Backroads, 2000-2001

With larger-than-life action shots, worldwide vistas, and quick, trip-at-a-glance copy, Backroads takes readers hiking at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains, sailing along the Turquoise Coast, and snorkeling off the Galapagos Islands. Inspired by customer testimonials woven throughout the copy, one judge put it best, “It makes me want to go there.”

Getting where you want to go is just a hop, a skip, and a jump in this highly organized catalog. A breadth of tour options are grouped by region, with easy-to-find die-cut, color-coded sections. Within each section, each tour is prominently labeled by activity: walking, cooking, hiking, rafting, snorkeling, sailing, canoeing, biking….For the truly motivated, Backroads even offers multisport trips.

The first 17 pages provide a general overview, while sections on family, solo traveling, and equipment rental information answer specific questions. Readers will appreciate the handy comparison chart rating adventure routes.

Personalized, uplifting copy is arguably Backroads’ biggest asset. First-person narratives, such as, “The tranquil channels, harbors and bays lapping at the feet of charming island towns are our backdrop as we paddle, pedal and walk our way through the Pacific Northwest,” entice readers. “I thought the copy was great. It’s used as a teaser,” said a judge. Yet one judge felt the copy fell short: “It should make me do backflips to get me to spend more than $2,000 on a trip.”

The visuals garnered several rave reviews from judges who liked the presentation of maps throughout the book and described the cover as “beautiful” and the merchandising as “wonderful.” A few dissenters, though, felt the visuals were too generic. “I have no idea where the places on the cover are. It’s like institutional advertising, in contrast to direct response,” said one judge. And another panelist complained that the catalog is geared toward travel agents rather than consumers.

Aside from the spectacular scenery, special touches such as a mail-in honeymoon registry card and a trip guarantee, which one judge described as “satisfying, because there is so much to deal with on a trip,” help sell the tours, and go the distance in making Backroads a winner.

Backroads, 2000-2001

Biking through Brittany, kayaking through Costa Rica, hiking through Hawaii…does this sound like your type of vacation? Even if it doesn’t, the Backroads catalog might just convince you to give an active vacation a try.

Among travel catalogers, 21-year old Backroads is legendary for its bicycle adventure trips. The company has more recently expanded into hiking, river-rafting and sea-kayaking vacations, as well as less intensive walking, golfing, and cooking trips. Backroads provides something for just about every active or semiactive vacationer, and its Gold Award-winning catalog certainly makes it easy for dealers – travel agents – to sell the trips.

The front cover includes an outstanding montage of photos, while the back cover depicts a peaceful river next to a mountain. In the wholesale/dealer category, said one judge, “you need to use the front cover design to encourage people to open the catalog – selling on the back cover is not as important as in other categories.”

You don’t have to be a bicyclist, a hiker, or a walking enthusiast to enjoy this catalog, but if you are, you’ll love it, judges agreed. Lush photos depict trip participants having a ball, whether they’re hikers in New Mexico, a jubilant cross-country skier in the Canadian Rockies, or a smiling group enjoying a glass of wine during an elegant dinner in France’s Loire Valley.

The romantic yet informative copy is also top-notch. A copy block for a multisport vacation in the French Alps asks, “Where else in the world can you spend the afternoon hiking amid glacial mountains, only to slip into a Jacuzzi that evening, well sated after your Michelin-starred dinner?” The description for a trip to Morocco that includes biking, walking, and camel riding begins “Awash in the glow of the North African sun, Morocco serves up a dreamy concoction of exotic delights sure to satisfy your hunger for an extraordinary vacation.” Readers will enjoy Backroads’ copy “as much as reading the finest travel book,” said one judge. “Mark it an A+.”

Over the years, Annual Catalog Awards judges have used nearly every superlative in the book to describe Backroads, which is a perennial winner. But this edition, according to to one judge, “clearly demonstrates a team that does not sit on its laurels.”