06 FEB 2019: The travel year is looking good. Despite political unrest and the wrath of Mother Nature in some destinations, you'd never consider these points taking a walk through the rows of tourism exhibits at this year's 16th annual New York Times Travel Show which was held at the Javits Center.

Over 35,500 people attended over three days in late January making this the biggest show ever produced by the New York Times Travel Show (NYTTS) since the tourism show was unveiled in 2004.

With 1200+ accredited media journalists worldwide and over 10,000 high-value travel professionals at the dedicated trade conference (including nearly 24,000 consumers) you understand why this is North America's largest consumer travel show and trade conference.

As one show organizer says nothing beats getting people out of the dead of a NYC's winter – at the height of off-season – than a show designed to kick-start people's travel plans for the year. “It's become an informational conduit and platform to access the biggest influencers and travel experts in the industry,” Julian Ahye, Executive Director of the NYTTS told Travel Industry Today.

Before the official ribbon cutting opening, travel trade delegates fielded seminars on a variety of subjects from the LGBTQ travel and Culinary Tourism to the Caribbean and Cuba.

On Luxury

At the Luxury Travel forum Ignacio Maza, executive vice president of the Signature Travel Network emphasized a curated vetted team of professionals. “Everyone wants to sell luxury so how do you do it?” he asked. “Join a strong network in a luxury space.”

Big Message

At the “State of the Industry,” top brass from five leading travel brands (Carnival Cruise Line, AmaWaterways, Tauck, Nexion Travel Group and Preferred Hotels & Resorts) shared how travel is back within their industries.

Jennifer Tombaugh, President of Tauck, observed last year 100 percent of their members polled in their company survey in October said it was going to be a record-breaking year in 2019. “I think we are all optimistic but are facing some headwinds now,” she says noting misinformation about the state of the national parks which are “actually welcoming tourists” and rivers in Europe being dry. “This is not the case at all,” she notes adding small ship cruising is experiencing great growth and Europe has come back big time too.

The day after the show Ahye said that this year's theme was, “Travel as the connective tissue that brings people together which is leading to more transformational travel.”

Show Highlights

Food was big. Incredible India, the presenting sponsor, had line-ups of curry lovers and samosa samplers. The Japan booth had a chef from the famous Okonomiyaki sauce company sizzling up the grill with squash fritters.

Folks did not leave hungry. At the Tastes of the World Pavilion ‘Top Chef’ host Padma Lakshmi headlined the event discussing travel, food, and her best-selling book, “Love, Loss and What We Ate: A Memoir.”

For the first time in NYTTS history, a passport acceptance event was hosted by the US Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. Attendees got to apply for US passports on the spot.

Attendees had access to outrageous exhibitor discounts and chances to win trips of a lifetime. A 6-night India trip and Dream Vacations gave away $2,000 toward a trip of your choice.

NYTTS: A Tourism Vehicle

Visit California launched its Road Trip Republic, a new consumer marketing campaign to some of the world's most renowned road trips. “California Road Trip Republic is a life-changing journey we want you to come and experience,” says Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. Visit California reports a 79 percent increase from overseas visitors renting cars over the past decade. “It’s become the number one choice for family travellers,” adds Beteta outlining some popular Instagrammable choices along its 400,000 miles of highway.

The Hungarian Tourism Agency showcased the country's new marketing campaign, "WOW Hungary-Wellspring of Wonders," a short 3.5 minute video that highlights activities and local attractions around some of Europe's most prized lakes.

Zsuzsanna Sarmon, Regional Head of Business Development in North America relays how Hungary is home to Europe’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Balaton is referred to by Hungarians as the “Hungarian Sea,” and Lake Hévíz, the world's largest biologically-active natural thermal lake is known to refresh body and soul alike.

The Central European country with its beautiful capital of Budapest that shimmers in the night sky like a jewelry box with its impressive Parliament Building, bridges and a castle along the banks of the Danube River has more to offer, media heard.  “We believe there are opportunities to venture further,” says Sarmon listing the rich Hungarian folk culture, spas, the cowboys of the Hungarian great plains and paprika.

Unique Global Tours

Back on the show floor, was the Chernobyl Tour, which leads groups to where the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred. The company is co-founded by a scientist/environmentalist who checked the radioactivity levels in the region in 1986.

Chief guide Kateryna Aslamova insists today clients who take the tour can learn about clean-up efforts and carry a Geiger counter to measure the radioactivity levels in the area.

Oxalis Adventure Tours

The world's largest cave was only discovered a decade ago in Vietnam, and tour operator Oxalis Adventure Tours hopes to get travellers to Son Doong Cave. “The economic benefit to the Phong Nha villagers since the tours started (7 years ago) has been phenomenal,” says Luke Ford, group business director. The village “has gone from the poorest region in Vietnam to the fastest growing adventure tourism area in Southeast Asia.”

Oxalis Adventure Tours is set up to offer a great jungle experience, with tours for a maximum group of 10, with 4-day trips supported by a crew of 30. Some of the team assisted in the Thai cave boy rescue mission.

Nomad Planet

Nomad Planet provides a room, travel arrangements, and facilitates group activities like meals and tours once or twice a week to bring people together. It’s like the Airbnb for remote workers and digital nomads who want to volunteer abroad.

“The idea is for people to go to a city to work – they have their own job and then at night and on the weekends they explore the city,” says Carl Jaramillo, Nomad.  Agents start at a 5 percent commission. In Budapest, they offer a promotional rate starting at $985 per person that for shared accommodations for a month.

L'Apres NYTTS

The travel trade was entertained with the new musical, The Cher Show performed to a sold-out Neil Simon Theatre. Three female Cher impersonators offered a slice of The Goddess of Pop's career ups and downs. A fabulous show!!

Another night, the top of the Empire State Building was all a glitter showcasing the city's jewel box from a bird's eye view. I used my CityPASS, a bundled discounted admissions program, which gives you easy access to nine attractions.

On my final evening I headed to the 61 Chelsea Piers for a dinner cruise around the New York Harbor with The Spirit of New York cruise. A red rose, champagne, a buffet dinner with unlimited delicacies, and views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge got me singing Frankie's hit tune, “New York, New York.”

NYC Sleepovers

Over 100,000 hotel rooms means a lots of choices. By Times Square, the Moxy NYC Times Square channels the youthful hipster crowd into selfies but the nightclub meets dorm room vibe also attracts those hipster suits from Europe.

By the Bowery, that once run-down hood that inspired Martin Scorsese film, ‘Gangs of New York’ you can witness a revival going on. Among the new kids on the block is CitizenM New York Bowery, the world's tallest modular hotel located at the corner of Delancey and Bowery.

I hit 'gentle' wake-up on my in-room I-pad only to be wakened by an automated voice that sounded like a female version of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey saying, “99, 98, 97 until she reached 1.”

The quiet sealed room meant no noise from the artsy lobby, with the bed positioned by the wall-to-window for the finest skyline views. One of the best sleeps I have had in Manhattan.

NYC Sightseeing and Sleepover in One Spot

South Street Seaport is New York City's answer to a port renaissance. It's a blend of urban chic and cobbled stones with a small footprint of the city's oldest buildings still in tact. Enroll in the Big Apple Greeter Program, a non-profit organization of volunteer guides offering free neighbourhood tours.

A good place to lay down your head is the AKA Wall Street. The new property part of the AKA boutique hotel collection is recognized as the leader in luxury extended stays.

Easy access to everywhere, you'll certainly want to extend your visit to the City That Never Sleeps once you stay here.

New York, New York – for now, it's a wrap folks.

NYC & Company 

 

 

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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