Amid threats of a snowstorm and frigid temperatures, travel professionals and the public came out for the 11th annual The New York Times Travel Show.
Held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from February 28th through March 2nd, the show is the largest trade and consumer travel event in North America. For the three-day event the huge convention center was transformed into a carnival filled with colorful exhibit booths, ethnic presentations, and glossy catalogs for every travel destination on the map. The show featured close to 500 sponsors and exhibitors representing over 150 countries, including travel agencies, tourism boards, travel websites, and cruise companies, all eager to bring attention to their unique products.
The event began with a trade day on Friday for industry professionals with conferences and keynote speakers. Top executives from the Costa Rica Tourism Board announced the launch of the country’s new branding strategy. The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council presented Malaysia as a healthcare and wellness destination with the introduction of Patients Beyond Borders—a guide to Malaysian medical services and facilities for medical travelers.
Keynote presenters included Yana Gutierrez, a vice president of American Express, who spoke on the future of travel marketing. A panel discussion followed on social media, on-line travel. and how the Internet is revolutionizing travel sales. In the afternoon cruise planners from American Express discussed the latest in maritime travel trends. Misiones Argentina, ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Association), APTA (Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa) and ASTA also had evening events.
On Saturday the show opened to the public. Thousands of people wandered the aisles in search of travel tips, discounts, and special offers. Entertainment was everywhere you turned—cooking demonstrations of ethnic specialties from around the world; traditional folk dancing troupes from as far away as Hungary and China; even a Leprechaun spokesperson from Ireland.
Weekend seminars included a talk by Arthur and Pauline Frommer on new developments in travel and a panel, moderated by Times travel editor Monica Drake, on travel websites. Michelle Fee, president of Cruise Planners, hosted a discussion on “What’s new in travel?” And always a presence at the show, Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, shared tips to get the best deal when you travel.
Seminars continued through the weekend. Topics included: “Trending in Family Travel”; “Medical, Wellness and Spa Vacations”; “LGBT Travel”; “Travel Photography Tips”; and “Best Travel Apps.” A well-attended seminar was “Outlook for Travel to Cuba” with a panel of experts including Peggy Goldman of Friendly Planet Travel and moderated by John McAuliff of US/Cuba People to People Partnership. When asked about interest at the show, McAuliff told Travel World News:
“We were overwhelmed with questions and quite pleased with the panel, including the participation of Ray McGrath, a key State Department official who heads the Cuba section.”
Though groups like Friendly Planet Travel are providing opportunities for Americans to visit Cuba, McAuliff and others are waiting to see if government policy towards the island nation will soon change.
Cruise line exhibit booths greeted the attendees as they entered the convention center. Royal Caribbean, American Express Cruise Planners, and Celebrity Cruises had major presences. River cruise companies including Amras, Pandaw, Scenic, and Hurtigruten were also exhibitors. Travel World News spoke to Tom Markwell, a managing partner and head of sales and marketing for Haimark, the luxury riverboat company. Tom flew in from Chicago to attend the show.
“The show is a valuable venue to learn what new trends there are in the industry. ‘Trade day’ was a great opportunity for suppliers to introduce new products,” Tom explained. “But I hope that next year’s show will have more river cruise operators in attendance, considering how popular river cruising has become.”
Sienna Reid of Italy Hotline Custom and Gourmet Tours has been exhibiting since 2011. “We made many contacts our first year which helped propel the business forward. I wasn’t prepared to deal with the business generated!” she exclaimed. Sienna told Travel World News that this year’s show was very successful and generated a lot of interest. “People really responded to the idea that we are a small, non-corporate family-run business. The travel show helps me see how our company appeals to potential clients.”
Visitors to the Travel Show took home prizes and giveaways, compliments of the show’s many exhibitors. A lucky attendee won an Amras Cruise for two, valued at $7,000. The cruise company also offered $200 off any cruise booked at the show. Anantara and Elewana raffled off a three-night, all-inclusive stay at Anantara Bazaruto Island and Spa Resort in Mozambique. ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Association) offered a three-night stay at Morgan’s Rock, Nicaragua’s premier ecolodge. Lucky winners left with airline tickets to Mexico, Israel and Italy. One attendee won a six-night South African safari for two at Zulu Nyala luxury lodge and private game reserve, including all meals,valued at $5500. The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Education Foundation Charity Auction brought in bids for hotel stays at various properties through the Caribbean. Proceeds went to fund scholarships to island students studying hospitality and tourism.
The Travel Show’s supporting sponsors were South African Tourism and VisitFlorida.com. Contributing sponsors were the tourism boards of The Bahamas, The Keys and Key West and Turkey.