Travel Savvy is dead. The magazine already rose from the dead once a few months ago, reformatted itself with a “book of lists” approach to travel highlights, then folded again. It was owned by Sidney Frank, a guy who got rich convincing college kids that shots of Jagermeister were great fun and then got even richer convincing people that it’s worth paying a huge premium for “premium vodka.” Now he’s dead and his estate finds the magazine “too risky.” Only a week after he kicked it, the holding company put Travel Savvy in the circular file.
I was a bit torn about this magazine. The marketing side of me I admired them for at least trying something different. The basic formula was to find a celebrity’s passion, then get them to make some list about it. So it mixed our celebrity-obsessed and gossip-obsessed culture with a resurgent travel market. In the last issue you got Andy Garcia talking about places to get great Cuban food in Miami, Sarah Jessica Parker talking about hotels that I guess would make you feel sexy, and Michael Palin talking about the world’s best train rides. These pedestal pieces would be joined by a bunch of other lists, such as “most romantic hotels in the world,” “best beaches for a getaway,” and other silly fluff that assumed the writers had actually been to every hotel or beach in the world. (In reality, PR people did a lot of the, um…research.)
Which is why the traveler side of me couldn’t stand the publication. It played into the American desire to make everything a contest or a ranking. It boiled beautiful and complicated places down to a few pithy sentences and a spot on a list. It was the travel magazine equivalent of a doughnut: looks nice, tastes yummy, but all sugar and fat–empty calories. As the folks at the Jaunted blog said, “We liked Travel Savvy. It obviated the need for reading, since it was mostly pictures and lists. We often find paragraphs confusing.”
So while I always hate to see a travel magazine shuttered and there are editors now looking for another job, this one is no great loss. If it means there was not a significant market for travel stories that treated destinations like this season’s fashion line, that’s a good thing. It gives me hope that most people see travel as a more emotional and vibrant experience than buying a new camera or suit.