The New York Times Travel Show, an annual consumer and trade show at the Javits Center in New York City, has become a must-attend event for travel media, tourism organizations, tour operators and travel enthusiasts. And indeed, they were all there this weekend, along with a samurai (Japan) and a sloth (SeaWorld) and about one million brochures.
There are hundreds of booths and displays at the NYT Travel Show, as travel professionals fly in from all over the world to try to convince you to go to places like Antigua, Alaska and Azerbaijan (which really enticed me with a glossy booklet on the region’s carpets, as I still regret not buying a rug in Istanbul). And that’s just a sampling of the A’s…
This was an extra-special New York Times Travel Show for me, because on Saturday morning I was panelist at Travel Bloggers Panel – Connect with Influential Media. It was moderated by Lillian Africano, SATW president, and the other panelists were Ed Wetschler of Recommend Magazine, Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt, Laura Bly of USA Today and Don George of Gadling. We discussed Twitter, apartment rentals, Caribbean boutique hotels, the importance of researching a destination’s history before you visit and how the term “staycation” may finally be over but “girlfriend getaways” is here to stay.
On Friday and Saturday, I spent a few hours walking around the exhibitions, which were divided up geographically. It was pretty cool to be able to go from Maine to India to Australia to Panama and back up to Canada in just a few minutes.
The back area of the enormous room, however, belonged to SeaWorld. Now SeaWorld might be a tough sell when there are tour operators just a few feet away who can bring you to view penguins and dolphins in the wild. However, SeaWorld really stole show by bringing several live animals, including an adorable sloth who was wrapped around its trainer like a sleepy toddler.
If there was one travel trend that was evident, it was authentic travel. In this age where you can see real-time photos from around the world right on your iPhone and there’s an app for everything, travelers are craving something different and tangible when they travel. Morocco captured this perfectly with its “Travel for Real” slogan that topped off a rather ambitious architecture structure. In this same vein, a lot of countries were showing off traditional costumes, song and dance. Or in the case of Ecuador, it was all three and it was very well executed. Mexico’s band was excellent too.
You know who weren’t represented at the NYT Travel Show? Marseille and Amsterdam, two cities that all of the top travel publications have predicted will the hottest destinations for 2013. Perhaps when you’re hot enough you don’t have to bother? In truth, Western Europe was underrepresented this year and in the other years that I went too.
The most surprising destination that I saw was North Korea. By this I mean it was a tour company, Uri Tours,that specializes in North Korea, as I can’t imagine that the DPRK has a tourism board although they sure need one more than anyone. The second most surprising destination that I saw was Westchester, a suburb of New York City. I really don’t recommend that you vacation there. But I guess you never appreciate what’s in your own backyard…