If you want a clear look at the kind of readers most glossy travel magazines want to attract, just take a look at this ad from Visa that is running in a few of them this month. It’s a vending machine filled with flag-covered countries: the UK, France, Italy, Australia, India, Mexico and more. The tag at the bottom says, “Pre-packaged travel plans make it easy to pick up and go.”
In other words, traveling somewhere should take as much thought and planning as buying a bag of Doritos or a Snickers bar. And hey, it will be just as nourishing!
There are so many things wrong with this ad that it almost makes me want to use my American Express exclusively. (But alas, my Capital One visa charges no foreign exchange conversion fee, while Amex hits me with 2 percent. See your credit card’s travel tax.)
The thing is, a lot of people do approach their vacation this way, selecting a package the way they would a soda or a snack. No surprises, nothing unexpected please! And the travel magazines like it this way. Fragmented, free-thinking, independent travelers do not attract advertising dollars from the likes of cruise lines and big hotel chains. And those smelly backpackers don’t buy Prada. So the magazines cover the same spots frequently (the most popular) and review all those hot new hotel openings with breathy praise (nothing negative please–they cover the payroll).
So put on the skeptic’s glasses whenever you leaf through one of the high-circulation travel mags while waiting around at the dentist’s office. Like Visa, these publishers are very happy if you just pick something from their vending machine and don’t think twice about it.