable audience that [non-travel related] advertising works as well," says Mr. Hill.
According to research, Mr. Hill says the readership of Budget Travel is 62% female; median age of 47, with median household income of $67,000.
"We believe our readership numbers are similar to that of other travel magazines," says Mr. Hill.
The open color page rate for Budget Travel is $16,500; through the last issue (November/December 1999), Budget Travel pulled in 303 pages in 1999. There were 142 paid ad pages in 1998, the first year of publication. Circulation, which is in the process of being audited, is 350,000, Mr. Hill says. And, the magazine increased its frequency to every-other-monthly this year as well.
In contrast, Travel & Leisure, with a paid rate base of 925,000, in 1999 posted recording breaking ad page sales for at least eight months, including the October issue, with 208.50 pages coming in as the "biggest issue" in the history of the publication, Mr. Kelly says. Through November, it has sold 1,570.62 pages, already 1.24% above the 1998 travel category's record-setting ad pages of 1,551.32.
EVER MORE SPECIALIZED
The economics of the travel industry are such that it's also a good time for publications to extend into ever more specialized travel titles, such as Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Elle Ultimate Road Trips, and two extensions from Travel & Leisure, Travel & Leisure Golf and Travel & Leisure Family.
"There really is no dilution of the editorial direction," says Richard Amann, VP-group publisher, Hachette Leisure Magazine Group. "The travel business is surging . . . and we're trying to follow the market, delivering magazines for individuals that are passionate about travel."
Mr. Amann notes that ad linage in Travel Holiday, through October 1999, is up 25%; the publications rate based will increase 8% to 650,000 from 600,000 next February. The color page rate is $38,715.
While touting the ad sales and circulation gains of their publications, travel industry magazine executives also are clearly keeping a close eye on the success of Budget Travel.
"The competitive nature of travel magazines has elevated the look of the magazines, helping raise the visibility," notes Steve Greenberger, senior VP-director of print media at Grey Advertising's MediaCom, New York. "The growing interest in travel has brought offshoots such as [Travel & Leisure's] Golf . . . because in focus groups, marketers have found that travel cuts across a broader group of consumers" than simply those interested in luxury vacations and resorts.
Mr. Hill admits Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel has probably met with its initial success due to Mr. Frommer's reputation for budget travel, beginning with his budget-minded 1950s travel guides.
"I'm not sure the concept would work if it didn't have Arthur's name on the cover," he says. "But just as the financial magazines, like Forbes, Fortune and Money, appeal to a widely different audience interested in financial matters, we believe that the same segmentation can be applied to travel. Our position is