Sherman's Travel

Now that I'm sitting shiva for my portfolio, my travel plans have changed. I wanted to see Florence. Now I price trains to Washington, where Rep. Henry Waxman is holding hearings on executive compensation. If I'm lucky, I'll be in time to beat Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Bros., with a spiked heel until his head has as many holes as his testimony. As Sarah Palin would say: "You betcha!"

  The man begged for a bailout, while he doled out millions to select execs. He personally made almost $500 million. Rome burned, he barbecued. Instead of demanding the money back, Waxman asked this titan of financial tyranny: "Is it fair?" Enough with the rhetorical questions! Start filing racketeering charges: RICO, Henry, RICO!

What does this have to do with a travel magazine? It's all about climate change. I reviewed Sherman's Travel in November 2006 soon after its debut. I was a fan of its informative articles, clean layout and upbeat style. Since it's still here -- and competing in a super-tough economic environment -- it's worth revisiting. Let's see where the rubber hits the road.

The glossy magazine began as a quarterly, a spinoff of, a deals-and-destination site that supplied a built-in readership base. The site, and by extension the magazine, provided a distinct hook: finding bargains for upscale travelers, defined as "people who want luxury, without luxury prices." In short, it offers bargains in the 4- and 5-star category. Sherman's Travel boasts a "Smart Luxury" tagline, which assumes you have money and want to spend it wisely. (The original tag was "Smart Luxury Values." Apparently, "values" is a loaded word in every arena.)

The features in the fall issue should help. They offer an in-depth look at Los Angeles, trumpeting its cultural offerings; Chile, from urban Santiago to Patagonia; and India, where you can stretch a rupee. The two-week itinerary, fun and enticing, focuses on northern and central India and the three cities that constitute the Golden Triangle: Delhi; Agra, home of the Taj Mahal; and Jaipur, land of the maharajas. Chile is unique in geography -- it has striking desert landscapes in Atacama, while the extreme south is home to blue glaciers. The photos were enough for me, though I'm partial to robust Chilean reds.

Today, Sherman's Travel has a new editor, Norman Vanamee, formerly with Departures and Lucky, and two new sections: "Amenity Watch," which records how hotels woo customers (Spain's Hotel Golf Peralada includes a Muscat or merlot wine bath), while "Hot To Get To" delivers practical advice for the off-the-beaten-path trip. There's also a lively "New & Noteworthy," which gave a quick-hit of interesting art shows, including a Francis Bacon retrospective at Tate Britain. Bacon's twisted artistry seems ideal for capturing CEOs on the hot seat.

The mag also plans to increase publication to six issues a year and raise circ from 200,000 to 250,000, a bold move. The big question: who is reading and advertising? According to MRI, the ST reader has a median HHI of $92,200; the average age is 49. There are 3.4 million unique monthly visitors to the Web site, a number that outpaces, per comScore.

On the ad front, ST counts an array of advertisers, including Radisson, Travelocity, Germany, Ireland, Norwegian Cruise Line and American Airlines. The state of Texas has committed to a 2009 schedule, too. The travel biz will be impacted by the economic news, admits Jonathan Spitz, vice president/director of marketing for Sherman's Travel Media, but says, "The higher end should weather the storm a bit better." That optimism, along with the mag's focus on savings, is key to its survival.

Spitz says people need to "recharge after dealing with turmoil. They want to have quality experiences, while watching every penny and making sure they get the most value possible." Agreed. And if they want to hire witty company, provided there's no hiking, I get my own room and we're cool politically, I'm good to go.

Sherman's Travel retains the same breezy prose and lively presentation it had at launch. If readers can weather the bad economy, it should hold its own. In lean times, a good read is a great escape. In terrible times, it's pure escapism. And if Lehman's Fuld wants to take a trip, let's slap him into an orange jumpsuit and show him his next stop -- a prison cell.


Published by: Sherman Travel

Media Frequency: Bimonthly

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