Backroads, 1998 Distinctive Bicycling Vacations

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.

Backroads, 1998 Distinctive Bicycling Vacations

The awe-inspiring landscapes and sensuous copy of the Backroads 1998 catalog is enough to whet the appetite of explorers and couch potatoes alike. The judges are easily won over by the page-long descriptions of trips to domestic and international locales: “I wanna go!” declares one.

Backroads envelops the sense of adventure in a well-organized catalog presentation. The president’s message on page two immediately convinces prospective cyclists that they will be traveling with seasoned professionals, and the following pages, which explain the lodging, dining, and equipment, support the sense that they will be taken care of. The copy devoted to customer education at the beginning of the book is “informative and reassuring that this is a serious company that can execute a highly adventurous vacation,” says a judge.

The book offers a “great selection of interesting trips,” according to another panelist. With excursions to Turkey, Hawaii, Nova Scotia, and points in between, “year after year Backroads does an outstanding job of merchandising,” lauds a judge. Copy and photography blend well to support each trip and portray each of the 65 destinations as a potential paradise. The consistent layouts, in which the top half of the page is covered with landscape photography and the bottom is reserved for descriptive copy, are reminiscent of a travel magazine and support the company’s image of dependability and maturity.

Copy is erudite and often poetic. Take this description of a trip along the coast of California: “Robert Louis Stevenson called the coastline between Monterey and Big Sur ‘the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.’ Towering redwood forests overlook breathtaking seascapes. Picturesque villages perch on cliffs….” With copy that is “lyrical and compelling,” in the words of one judge, Backroads nudges its way into consumers’ imagination-and wins purchases.

The judges also applaud the question-and-answer section of the book, in which the company answers frequently asked questions such as “What if I have special food needs?” and “Do you rent children’s bikes?” The judges credit this section as yet another way in which the company tries to relax potential customers and make them understand that their needs will be anticipated.

After reading the Backroads catalog, consumers are bound to feel confident that not only will they get fit and see people from different cultures but that they will do so safely and in comfort. And thanks to a “guarantee that is on the leading edge of the industry,” as one judge puts it, customers can rest easy that Backroads will meet any dissatisfaction with an effort to “remedy the situation.” In adventure traveling, Backroads understands, the relationship between the customer and the company is paramount, and its catalog builds that relationship on the basis of adventure and trust.