Face-Off: No Holiday for Travel Books

Article excerpt

For travel magazines, it's been a long road back since September 11, 2001. The books are finally showing consistent ad page gains - Travel + Leisure is up 50 percent, Conde Nast Traveler is up 23 percent, and Travel Holiday is up 55 percent through the first quarter of '03. But in these uncertain times, the holiday could end abruptly. "They definitely rebounded and clawed their way back," says Mike McHale, senior vice president, group media director for Optimedia. "But if something else of a catastrophic nature happened, it would be one of the hardest-hit categories." - Susan Thea Posnock

Travel + Leisure (American Express Publishing) Ad pages 2002: 1,508.7 (-14%) Through March '03: 355.4 (+50%)* Total circ: 960,779 (-3.7%) Newsstand: 30,180 (+8.3%) Subscription: 930,599 (-4%) New advertiser: Mazda

While T+L suffered the steepest drops in ad pages and circulation in 2002, it managed to hold on to its No. 1 ranking. To maintain its stature, T+L strives to get its fair share of airtime - its editors work the talk show circuit and are regular guests on the "Today" show. T+L sets the travel agenda, says publisher Ellen Asmodeo. "We cover it, it becomes the trend, and then everyone else picks it up," she says. These days the magazine is also zeroing in on the circ side of the biz as it looks to derive more revenue from subs. But at $34.80, T+L's average sub price is already more than double that of its competitors', notes Asmodeo. Media buyers say the mag gets its edge from its American Express gene. "Knowing how much readers spent on [their AmEx cards] for your airline is a very compelling sales point," says Optimedia's McHale. On the competition: "They consistently talk negatively about us while we still remain and always have been the leader in circulation, ad pages, and editorial." - Ellen Asmodeo

Conde Nast Traveler (Conde Nast) Ad pages 2002: 1,371 (-3%) Through March '03: 315 (+23%)* Total circ: 780,051 (-2.7%) Newsstand: 36,285 (+3%) Subscription: 743,766 (-3%) New advertiser: Porsche

The first half of 2002 was tumultuous, but with nine months of consecutive ad-page growth, Traveler has recovered nicely. Touting its five National Magazine Awards, vice president and publisher Lisa Hughes says, "We constantly innovate and the other magazines copy us. …