Printed travel brochures evolve, but haven’t gone out of style
by JoAnna Haugen
Few things elicit wanderlust like vivid images of a lion on the prowl, colourful woven threads in an artisan’s worn hands, or the misty morning sunrise from atop a mountain spread across the pages of a glossy travel publication.
Yet, nearly universal access to the internet and growing concern over the climate crisis surfaces this question: Do printed brochures have a future in the tourism industry?
At Explore, the answer is yes — but the production process has evolved significantly and mindfully over the years. The company’s extensive customer research revealed its clients still want a physical brochure, likely due to age demographics, according to Evangeline Cole, a marketing executive for Explore. However, the company has reduced the number of brochures it prints annually by 36% since 2019 by consolidating printed products, reducing the number of pages, eliminating specific trip details from the text, and requiring people to “opt in” to receive one.
Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel has a similar approach: “We print a generic brochure without dates and prices to ensure that it has a long shelf life,” said Michael Pullman, head of marketing. “This means we are not printing new brochures ever year, saving time and helping to minimise waste.”
Beyond content changes, material sourcing has also evolved. Explore prints brochures and envelopes on responsibly sourced paper from sustainably managed forests. The products use water-based glue and planet-based ink, and there are no staples, foils, or UV finishes, so they are easily recycled. Wild Frontiers uses sustainable FSC paper.
While many people working in the tourism industry say printed brochures are obsolete, companies still using them argue that’s not the case. In a digital-reliant world, the purpose of tourism brochures has also evolved, though some people simply prefer printed collateral. Though fewer people request printed brochures, Pullman noted they encourage people to visit the company’s website for more information. “We do find it useful to have material to hand out at events and shows,” he said.
Similarly, the team at Ramblers Walking Holidays provides all information on the company’s website but supplements this with a pared down printed product without dates or prices for its customers, who tend to be 67 years of age and older. “We surveyed our database and found that our customers like to use a brochure,” said Gemma Chase, marketing manager for Ramblers Walking Holidays, “but they also know they can find all the information they need online.”
Explore’s team has noticed its current brochure strategy has also increased their longevity. “It’s almost a coffee table book for people,” said Prue Stone, group head of sustainability at Hotelplan UK. “Through the research, we know this almost sits with people for a year. It’s a point of inspiration, it’s that reference point, it’s what they talk to their friends about. It’s a starting point.”
About the Author
JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.
She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.
A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure.