Among the snippets of conversation
that ended up on the cutting-room floor after editing the Travel
Weekly Consumer Travel Editors Roundtable ["Editors Roundtable: Something to talk about"], which
appears in this week's print edition, was the confession that few
of the editors in the room watch travel shows on television.
"There's an entire
cable channel devoted to travel," I said. "Does anyone at this
table watch it?"
Budget Travel's Erik
Torkells said he doesn't have cable. Conde Nast Traveler's Klara
Glowczewska said she "used to watch it occasionally." Town &
Country's Heidi Mitchell found that "usually when I turn it on,
it's a poker tournament." Travel + Leisure's Nancy Novogrod
answered, "Not much. However, we have a show on it called 'Trips of
a Lifetime.' "
USA Today's Veronica
Stoddart likes Rick Steves on PBS, and Mitchell finds the Travel
Channel show "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" to be
But beyond that,
there was little interest among the group to view travel
"If I didn't work in travel, I'd probably feel more of a desire to,
you know, go home and curl up and watch travel." But I wonder.
People I know who aren't in travel will bring up the Food Network
and HGTV in conversation, but I can't recall the last time anyone
mentioned something they watched on the Travel Channel.
Though the world is,
in ample measure, visually stunning, video as a medium appears to
be struggling to communicate its appeal under the appellation
"travel" to this group.
Traveler's Keith Bellows has some experience in both print and TV.
He did a stint at ESPN, and his parent company has an eponymous
network that is available in 60 countries and is watched by more
than 3 million households. "I go to them all the time saying, 'We
have this great travel idea,' and they say, 'Remember, Bellows,
travel is the T word. Go away.' "
So what's the deal?
Why should this be? To deepen the mystery, the editors were in
agreement that travel can do well on TV, as long as it isn't
positioned as travel.
"'The Love Boat' did
more for the industry than anyone could have imagined," Torkells
observed. Part of the formula for "The Amazing Race" and
"Survivor," it was noted, is the lure of exotic locations, from
Borneo to the Marquesas Islands.
After being told
bluntly by his network's producers that the word "travel" carried a
stigma, Bellows came back to them with another idea that's
currently in development. "It is travel, but it's not called
travel. They love it," he said.
In the end, travel
may be a word whose meaning is so broad and all-encompassing that
it fails to convey any specific or visceral connection at all. Or
the most easily touched visceral connections may be negative: For
too many people, the hassles associated with travel have become
inseparable from the word.
Or perhaps it's
simply that watching a video about a stranger on holiday is
unappealing, no matter how smart and good-looking the stranger, how
much fun he or she appears to be having and how beautiful the
Ultimately, when we
say we love to travel, that's just shorthand for saying we love
art, culture, food, politics, history and people (or, maybe, just
that we're seeking relaxation). Anyone who has traveled with a
group, or even a single companion, becomes keenly aware that there
are varying travel styles, each attuned to the underlying interests
and needs of the individual.
The travel industry
has picked up on this to varying degrees, with travel agents
becoming specialists rather than generalists, with the segmentation
of the cruise industry, with tour operators selling "discovery"
rather than tours.
"There is no such
thing as the travel industry," Bellows summed up. "It's