Ms. Abelow

Public Relations

The Transformation of Hotel and Travel Media

By Lorraine Abelow, Founder & President, Abelow PR

Due to the exponential growth of digital media, how we plan and book our vacations has changed dramatically over the past two decades. The environment is constantly evolving; with an increase in the use of mobile content being amongst the most recent advances. Travel Public Relations firms suc can help you to remain fully informed about this rapidly-changing landscape. Magazines, guidebooks and newspaper supplements were once seen as the ultimate authority on travel. But now the biggest touchstones also include online reviews, travel websites and blogs. Traditional travel print media took a beating due to the fractionation of the media but many managed to stay afloat by diversifying through online content and social media.

What Propelled Changes for Print Media?

Print brands were slow to adapt to changing media landscape and many at first struggled to figure out how to change their business model for the digital age. Despite the print brands having strong brand recognition and influence, free online content from TripAdvisor, Yelp forums, Expedia, YouTube et al sprung up as fierce competition, with real-time reviews competing against static print ones. However, traditional print media companies have come out the other side as Google's Domain Authorities.

The situation was first complicated by the dramatic drop in advertising sales revenue in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis, which led to staff cutbacks and content being reduced, and this all in turn exacerbated the drop in circulation. So even the print brands which wanted to create a digital platform found their hands were tied due to budget cuts. Brands slashed their marketing budgets, readers curbed their spending on print media and travelers skipped their vacations.

Travel + Leisure dropped from 1,481.11 ad pages in 2008 to 967.48 in 2011, according to The Association of Magazine Media. Guidebooks were also hit by the economic downturn, with print sales falling by 50%. This led to Travel + Leisure and The New York Times aggressively creating online content which attracted large readerships and secured their places as Domain Authorities ranking on the first page of Google results. They key to survival seems to have been a combination of doubling up on quality content, and creating a diverse range of additional content online including videos and clickbait articles to attract a wider audience.

It's Not All Bad News: Success Stories

Going multimedia -- and doing it well -- is the key to success.

Conde Nast Traveler, which launched in 1987 and became one of the most visible brands in travel, is one of the best examples of how traditional print travel media rode out the storm and managed to come back bigger and better than ever.

By the late 1990s it became clear that online booking and travel research was becoming increasingly important for consumers. Conde Nast launched a new brand named Concierge.com to test the digital audience. It was used for its online travel content and the company teamed up with Expedia to sell vacations through the website.

Initially, the two editorial teams of Conde Nast Traveler and Concierge.com were separate. But it became clear that the print and digital teams needed to collaborate. It took a little time for this to happen because in the early days of the digital revolution, many brands were reluctant to put too much effort into online content while the print brands had more prestige and generated more revenue. However, there was a big drop in advertising sales in 2009 in the wake of the economic crisis. The sales rebounded the following year, but the company didn't have the immediate resources to beef up its digital presence.

The trend for researching and fining vacations online only grew, and by 2013 Conde Nast Traveler was given a digital revamp. Concierge.com was eventually dismantled, while Conde Nast Traveler went from strength to strength, launching on multiple platforms including Facebook and Instagram. The prestige of the brand endured, and enticed consumers to the new platforms, which all feature interwoven content. Today's writer will not just write a feature-length article for the magazine, they will typically also take photos and notes for the web version of the article, and for posting on social media channels.

Today cntraveler.com receives around seven million unique visitors monthly - almost ten times its print circulation. And it rules the roost on Google as a Domain Authority, showing up among the first few search results on page one of Google.

This all means that the role of journalists has also changed. In order to keep the multimedia platforms fully stocked with quality content, it's no longer enough to be able to write gripping feature-length articles. Journalists are now finding they need a wider skillset. This includes being able to also write shorter, more concise web articles or lighter clickbait stories (in response to the change in consumer habits), as well as being able to take photos, create listicles, film videos and sometimes create infographics.

While a decade ago some newspapers scrapped their print travel sections completely (instead of using the material to create an online archive of reviews), The New York Times was amongst the savvy corporations which took advantage of the developments in digital media. Today, like Conde Nast Traveler, The New York Times is admired for its travel content and considered a Google Domain Authority.

  • Google acquired Zagat restaurant guides for $151 million, and proceeded to integrate the information into Google Maps listings.

  • BBC Worldwide purchased Lonely Planet for $210 million in 2011 in a series of transactions beginning in 2007. In 2013, BBC sold off Lonely Planet to a U.S. billionaire for just $75 million -- but Lonely Planet has emerged from the ashes as the most successful guidebook brand in the world. It has invested heavily in its digital presence, as well as in apps and video content, alongside developing print and magazine titles. Lonely Planet also launched mobile guides as an app covering more than 100 cities to date and continues to evolve, with expanded content, books and magazines. It has a quarterly US magazine and 11 international magazines. Therefore, today it offers a different product for every kind of vacation.

  • Despite launching in the grip of the economic crisis in 2009, Afar managed to ride out the downturn. This was due to innovations such as slick design, harnessing the experiential travel movement, provocative photography, and providing fresh storytelling -- all backed up with a solid digital resource for travelers. A savvy PR company knows how to mine this digital resource for our clients.

Print readership across the board shifted largely towards older and more affluent travelers. In 2013 both Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler re-orientated their coverage towards luxury consumers in an attempt to attract higher-spending advertisers. Conde Nast Traveler also eventually revamped its digital content, with shorter articles and only 1% crossover content from the magazine, which continued with its comprehensive quality coverage, this time with even more emphasis on luxury travel. Travel + Leisure is also one of the leading online authorities on travel, ranking on page one of Google searches. Its revamped multimedia content includes as many as 500 videos online.

Influencer Campaigns Offer Great Value and Impact

In 2016, Linqia polling found that marketers spent between $25,000 and $50,000 on social media influencers, who can typically combine blogging with videos and Facebook Live streams. Compare this with the price of one 4C full page ad in Travel + Leisure in 2016 for $157,000 -- a brand could instead run up to six influencer campaigns for the same price.

A 2017 report by Skift travel industry news website found that 57% of destination marketing organizations think digital marketing has the best return on marketing spending. But travel PR firms like ours advise that combining print with multimedia and social media is the best way forward.

There's still a place for travel print media, as the perception still remains that they provide something the online versions don't; they are glossy, they have longevity and they have a staying power that digital media doesn't. The print media brands which have survived the digital revolution are the ones which continually innovate and move with the times -- something that's imperative for all of us.

I found that 57% of destination marketing organizations think digital marketing has the best return on marketing spending. But travel PR firms advise that combining print with multimedia and social media is the best way forward. There's still a place for travel print media, as the perception still remains that they provide something the online versions don't; they are glossy, they have longevity and they have a staying power that digital media doesn't. The print media brands which have survived the digital revolution are the ones which continually innovate and move with the times -- something that's imperative for all of us.

A knowledgeable travel PR agency will be able to guide you through all of this. The massive media changes have rattled for world, and those agencies that stay abreast can best leverage your unique selling points.

Lorraine Abelow has had a 30 year, award-winning, boutique travel PR firm in New York City and is at the forefront of trends affecting traditional and social media. Her career representing such blue-chip names as Four Seasons and Hilton Hotels, while also working with boutique properties across the globe as well as island destinations like St Barts. The agency’s affordable hotel PR campaigns are designed to move the needle regularly gaining eye-catching feature exposure in such top outlets as The New York Times, Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It's the long-standing relationships the team has with high-level editors that insures coverage in A list media in every campaign. Ms. Abelow can be contacted at 203-226-9247 or Lorraine@AbelowPR.com Please visit http://abelowpr.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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