Reduced-rate trips and ITN

By Armond Noble
This item appears on page 85 of the November 2009 issue.

First, I wish to express our deep gratitude to those who take a copy of ITN on their trips, show it to other travelers, then gather up the names and addresses of those who would like sample copies sent to them. Thank you.

Next, there’ s an issue that seems to come up about every three years. Some of our cherished readers query about the suitability of ITN staffers and Contributing Editors going on reduced-rate or free trips and the credibility of the resultant articles.

Okay. As you have noticed, per our promise of full disclosure, we always mention if such was the case. (We’re not trying to keep anything hidden, and you may then make your own informed judgment about the content of the article.)

Your travel agent also goes on such trips, as it would be difficult to discourse wisely on a place one has never been to. The tour companies lower the prices on these trips, as neither run- ning a travel agency nor journalism is among the lucrative professions.

Some of our eagle-eyed readers have noticed that in some other travel magazines the point is made that their writers do not accept reduced-rate or complimentary tours. So let’ s compare the others and ITN.

Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel: it has about 625,000 readers. It’s owned by the same company that owns The Washington Post, Newsweek magazine, TV stations, etc. They charge $42,500 for a full-page color ad. (Arthur Frommer has nothing to do with the content of the magazine.)

Condé Nast Traveller: it has about 820,000 readers. It’s owned by a company that also publishes Vogue, Gourmet, Architectural Digest, The New Yorker and many more. They charge $100,600 for a full-page color advertisement.

Travel+Leisure: it has 975,000 readers. It’ s owned by American Express. (A vault full of money.) They charge $106,000 for a full-page color ad.

Then there is International Travel News. We print 31,000 copies a month. It’s owned by five people who do not have a vault full of money. It charges $1,877 for a full-page advertisement.

(Of interest is that, while ITN is much much smaller, the ratio of passports to its readers is about double that of one of the above-mentioned publications. Also, in the percentage of readers who are college graduates, we tower over the others. And in the percentage of readers with post-graduate degrees, ITN readers leave the other magazines in the dust.)

It is much easier for a magazine knocking down many millions of dollars per issue to send their writers off on self-paid trips. For us, it would be, obviously, an impossibility.

In the times we have brought this up before, the feedback from subscribers was about 2 to 1 in the number telling us to go ahead on the trips we’re offered, with many assuring us that our readers are bright enough to see if we’ve been overly gushing in our coverage of a trip — which we really believe we have not been.

There are three types of trips. There is the Press Trip put together by any of various government tourist offices in which a small number of travel journalists from magazines and newspapers are invited. These are hectic and activity-packed, with not a moment to oneself.

Then there are trips put together by Tour Operators on which they take dozens or scores of travel agents and a few writers to a destination they sell.

The trip we like best is when a Tour Operator invites us on a regularly scheduled trip along with their paying customers. Sometimes there are ITN subscribers among the group — so they know that we’ve described the same experience.

On a somewhat related subject, you will NEVER see in ITN a page of text that looks just like an article and which has, in tiny mouse type, the word “advertisement” on it.

— Armond Noble, Publisher, ITN