Travel + Leisure, one of my favorite magazines, launched its South Asia edition this month.
According to the Editor's Note, "Sophisticated and experienced travellers from Karachi to Kathmandu and Colombo to Chennai now have their very own edition to bring them the best new destinations, travel trends and up-to-date news.... You can look forward to seeing fresh and unexpected itineraries in the region and abroad, a selection of luxurious and unique travel experiences and the most user-friendly information to help you plan your adventures."
The glossy travel magazine filled with exquisite photographs is a sight for sore eyes, but I wonder, Why launch an issue with a South Asia focus? Is the focus on South Asian destinations or is the focus a South Asia clientele?
The first issue contains a cover story on Goa, "Exploring Goa, Its Heart, Soul and History", by blogger, novelist and journalist, Sonia Faleiro, a story on Kochi, "Jewel of India", by Tad Friend, a story on the latest "designer dens in Delhi", by Monalika Namchoom, a story on fashion accessories available in India, and Anindita Ghosh's piece on The Imperial in New Delhi. Other than these, small items in the Reports section on Paparazzi, a new restaurant in Bangalore, a Salvatore Ferragamo store in Mumbai, a heritage hotel in Kathmandu, a luxury yacht in Male and accessories from Mauritius, a roundup of four spas (in Uttaranchal, Chennai, Mumbai and Udaipur) round out the first issue's coverage of South Asia.
The rest of the magazine is given over to other international destinations such as Africa, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Armenia, Paris, London, Orlando, Rome, Middle East markets, etc. that you might find in a Travel + Leisure magazine if you picked one up in the US.
I'm sure the American or Australian readership of T+L magazine will be as or perhaps more interested in Faleiro's nicely done story on Goa accompanied by warm and loving photographs by Prabuddha Das Gupta and will equally enjoy Friend's wonderful commentary and Overgaard's scintillating photography (check out the one of coconuts laid out to dry to be crushed for coconut oil) in the Kochi article.
At Rs. 150 per copy, the South Asia version is as expensive as its American counterpart (in terms of exchange rates), but a tad more exclusive in that it is a tiny part of the vast and populous South Asian market that can afford the price. If there is even a little doubt as to the magazine's intended audience, it is banished the moment you turn to the page on the fashion accessories - there is a Louis Vuitton scarf for Rs. 12,500, Louis Vuitton sandals for Rs. 34,000, a straw hat for Rs. 1,790. You get my drift.
The magazine's initial print order is apparently 80,000 strong and judging by the ads in the magazine (around a quarter of the 160 page magazine is filled with ads for high end products, including quite a few pages advertising T+L magazine itself), many advertisers have reposed faith in the reach of the magazine.
As you make your way through the issue, you conclude that the intended reader is a South Asian resident, the one with a lot of disposable income and an appetite for high-end consumables. And such a reader will not rest satisfied with traipsing around his own backyard, now, will he? Hence the alluring descriptions of a Byron Bay in Australia and that tiny vineyard in Provence.
One hopes, however, that having the luxury of producing an entire magazine focused on South Asia will prompt the publishers to look beyond the clichéd South Asian destinations and overrun hotspots. It would be a great pleasure indeed to open the magazine, flip through the pages and never have to read about Bali.