TORONTO — For the past 50 years Travelweek has had the privilege of covering travel industry news for Canadian travel agents.
From the very beginning of Travelweek’s 50-year long history – going all the way back to the early 1970s, when the publication was still called CTM Weekly Bulletin – founder and first editor Wayne Lahtinen made it his mission to keep Canada’s travel trade informed with the latest industry news (and industry rumours too, to the delight of readers).
Back then, Travelweek was sometimes little more than a few pages, but those pages were packed with all the latest happenings, from airlines, tour operators, tourism boards and retailers. Later, there were fams and jobs at the back. The editorial style introduced by Lahtinen – and perfected by associate publisher and managing editor Paul Vickers – was succinct, with quick-hit news items that didn’t waste a busy travel agent’s time. That style became Travelweek’s hallmark through the years.
“WE WERE ON A MISSION”
Jill Wykes served as Travelweek’s second editor, from 1983 – 1988. She took over as editor while Lahtinen remained as publisher, and she worked side by side with Vickers.
For Wykes, the focus was getting the scoop before anyone else: “We were on a mission not to miss a story.”
Wykes, who went on to join CATO and later Sunquest after she left Travelweek, worked the phones to get the stories. “Every week I would call the regional heads of ACTA as well as leaders of major retail, wholesale and airline sectors just fishing for news,” she says. “Most of the time we did uncover something. But more importantly, we rarely missed anything or got scooped.”
The one must-have? “It had to be news. If we didn’t have a good news story we had ways of creating one by getting reaction to questions we would pose from somebody willing to speak. It usually worked!”
The 1980s were high times for retail travel agents. “Back then most people used a travel agent to book travel,” notes Wykes. “This was before the Internet became prominent. The big concern back then was discounters who were seen as the enemy of traditional travel agencies.”
The 1980s was also a good decade for travel trade media. Asked about her favourite trips during her time at Travelweek, Wykes says: “Probably my trip to China on a CP Air inaugural flight to Shanghai – we went on to Beijing and saw all the incredible sights. The other trips that were a lot of fun were covering the ACTA conferences which used to be in international destinations in those days. Travelweek would produce the ACTA conference Daily newspaper which [Travelweek’s managing editor] Paul Vickers and I would put together. I remember going to the printers in places like Athens and Hong Kong. It was a lot of work but fun!”
Then as now, the pace was relentless. In the late 1970s, when competitors were publishing every two weeks or monthly, Travelweek made the move to twice weekly, on a Monday and Thursday schedule. The frequency meant Travelweek could break more stories, and follow them up quickly just days later. The pace kept up in the 1980s and into the late 1990s. And now with Travelweek Daily, Travelweek’s industry coverage is emailed to readers five days a week, in addition to digital editions of Travelweek magazine, Travel Professional and more.
Travelweek’s ramped-up frequency starting in the 1970s and 1980s was a game-changer. “First we went to twice a week for parts of the year and then three times a week for a while,” says Wykes. “That seems like nothing now with digital publications, but we are talking print editions and distribution three times a week across Canada. It was a relentless schedule and a lot of pressure to come up with a good lead story.”
“WE WERE THE FIRST TO HIT AGENCY DESKS”
Patrick Dineen, Travelweek’s third editor, rose to these challenges just as Wykes had.
Dineen’s vantage point as he took over the top editorial job at Travelweek in 1988 included his 18 years at Canadian Travel Courier, then owned by Maclean Hunter.
Says Dineen: “I joined Maclean Hunter and was there for 18 years at Canadian Travel Courier. In the 1970s we were the top publication as we published every two weeks and tended to break many stories. It took Travelweek a few years to get going but being weekly meant they now had an advantage over us, as it took up to two weeks after deadline for Courier to be printed and mailed to our readers. I think it was 1979 when Travelweek went twice weekly and I knew that was trouble for us.”
Dineen pushed for weekly, to no avail. In 1988 he left Maclean Hunter and joined Travelweek. At the helm of the ‘Blue Rag’ for more than a quarter century, Dineen covered everything from the airline commission cuts and caps in the mid-1990s, to the Internet and OTAs in the late 1990s, to 9/11, low-cost carriers, tour operator consolidation and more.
“With 86 issues a year, we were the first to hit agency desks. I could write ‘Airlines cut commissions’ for the Monday issue and save ‘Agents slam cuts’ for the next issue and still beat everyone,” he says, adding that Travelweek’s greatest strength “was respecting our readers and looking at every story through the lens of what does this mean for a travel agent in Toronto or Flin Flon or Halifax or Kelowna.”
Dineen’s favourite trips during his time in the travel industry? “I had so many wonderful trips over the years but if I had to pick two that stand out: In 1984, when I was at Maclean Hunter, I went to the Galapagos in a 100-passenger ship. In 1994, I returned and sailed among the islands on a private yacht named for the Queen of Sweden and carrying just six passengers and a guide. It was like we had the place to ourselves. The other was a trip to Jordan where history was everywhere including crusader forts, Roman ruins, the Nabatean city of Petra, the Dead Sea and landscapes described by Lawrence of Arabia.”
Watching the evolution of the retail travel industry since the 1970s, Dineen says he’s struck by the staying power of travel agents. “When I started at Maclean Hunter in 1970 suppliers really relied on agents, as an airline or tour operator couldn’t open ticket offices in every town and village. This changed with the emergence of the Internet allowing suppliers to reach customers far more easily.”
He well remembers the late 1990s, “when people were calling travel agents the blacksmiths of the 21st century. I have really been struck by the resilience of travel counsellors and how they seem to have gained more respect from consumer media and the travelling public as travel becomes increasingly complicated with flight delays, cruise ship sicknesses, and so on. People booking online often have no one to call for help but someone who books through their trusted advisor has someone on their side. Rather than becoming irrelevant, travel counsellors are more valuable than ever.”
“LEARNED FROM THE BEST”
In its 50 years, Travelweek has been through more than a few changes, transitioning from a print publication to a digital edition, and maintaining up-to-the-minute industry news reporting with Travelweek.ca and Travelweek Daily. Travelweek has also evolved from one magazine to the core product of The Travelweek Group’s ever-growing portfolio of successful ventures.
When I took over as Travelweek’s fourth editor in 2016, I knew I had learned from the best. Working alongside Patrick Dineen since I joined Travelweek in 1995 as staff writer, I benefited from his knowledge of the industry, and his keen interest in a good story, past and present.
These days I cover industry news alongside Travelweek’s deputy editor, Cindy Sosroutomo, who joined Travelweek in 2007. Our editorial coverage of the pandemic from 2020 to 2023, and in particular the pandemic’s impact on travel retailers and suppliers, is something we take immense pride in. Together with the rest of the Travelweek team, we’re working hard to deliver the best and most relevant travel industry coverage to our readers. For now, and for years to come!
Check out our special 50th anniversary section in this week’s April 13, 2023 issue of Travelweek, plus watch for executive interviews, travel advisor memories and our ‘It Happened This Week’ contest, all running throughout 2023 in Travelweek Daily.