Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a beholder immune to the beauty of Backroads’ Gold Award-winning wholesale/dealer catalog, which travel agents make available to prospective vacationers. With sparkling photography enhanced by lively layouts, “the catalog is a pleasure to the eye,” as one judge says.
The cycling vacations Backroads sells appeal to sensualists. With this in mind, the cataloger wisely devotes a lot of space to panoramas of the Canadian Rockies, sweeping views of lush Bali fields, and vivid depictions of Tuscany. Backroads captures the sensuality of its offerings not just in its superbly reproduced photos but also in its copy. Descriptions such as “Thousands of fragrant olive trees. Orange blossoms and jasmine. Whitewashed villages clinging to hilltops….” enable readers “to paint a mental picture of the vacation spot,” a panelist says.
But high-ticket expenditures such as an 11-day bike tour of Patagonia’s Lake District or a six-day journey through the Czech Republic require more than romance to close a sale. Backroads doesn’t even present its first offering until page 18. Instead, the opening spreads explain how to select the trip that best suits one’s fitness level, describe bikes available for rental, and offer customer testimonials-all amid seemingly candid shots of glowing, beaming participants. “The introduction copy definitely sets the mood and gives the reader a good idea of what each trip would be like,” says a judge. As a bookend to the introduction, the back of the catalog devotes a spread to answering frequently asked questions about everything from toilet facilities to gratuities. “Even the more mundane but equally important details are presented in a friendly yet concise format,” notes another panelist.
Indeed, the judges give kudos even to the descriptions of the individual itineraries. Rather than settling for a terse: “Day 4: Yountville. Ride through wine country and stay at Vintage Inn,” Backroads declares: “Pedal down the Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail, passing wineries such as Stag’s Leap and Clos du Val. Overnight atthe Vintage Inn, a favorite among our guests.”
Backroads’ service amenities aren’t limited to the vans that, carting luggage and mobile kitchens, accompany cyclists on their journey. The company also sells gift certificates and helps plan custom trips-a boon for vacationers and travel agents alike. In fact, while the creative targets the end user, “strong emphasis has been placed on the needs of the travel agents,” notes a judge. “The trip-planning calendars in the back of the book make it easy for the agent to work with clients.”
One judge sums up this Gold Award winner by exclaiming that it “takes all the work out of planning a vacation. All the customer needs to do is show up.” And all the travel agent needs to do to entice the customer is let him or her savor the compelling photographs and evocative copy.