Founded in 2012, SUITCASE magazine was launched by Serena Guen who felt frustrated at existing travel publications not catering to her needs when researching trips. The photos were generic, the destinations too well-trodden and the tips merely skimmed the surface. After growing a strong team over the years, Serena launched SUITCASE Media last year, where they develop content for travel brands using their sharp eye and creative expertise. A voice for a new generation of travellers, Serena tells us how the vision was born:
What did you see missing in travel media?
At the time I started SUITCASE, most travel magazines were being quite lazy. They were all covering the same places and just using press imagery. This wasn’t catering to how people want to travel today, i.e. living the best of local life. We interviewed 500 people and 98% said they wanted print. Planning and booking travel is so complicated (the average person goes on 25 different websites) so they want to have the research given to them as a physical product. Now we’re much more focussed on our website and we recently launched a travel planner, which allows you to build your own city guides. Travel is so personal now - we do the first level of curation and then allow people to explore from there.
What have you discovered about print culture in the UK?
It’s big - here people spend two times more on magazines than they do on Netflix. Globally, print magazine sales are decreasing but independent magazine sales are increasing, especially in the travel sector where they’re growing at 10% a year.
You used to live in the US but are now based in the UK. Has this influenced the way you travel?
Living in the US changed more about how I lived rather than how I travelled. Living in New York made me much more ambitious as everyone has a side hustle.
Why do you think travel is so important to millennials and Gen Z?
Because people are realising that it’s more valuable to spend money on an experience that they’ll remember. Gen Z and millennials are travelling more than ever because they’re renting so they have more disposable income. In Alain de Botton’s ‘The Art of Travel,’ he says we should travel more similarly to how we live by spending time doing things we actually like, rather than pushing through the daily grind to then collapsing on a beach. We don’t really encourage bucket-list travel because that’s equally unfulfilling, i.e. spending one day somewhere for the sake of it.
When it comes to travel experiences versus products, how does SUITCASE fit into this as a fashion/travel magazine?
When I first started SUITCASE, I focussed on fashion and travel almost equally. I always thought fashion was a really easy access point into any culture. Now we try to integrate the fashion more seamlessly through ‘what to pack’ features and so on. There’s nothing worse than going somewhere and looking completely out of place. We try and make it easier for people to discover the next big thing by interviewing local designers.
How has the travel industry changed since SUITCASE began?
It’s a lot more exciting. France is still the number one destination, but nowadays people are more willing to try something different, especially when it comes to weekend breaks in Europe. The other big trends we’re seeing are adventure travel and food tourism. People will travel somewhere specifically for a really good restaurant, such as Fäviken in Sweden (which is incredible) or Noma in Denmark.
How have you adapted your content strategy?
The travel industry is definitely looking for more organic ways to access their audiences. We see this evolving in two directions: either through brand partnerships or by creating natural content for their own channels (we are doing this through SUITCASE Media for hotels and travel brands). For our collaboration with MUJI, we worked on multi-platform projects: we shot their travel collection (which will feature in print, online and social media), we curated their window displays across Europe and we’re organising an in-store event with adventure photographer Emily Garthwaite.
Could you tell us about your target audience?
Our audience are ‘urban professional millennials’ i.e. they need to have a certain income to appreciate our content. The majority of millennial travellers will just be looking for a deal but our readers prioritise curation over what’s cheapest, regardless of age.
What was your biggest brand collaboration success?
We did a partnership with Rolex last year, which was a series of online city guides; you’d input travel dates and it would create an itinerary for you. We’re now building on that so people can use our site to put together their own trips. It was such a fun partnership and we got so many more readers to our site because of it.
What do you envision for SUITCASE magazine in the next five years?
Our biggest aim is to become the go-to travel brand for millennial mindsets i.e. those who are tech-savvy and want to get under the skin of a city. We have to be as useful as possible to make their lives easier - it’s not just for inspiration.
Where are you going next? Where should be on our radar?
Sardinia then Miami. Planning my personal holidays is the hardest as there’s so many places I want to go. As for popular destinations to keep on your radar, generally speaking it’s Mexico, Sri Lanka, Japan, Sicily, Tbilisi and Namibia.