Comment: 2021 is a year for ‘realistic positivity’

Last year tested businesses’ credentials, but those that adjusted and supported partners can look ahead with confidence, says Travel Weekly managing director Stuart Parish

It’s easy to look back on 2020 and see it purely for the negatives, there were certainly plenty of them to be found, and especially so within the travel and hospitality sectors served by Jacobs Media Group.

However, among the turmoil of a year we hope not to see the likes of again, there are also positives to be taken and lessons to be learned. In fact, after a year when the norms of our everyday actions were challenged daily, we have arguably found out more about ourselves, our businesses and our industry than would normally have been possible.

For anyone searching for a new normal, perhaps we need to think again. 2020 was the year which showed that being normal simply didn’t wash any more. It was a year to reinvent, question our processes, and a year to test credentials of companies that stood up in normal times but faltered when the equilibrium was shattered.

Perhaps it showed that too much normality breeds complacency, and whist as an industry we need a return to consistency of policy, and ability to trade confidently, we should never settle for a return to normal.

It’s safe to say we won’t be shouting about our financial performance from 2020, but I’m sure many companies within both our core sectors and the broader publishing world would also share that viewpoint. However, we managed our finances well, used all the levers available to us quickly and efficiently, and showed a near constant uptick in revenue from our lows of April to pre-Christmas.

There is little we would look back on and do differently, and despite our challenges we remain a financially secure business.

Our financial management helped us forge closer ties with our partners and showed that we were a business that would support them through both good and bad times. Despite our own financial pressures, we did not charge a penny in cancellation fees, we refunded fully and promptly where required, and we cancelled booked media without quibble regardless of how late in the day.

We did the right thing by our partners at every point and showed above all else that we are a company that does things the correct way.

Outside of the financials our core business metrics tell a hugely positive story, one made more powerful when placed against the pressures the business was trading under. Our editorial team operated for over nine months with reduced resources, working around the clock to ensure our content was delivered not just quickly, but with the correct context, opinions and analysis. Despite the weight of content being produced they dealt with sensitive news expertly and have emerged from such a tumultuous year with great credit.

This is shown through the usage of our key digital channels, with finishing the year with almost 15 million page views, an increase of 65% on 2019, and 104% on 2018. Content after all has no value if it is not being read, watched or listened to, and 2020 showed that our audience values our content more than ever.

Our traffic through social channels increased exponentially, with 190% more than in 2019, and at the end of the year we have just over 160,000 engaged followers across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We have a large and unrivalled readership based on pure volume, but we also can target channels and ensure the right content is delivered to the right audience.

This was shown by two new initiatives that came out of the year, our Restart & Recovery Hub which lists up-to-date content from destinations and partners, providing invaluable information for our agent readers, and our Homeworking Directory which provided essential information for travel sellers looking to move into this sector.

Despite our challenges we were also able to publish 51 times in 2020, 31 times in print and 20 digitally, and having returned to print in late August we will continue to be the only title printing and distributing weekly in 2021. We used our time wisely, and ensured we invested in our ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) circulation, giving us the largest and most up-to-date readership in our sector.

Of course, we had to make sacrifices throughout the year, especially where our event portfolio was concerned. We lost the Agent Achievement Awards from 2020 but are looking forward to bringing it back in July of 2021, and we will very much miss bringing the industry together for the Globe Travel Awards this month. They are nights which mean a huge amount to our team and the broader industry, but we know they will be appreciated even more when they return.

We will begin 2021 with “realistic positivity”, a mantra that we have carried with us through much of the previous 10 months. This means being on the front foot and adventurous where possible while being realistic about the ongoing challenges faced by our market.

Perhaps against the odds, Travel Weekly will emerge from 2020 as a larger, stronger and more widely-available brand, and the team and I look forward to standing alongside our industry every step of the way.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.