Lessons from the Travel Show

This weekend’s New York Times Travel Show was a learning experience. It was my first travel trade show and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, a few days before I purchased my ticket, Spunky Girl Monologues wrote a post about Travel Consumer Shows (I love when other people have great timing). Armed with a little advice, I rushed to print up some business cards that I could hand out while talking with everyone.

When I registered online just days before the show, I signed up for the VIP Fast Pass (I had no idea what that was for, but it was free) and entered the name of this website. It was the right decision as it allowed me to wear a badge with my site’s name proudly displayed. Almost everyone I met asked what Booze, Food, Travel was, and I was able to pitch it briefly.NY Times Travel Show

In most cases, booths had a basket for people to drop their business cards. However, I noticed that after talking with some of the tour operators, my card was picked up and placed elsewhere (I can only assume this was a positive reaction). Of course, I also talked with some attendees who were interested in my work. I even met a friendly couple who were interested in Macau, for which I offered assistance.

After walking through a couple aisles, I realized that I was wasting time with tourism boards and that I should focus my attention on tour operators, as they were the ones more interested in connecting with writers. However, I did pick up some information on destinations of interest, which included more local trips. The tourism boards also had more giveaways and contests, so it was worthwhile to at least stop by the booths. They were also more crowded than the tour operator booths.

I also found it easier to talk with tour operators and tourism boards after asking questions about the operation and/or destination. Then I could tweak my pitch to fit with whomever I was speaking. It worked best when I met people from non-profit organizations.

Travel show seminars can be useful and entertaining, but it’s not always easy to keep track of time while walking around the Javits Center (I missed one seminar that sounded interesting). Listening to the Frommers speak about travel trends, most of which pertain to off-setting the cost of flights, was informative–I have a few more websites to browse before planning my next escape. Other seminars weren’t as helpful for more seasoned travelers or for travel writers. And meeting my third Travel Channel host was an added bonus to the day (I’ve also met Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern).

Along with keeping track of time, I found it difficult to coordinate eating at the event. There were plenty of tastings going on throughout the day, but I was never sure where or when. The tastings were also crowded. Fortunately, I brought a granola bar, so I didn’t have to buy food from an overpriced vendor. It didn’t help that there were a few wine and spirits tastings to go with my near-empty stomach.

My final observation for the day is that it’s tiring. I walked from the PATH station at 33rd St. to the Javits Center, then I walked around the show for nearly eight hours before heading back to the PATH. I had rather comfortable shoes on, but nothing is that comfortable for that long. My feet still hurt on Sunday.

If I were to attend another travel show, I would definitely do my research first. It’s best to meet people early in the day when it’s less crowded, so it would require some research to decide whom to meet with first rather than walk up and down the aisles.

No matter what the outcome of the day, it was worth $14 for a day out of the apartment.

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