Town & Country Travel Goes on a Quest

A year since its launch, Town & Country Travel finds itself in a comfortable spot for a title geared only to the top 5 percent of travelers.

The quarterly luxury travel spinoff from Hearst Magazines' Town & Country has a rate base of 250,000, editorial awards and new advertising.

“One of our goals was to make the magazine itself a metaphor for the luxury travel experience, physically and appearance-wise,” said Jim Taylor, vice president and publisher of Town & Country and Town & Country Travel, New York.

While other magazines started focusing on domestic and driving vacations after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, research showed Town & Country's readers continued to travel overseas as a habit.

“I know there's this whole nesting phenomenon going on, but what I think we're on the verge of is a questing phenomenon,” said Melissa Biggs Bradley, editor of Town & Country Travel and travel editor on Town & Country. “Baby boomers want to travel. As people become older, they are more interested in their leisure, and much of the leisure time for their generation has to do with quest.”

The renewed interest in spirituality and simplicity backs up that trend. It also fits with the post-9/11 emphasis on multigenerational traveling. Families are renting bigger villas. The cruise business is seeing a surge in family travel. Weddings are becoming vacation trips. All point to a sense of collecting memories, for those who can afford them on this scale.

Modeled on its parent, the magazine offers a sense of luxurious, cultural, adventurous and relaxing destinations. The fall issue has an article on renting houses on Costa Careyes, located on Mexico's Pacific Coast. Another lavish spread focuses on India's Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, once the hunting grounds of maharajas.

Each Town & Country Travel issue gives readers a mix of domestic, European and Caribbean destinations. The fourth category is exotic, which includes Asia, Africa and other offbeat destinations. And each issue has the letters from London and Paris columns.

“That again goes to the difference between a travel magazine that is for the general population, a large percentage of which doesn't even have a passport,” Bradley said. “We know that our readers are traveling multiple times a year to Europe, so it makes sense they want to keep up on those destinations.”

Read equally by affluent men and women in their mid-40s, Town & Country Travel has a slightly younger audience than Town & Country. Its paid circulation base is 88,000. Subscribers pay $16 a year for four issues, a frequency that will be maintained next year. Public placement in posh hotels accounts for another 13,000 copies. Then there is private jet distribution, partnerships and mailing to industry newsletter lists.

That marketing outreach to maintain the rate base is supported with mail to Town & Country's 450,000 subscribers as well as print ads within the parent and spinoff. The goal is to convert Town & Country Travel recipients into paying subscribers.

Hearst's editors as well as ad sales and marketing teams have ensured that the spinoff does not cannibalize Town & Country. The parent magazine focuses on beauty, fashion, jewelry, home design and travel. But travel accounts for only 20 percent of Town & Country's editorial. As a lifestyle magazine, it could not dedicate more pages to upscale travel.

The more important opportunity for a brand extension was the untapped advertising potential. Town & Country in 2003 debuted Town & Country Weddings, with another annual issue a year later in August. Two issues are planned for next year, with a rate base of 260,000.

With travel, that sector contributed only 3 percent to 4 percent of Town & Country's advertising. Taylor said the spinoff has opened a new world of high-end travel advertisers who had run ads in titles like the CondŽ Nast Traveler and American Express Publishing's Travel & Leisure.

“The majority of business has been incremental,” Taylor said, “which is why travel is such an intriguing category to do as a single-theme launch. If we'd done fashion or jewelry or home, we probably would have risked business out of the mother ship and put it into the new property. So one of the reasons why travel ends up as a brand extension was that we weren't doing enough travel advertising in the mother ship that we should have been doing.”

Town & Country Travel's advertiser roster includes: Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Inter-Continental Hotels, Citation Shares, NetJets, Montreal Tourism, Breakers Hotel, Trump and British Airways. Canyon Ranch and Rosewood Hotels bought ads in Town & Country Travel and then added Town & Country to their media buys.

“We're not trying to get the most advertisers per category segment,” Taylor said. “What we're trying to do is pick off the top players in terms of luxury quality. The success for us is when we get all the high-end players in Town & Country Travel. In editorial, that makes for a better match.

“Part of our differentiation from Condé Nast Traveler or Travel & Leisure, which are great travel books, is that these magazines have just become chock-full of clutter with every level of travel advertising.”

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