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A 50 Year Retrospective

In 2022, JAX FAX Travel Marketing celebrates our 50th year in business.

What makes this anniversary even more poignant is the fact that we have been a family business since the beginning, now run by the 2nd generation of the Cooke family. 

 

Jet Airtransport Exchange Inc., our parent entity, was the brainchild of my father, Clif Cooke. My dad had a lifelong love affair with aviation which started as a young man, being an aircraft spotter during WWII. It continued during a 4-year tour on an aircraft carrier in the Korean War, and  eventually led him to spend 19 years working for both Pan Am and TWA airlines. 

 

The Early Days

It was during his later years at TWA that Clif saw a need in the airline industry that was not being met. In the early 1970s, airline airfares were regulated, meaning each airline had to offer the same fare on any given route. The only way around this was the airline charter concept. However, what the charter market lacked was a consolidated information source that Travel Agents could reference to find who was offering charters, to where, and for how much. Clif had an idea of how to fill this need and teamed up with friend and fellow airline executive, Charlie Gatt, and in 1972 JAX (Jet Airtransport Exchange) was born. The idea behind this venture was to store this charter information in two IBM 370 mainframe computers, dubbed Adam and Eve, with one located in the US and the other in the UK. Travel Agents could then call in on an 800 number to query about the routes and pricing of worldwide charter flights. It should be noted that using a mainframe computer in a small business and the use of an 800 number were cutting edge technology at the time. 

 

JAX FAX Travel Marketing Magazine is Born

It didn’t take long for Clif and Charlie to realize that they needed to streamline their efforts and they closed the London office to focus on the US market. At the same time, Travel Agents started asking if it would be possible to get a print out of the charter information. After hiring a programmer to write a circulation management program and modify their database to an exportable format, a new magazine was born. Since the name JAX was already established, and what we were printing were FACTS about charter airfares, the new publication was named JAX FAX Travel Marketing Magazine. No, it has nothing to do with Jacksonville, FL, nor was the magazine ever faxed to Travel Advisors, two common misconceptions. 

 

Initially, JAX FAX was multiple pages of point to point charter listings organized by gateway and destination cities, a format that would last for another 48 years. It took a team of 5 “paste up artists” to come in for 5 days once a month, and cut out the lines of listings printed from the mainframe and paste them on boards which would be sent to the printer to be shot and printed. It wasn’t long before charter operators and tour operators started asking for display ads to stand out from the competition. Homeric Tours was one of those early display advertisers and remains a friend and customer to this day. In fact, you can see their ad in this very issue!

 

The next evolution of the magazine was the editorial product. Again, it was Homeric Tours that led the way in this regard. President Nikos Tsakanikas asked if we could do a write up of his company in the magazine. When this was published, other advertisers asked us to print their relevant news items, and our editorial product was born. Another of our early editorial features was for Perillo Tours who was featured on the cover of the magazine for over 15 years, and again graces the cover of this anniversary issue. Much like our current publication, the magazine was divided into 6 geographic sections, each section containing editorial and charter/tour listings, divided by a map of the region.

 

Charters are Replaced by Air Consolidation

In 1978, the government deregulated the airline industry, allowing airlines to set their own pricing based on demand. This was a direct threat to the air charter market, and therefore to JAX FAX. However, Clif quickly realized that a new type of airline distribution system, Air Consolidators, were now coming on the scene. He shifted gears to focus on this new market and soon JAX FAX was filled with listings from this new breed of airline ticket sellers. The promotion of Air Consolidators remained the major portion of our business for the next 40 years and continues to be a focus today. In fact, we frequently hear Travel Agents referring to JAX FAX as their Air Consolidator “bible.” The history of Air Consolidators can be found in a separate article in this issue.

 

JAX FAX Travel Marketing Magazine Becomes Destinations by Jax Fax Magazine

JAX FAX Magazine’s format remained virtually unchanged for the next 35 years, until 2014. During this time we endured the same trials and tribulations as the rest of the travel industry: both Gulf Wars, 9/11 and the 2008 recession, most notably. However, what did change was the ever-growing presence of the internet. Where once JAX FAX was virtually the only way Air Consolidators could bring their inventory to Travel Agents, now increasingly they were building websites and booking engines to sell their product directly. It was time to focus our attention on additional aspects of the travel industry. So, in 1992, also the year I joined the company, the decision was made to change the look of the magazine and each month have different destination featured on the cover. As our destination content grew monthly and our air consolidator listings decreased, in 2014 we made the decision to change the name of the magazine to Destinations by JAX FAX to better reflect what we were becoming, a magazine focused on educating Travel Agents/Advisors about worldwide tourism destinations and the suppliers that serve these destinations. At the same time, we launched a companion publication, Getting There by JAX FAX which focused on the Air Consolidator listings. This publication was distributed with Destinations for 3 years.

 

A Cross Platform Travel Trade Marketing Company

As the magazine evolved, so did our focus on electronic means of distribution. In 1996 we launched the first incarnation, of many, of our website –
www.jaxfax.com. Our website was then, and still is, designed to work alongside the print magazine as a place to archive articles, expand magazine sections like FAM trips, and give us an outlet for timely news items. 

 

In 2007, we introduced email marketing which has grown steadily ever since. Over the past decade we have also added additional electronic means of engaging with our Travel Advisor readership: training webinars, podcasts and social media marketing. Today we are a well balanced multi-media, B2B marketing company in the travel industry. And while the past two years have been the toughest in our 50 year history, we are still here and more bullish than ever about the future of travel, and more specifically, the future of the Travel Advisor distribution system. The best is yet to come!

 

Over the past 50 years, first my Dad, and then I, have had the opportunity to do a job we have loved, traveling the world doing it, and most importantly, met and worked with a lot of great people along the way. We have been truly blessed. I want to extend a sincere, heartfelt thank you to our current and previous employees, our 100s of supplier advertising partners, and our 1000s of Travel Advisor readers. Without all of you, none of this would have been possible.

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