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Traveler and Getaways are all vying for a place on well-traveled baby boomers' coffee tables. TRAVEL MAGAZINES ANYTHING BUT SMOOTH SAILING COMPETITION GROWS AS BUYERS COVET CATEGORY'S DEMOGRAPHICS

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Buffeted by new entries and long time category leader Travel & Leisure's determination to regain the ad-page crown it lost last year to Conde Nast Traveler, the travel category is no day at the beach.

"Demographically, it's a great place to be," said Steve Klein, managing partner and media director at agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, who says he counts books as diverse as Outside, Snow Country and Scuba Diver in the overall mix. "The category can only grow. As the baby boomers get older, they'll have more disposable income to spend on travel."

The September Travel Holiday unveils its first redesign since its acquisition by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines. The magazine, whose readers have been some of the oldest and least affluent in the category, now boasts an oversize look as it pushes to attract younger readers on newsstands.

But after years of being undermarketed, its transformation won't make it an over-night success with advertisers.

`STILL A DISTANT THIRD'

"Just because you've bought a magazine and made it look prettier doesn't mean all is well," said Paula Brooks, managing partner and media director at Margeotes, Fertitta & Partners, New York. "They're still a distant third in my book with a long way to go."

Shari Jurmain, VP-publisher of Travel Holiday, said, "It's competitive, but I think there is room for all of us to thrive as long as the magazine has a well-defined niche."

With a median age of 49, Travel Holiday has one of the oldest readership bases. Ms. Jurmain says she hopes to start skewing to a younger reader by undertaking a major push on newsstands.

NON-ENDEMIC ADVERTISERS

She also hopes to increase the number of non-endemic advertisers from the auto, fashion, liquor and luxury goods arenas. "We have a hard-core press underway for non-endemic advertisers," Ms. Jurmain said. "A lot of them did not see the book before the acquisition."

New advertisers in the redesigned book that hit last week include Continental Airlines and General Motors Corp.

New competition includes Getaways from magazine entrepreneur David Breul, launch editor of the now-defunct European Travel & Life. This time around, he has teamed up with Anchor Communications to produce the book, which had a 50% sell-through with a test issue in eight Midwestern states earlier this year.

Aimed at 25-to-55-year olds with a median income of around $50,000, the magazine's first issue has about 20 national advertisers paying $16,000 a page, said Anchor President Dan Kaplan.

Its biggest draw for advertisers may be its local ads, selling for only $2,000 a page. That, Mr. Kaplan thinks, "will enable country inns and bed and breakfasts to run ads that will attract people to their local regions."

`T&L'-'TRAVELER' BATTLE RAGES

The most intense battle, however, will continue to be that between Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler.

In 1995, T&L remained No. 1 in circulation, but Conde Nast Traveler gained its first-ever category ad-page crown. This year, Publisher Ed Kelly recruited Ann Marks, formerly an executive with Kraft Foods, as VP-marketing director. So far, T&L again has the '96 ad-page lead.

After years of being criticized for softer editorial than Conde Nast Traveler, T&L has kicked in with new marketing efforts to turn that negative into an advantage. "They're the watch- dogs, we're the seducers, basically," said Mr. Kelly. "How many times can you write about terrorism or bad airline food? We're in the business to promote travel."

"T&L seems to be hotter than it's been in a long time," said Ms. Brooks.

AD PAGES UP 11.5%

Through July, its ad pages were up 11.5% to 695.9, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Conde Nast Traveler was down 2.8% to 656.8, while National Geographic Traveler was off 8.8% to 188.

Lisa Henriques, Conde Nast Traveler publisher, charges T&L is aggressively bending the rate card-and several agency executives agree.

"T&L deals," said one.

While T&L's circulation did jump 4.3% to 1,003,155 in the most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, it also has appeared on the most recent stamp sheet from Publishers Clearinghouse, generally considered lower quality circulation.

Through the six-month period ended in June, Conde Nast Traveler dipped 6.6% in circulation to 824,665, but Ms. Henriques partly blames that on a 20% hike in subscription price to $18.

T&L also appears to be borrowing a page from its rival. For 10 years, Conde Nast Traveler has been producing its readers' choice survey, which this year had nearly 40,000 respondents. It is typically the magazine's biggest ad seller and will generate 202 ad pages in the October issue.

In October, T&L unveils its first "World's Best Awards," based on responses from about 6,000 people surveyed.M

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