The readers of Travel Agent magazine have a certain familiarity with its editors and writers. You see their bylines, read their stories and columns, you may have even met some of them in your travels. But your copy of our magazine would never make it to your desk without the dedicated, behind-the-scenes work of our production department. For nearly 40 years the person heading that department was Marilyn Hiris, and I was privileged to be her co-worker and friend for more than 30 of those years. Over time Hiris has dealt with continual change in both the travel and publishing industries and witnessed the effects the former has had on the latter.
“I came onboard as an assistant in October of 1973,” she says, and it wasn’t long before she was promoted to production manager, and for the last several years she has held the title of production director. Among the other responsibilities of her job was the trafficking and placement of ads, which gave her a unique perspective on the evolution of the travel industry.
Hiris (right) with long-time co-workers (from left) Sarah Ross, director of manufacturing operations; Managing Editor David Moseder; and Ken Grant, retired former director of Travel Agent University.
During her first 15 years on the job, print was the primary source of information for the travel trade and Travel Agent was “published twice a week to keep agents up to date on the latest news of the industry,” she says. “In those days it was very hard-news oriented. The covers consisted of nine headlines plus a table of contents—no photos.” And on the inside, “The magazine was filled with airline ads.” When the airlines first capped—then reduced—commissions and eventually eliminated them, the ripple effect led to significantly less advertising by the carriers.
By that time the magazine had evolved into a newsweekly with full-cover photo covers and more color inside—“a new challenge for production,” she says. In 2001, www.travelagentcentral.com was born to provide up-to-the-minute industry news. Six years later Travel Agent went bimonthly, but the launch of Luxury Travel Advisor earlier in the decade and an increase in destination planners and other supplements (now known as our “Focus” series) ensured that Hiris and the Questex production team were kept no less busy.
Hiris with parent company Questex Media executives (from left) John McMahon, executive VP/group publisher, Hospitality & Travel; Executive VP Tony D’Avino; and President & CEO Kerry Gumas.
While she embraces the digital age, Hiris, who has worked on roughly 3,000 issues and supplements of Travel Agent and sister publications, will always have a love of print. “There is something about holding a finished product in your hands…there’s a satisfaction you can’t get from digital.”
When she managed to get out from behind the production desk, Hiris, not surprisingly, loved to travel. Her favorite trip was a visit to Japan in 1976. “I had a friend who lived in Tokyo who I had met when she was a graduate student working at the U.N. She took me on a personal cross-country tour.” Highlights, says Hiris, included the Buddhist temples in Kyoto, a city she describes as “magical,” and having dinner with a mushroom farmer’s family on Mount Aso. A few years later she was invited on a trade trip to Peru that included Machu Picchu “when it was still considered a ‘future’ tourist destination.” She has also traveled extensively throughout Europe and names Barcelona, Spain, as her favorite city “because I love the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.”
Everyone at Questex Media wishes Marilyn Hiris all our best and we look forward to hearing from her about her post-Travel Agent travels.