New York Times Travel Show Review
This past weekend I attended the New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob Javits Center. This was my first time at the show and I attended on the press day and the following day when the floor was open to the public. The Javits was buzzing with excitement as attendees streamed into conference rooms to hear the latest in travel news and destination marketing. Over 500 exhibitors from 150 countries were represented.
There were quite a few talks that I would have liked to attend but they scheduled all of them in the same time blocks, which made it hard to choose.
Travel Trends by American Express Travel
Yana Gutierrez of American Express Travel was the keynote speaker and gave valuable insight into predicting travel trends. The two top groups on the travel landscape are Young Millenials and Baby Boomers. According to Amex statistics, Millenials make up 25% of the American population and the Baby Boomers take four to five trips a year. Guiterrez urged that these groups must not be overlooked when promoting travel. There are overlapping considerations in both groups, namely,
• People will spend more on a memorable travel experience.
• Good service matters at all stages of a trip. (booking, during the trip, post trip)
• Personalized service is a high value.
Private accommodation is a $24 billion industry and Amex has partnered with Air B’n’B to broaden their scope in providing a variety of accommodation for travelers. Gutierrez assured that “hotels aren’t hurting” despite the boom in private accommodations.
After the keynote speech, a panel featuring travel expert Peter Greenberg, Arabella Bowen, editor-in-chief of Fodor’s travel guidebooks and Wendy Perrin of Trip Advisor convened. According Bowen, guidebook sales are on the rise, this is key for people travelling to counties with limited internet, like Myanmar. Shareability is important, thus making travel a social, community based and networked experience.
The group agreed that the hottest destinations for 2015 are Cuba, Croatia, Columbia, Chile and Vietnam. They also predicted the rise in intercity bus connections and destinations that rival the airlines. The Bolt Bus’ routes between New York and Boston was cited as a viable alternative to air travel.
The Focus on the Caribbean
This talk was disappointing as the presenters focused mainly on carnival and invited the press to push the different island’s carnivals in their publications. As we all know, the Caribbean is MUCH more than carnival. It’s as if the tourist boards aren’t willing to dig deeper into the cultures and come up with more innovative ways to promote the islands. I wanted to hear of more personalized experiences throughout the Caribbean. They might as well put on the brochure, “Party at carnival then run back to your all inclusive compound. You’re safe there.” Needless to say, I left that talk early.
Focus on Travel Blogging
Michael Hudson of Go See Write blogging fame was the presenter for this much anticipated talk. The room was full and Hudson did a poll via show of hands to see who many bloggers and public relations professionals were present. The split was almost even. I was glad that there were just as many PR professionals in attendance as bloggers. The increased interest is an indication that the bridge to companies working with bloggers is finally being gapped.
Hudson quit his job as a lawyer and started traveling back in 2007. He started his blog to share his travels with friends and families. He is now a location independent and told the audience that three weeks in at any destination is a bit too long for him. This guy does not live anywhere. An authority on blogging, he was rife with tips for both companies seeking to work with bloggers and how bloggers can make themselves attractive to companies.
• Bloggers are content creators with dedicated followers.
• Bloggers can be evangelists for products.
• Bloggers live in the realm of social media.
• Content is published quickly.
When evaluating bloggers, companies should look for the following:
• Frequency of postings.
• Comments and interaction with readers
• Appropriate content.
• Self hosted site.
Hudson was adamant that the top heavy number of thousands of Facebook likes or subscribers should not be the driving factor when choosing a blogger. Instead, companies should be more qualitative in their search and spend a few minutes reading posts.
Bloggers can get noticed by doing to following:
• Attending face to face conferences.
• Actively reach out to companies.
• Clearly define their niche.
• Regular posting and proof reading.
• Having a “Here’s what I can do for you” mentality.
Focus on Cuba
Without a doubt, Cuba is the destination for 2015 for Americans. It was hard to find a seat in this jam packed room of curious attendees. Most of the presenters were from tour companies promoting their own interests. There was a representative from the US State Department who had just arrived from Havanna after hammering out the details of travel to Cuba. The takeaway from the talk was that Cuba is not yet open to tourists from America in the same was as one can book a ticket independently, take their passport and enter the country. However, there are twelve categories for people to people transport and cultural exchanges that are accommodated by tour operators.
Best pavilions were Turkey, who served delicious baklava and black tea and Ethiad’s mock presentation of their business class and residence in the sky, featuring three rooms of ultimate luxury. The airline is bringing the hotel experience to the skies with flatware and mood lighting in the cabins. The South Africa pavilion was also good with free T-shirts giveaways. Unlike the other African countries who were just marketing safaris, the Visit South Africa pavilion promoted their country in a more well rounded way.
I found great value personally in attending these talks and hope to return next year.