Never before has thumbing through the pages of a beautiful travel magazine elicited such a wide range of emotions. It’s a little depressing knowing that many of the destinations featured are temporarily out of reach. On the other hand, a magazine is escapism at its finest, getting us excited for the moment when we will be able to explore the world again.
It’s been a weird few months for the travel editors who create those magazines. (But then, it’s been a weird few months for all of us.) Travel magazines are striving to strike the right balance of information and inspiration, promoting travel while advocating that it be done responsibly.
As part of this year’s virtual Virtuoso Travel Week, Virtuoso’s managing director of global PR, Misty Belles, and vice president of content and Virtuoso Life editorial director, Elaine Srnka, co-moderated a global panel of travel editors, who discussed everything from how the coronavirus has altered their editorial strategies to the definition of “luxury.” Here, a few highlights from their conversation:
Travel is still top of mind.
“As I look back on [the past] five months, there’s this sense of everything having changed, but nothing has changed – we’re still talking about travel,” said Paul Brady, articles editor at Travel + Leisure. Brady noted that there’s really no benefit to going dark right now; for Travel + Leisure, staying in touch with their audience remains paramount.
Travel coverage amid the pandemic is a “question of tone,” said Klara Glowczewska, the executive travel editor of Town & Country magazine. “Our readers are always in planning mode, so what better time to think of where you’re going next?”
Every editor noted that they’ve been doubling down on digital, using their online platforms to be more reactive, sharing news on travel restrictions, for example, or showcasing travel companies giving back to their communities. “At Virtuoso, we created a digital edition of Virtuoso Life – a special ‘Love Letter to Travel,’ and we launched a new weekly e-newsletter which has been really well received,” Srnka said.
“As travel journalists, we’re in the business of imagination, inspiration, and providing an outlet to the world,” said John O’Ceallaigh, a freelance travel journalist and the founder of Lute, a luxury travel consultancy. “Now’s the time to pivot to how we’ll be [traveling] in a great way in 2021.”
Juliet Kinsman, the sustainability editor at Condé Nast Traveller, agreed: “Storytelling is more important than ever right now.”
Some focus has shifted to close-to-home getaways.
The editorial team at Travesías, a boutique travel magazine published in Mexico, recently launched a new digital platform focused entirely on traveling within Mexico. “Basically, the message is, if we’re here, let’s spend our money and energy here while we can’t go anywhere else,” founder Javier Arredondo said.
Road trips are definitely a popular topic, along with RV rentals, National Parks exploration, and hotel staycations. (Case in point: London-based O’Ceallaigh called into the panel from his room at the city’s Shangri-La Hotel, At the Shard.)
“Luxury” has many meanings.
“ ‘Luxury’ makes me think of gold chandeliers and marble, but to me, true luxury is all about rare and extraordinary experiences,” Glowczewska said. “Watching the great migration from a mobile camp in Africa is luxury. Travel is a great privilege, and that’s luxury as well.”
“We never use the word ‘luxury’ by itself,” Arredondo said. “We assume traveling is a luxury.”
There are some silver linings to this pandemic.
Every editor noted that the pandemic has illuminated the benefits of working with a travel advisor. A trusted advocate to help navigate where and when it’s safe to go is invaluable, and will remain so as the world reopens.
“Travel advisors are important to me and to my magazine,” Glowczewska said. “I couldn’t do my job right now without [them] because I can’t go anywhere. I find myself relying increasingly in this moment on everyone who has a specialty to fill in the picture for me. They’re an incredible resource.”
Absence has made the heart grow fonder: “This moment has reminded us of the life-affirming, joy-giving value of travel,” O’Ceallaigh said. The editors unanimously said they can’t wait to start traversing the globe again. In the meantime, they’re appreciating destinations they may have never considered before. London-based Kinsman is currently on vacation in Scotland, while Virtuoso’s Belles spoke about an upcoming family trip to Maine – somewhere she likely wouldn’t have thought of prior.
Sustainability is the future.
Last year’s much-discussed travel topic was overtourism, and how traveler-packed cities and natural attractions around the world were threatening local cultures and the environment. Less than a year later, undertourism has emerged as an equally pressing problem, with a whole new set of potential consequences. Travel contributes to ten percent of the world’s GDP, and it’s quickly become evident that, when spent correctly, our dollars can singlehandedly keep some local economies afloat.
“[The pandemic has allowed us to] slow down and think more deeply about everything,” Kinsman said. “By looking at every touchpoint of a trip and how it’s helping the planet, the environment, and people, we can make a sustainable impact. I think people are really aware of that now.”
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