Fun Topics & Themes at the 2020 New York Times Travel Show

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Once again, we headed east for the annual New York Times Travel Show and was once again, a media partner, which we’ve been doing for several years now.  One of the things that makes this event such a draw for both travel professionals and avid travelers is that the New York Times Travel Show attracts more than 35,000 attendees with over 700 exhibitors from more than 175 countries, making it the largest travel trade and consumer show in North America.

What Makes the NY Times Travel Show Unique?

We love that despite the fact that many of the same vendors exhibit year after year, I always learn something new and I mean always. It’s one of those shows that attracts interesting people and those who work in the industry have a wealth of knowledge and experience to travel from every continent in the world. Whether you’re into wellness and yoga or are a big foodie and want to drink wine in Italy or Argentina, they’ve got you covered. There are safari and cruise line vendors (both ocean and river cruising), as well as adventure tour companies, luxury excursions and experiences, adventure travel tours and off-the-beaten path ideas.

Culture New York Times Travel Show

Learning about new skills & artistic expression is part of the experience at the New York Times Travel Show

Vibrant Color & Energy in All Directions

The other wonderful thing about this show is the diversity in all directions. You can explore “all safaris” or “all cruises” or simply explore by region of the world, i.e., SE Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. There is a huge section on New York State as well as Florida for obvious reasons (it’s an east coast show) and there’s no shortage of adventure travel options as well. We’d love to see more wellness and sustainability but these are categories which are growing so I feel that this will change in the not too distant future. Eco-tourism is another category of growth as is what people refer to as immersive and authentic travel.

As always, the stages offered cultural dancing and music. Also, at many of the booths, magic happened right on-site, from wine tasting and creative arts to nature and cultural eduation.

We so need to get to Egypt this year.

Celestyal Cruises

Celestyal Cruises had live Greek music at their booth. Some people danced in the hallways which is always such fun.

Taiwan had a big presence this year, but tons of announcements. Be sure to see/read our other New York Times Travel Show article (inspirations and new things learned)

India always has quite a big presence as well.

India’s booth (above and below) is always so vibrant and colorful — and, they were giving out samosas (yum!)

There were also a variety of adventures in the Africa section — from safaris to glamping.

Diverse Themes

The show covers diverse themes, from family and L.G.B.T.Q. to luxury, wellness and culinary travel. Some of the themes and topics covered at this year’s event include:

Diversity Abound at the New York Times Travel Show

Covering all of these themes are a combination of tourism boards, tour operators and of course, visionaries and renowned travel experts. Some of the speakers this year included folks like Chris Davidson of MMGY Globa, Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor, CBS News and Host of “The Travel Detective”, James Shillinglaw of Insider Travel Report, Pauline Frommer of Frommer’s Travel Guides, Arnie Weissman of Travel Weekly, Norie Quintos of National Geographic Travel Media, Anne Marie Moebes of Travel Market Report and His Excellency Helal Saeed Al Marri of Dubai Tourism among many others.

Pauline Frommer also spoke as she does every year and we had some time to chat with her for a bit in the Speaker Lounge.

Anthony Compagnone, Renee Blodgett and Pauline Frommer in the New York Times Travel Show Speaker room.

We always head to the Korea booth because they always have something interactive going on, including the ability to dress up in one of their robes and traditional attire – how fun!  The truth is, that even though I’d spent a couple of days in Busan as a stop over on a Princess Cruise to Japan several years ago, we know very little about the country as a whole and would love to see some of its spiritual side as well — there are lots of interesting temples here. And, let’s not forget Colombia and Sicily.

Us having fun with Sicily vendors, Colombia (feel the rhythm), South Korea, and others.

From Louisiana and Maine to Celtic countries and Southeast Asia, we had a blast!

At the International Media Marketplace event just prior to the kick off of the New York Times Travel Show, I ran into head of marketing for Palace Resorts Cessie Cerrato — we are huge fans of their resorts.

We love Cessie Cerrato of Palace Resorts – we hope to review another one of their properties this year. See our review of Moon Palace in Mexico!

Japan always has a great presence every year as well and we spent a few weeks there this past fall. Be sure to read our coverage from our many adventures there, which included Kamakura, Nikko, Yamanashi, Mt. Fuji, Tokyo and more.

And of course, the Caribbean had a presence as well and there were plenty of luxury and romantic getaways too choose from, including some high end resorts.

Our Video Recap of the Show!

Enjoy a short video recap of this year’s show.

Off-the-Beaten Path?

There are plenty of great options here depending on your interest, but the two which stood out for us this year have been on our list for over a year now — after our experience in the Solomons (and pleasantly surprised by them), we are eager to check out the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands Tourism

Christian Mani and Bethany Dawson of Cook Islands Tourism

The islands are stunning – for example, Aitutaki is home to the world’s most beautiful lagoon. There are even smaller ones actually — this island is about a 45-minute flight from Rarotonga and is known to be secluded and romantic with 15 motus (islets). After Rarotonga, Aitutaki is the second most visited island in the Cook Islands.  There are smaller ones as well. Check out the Tourism website for more ideas on excursions, natural beauty on and off the water, as well as factoids about the islands themselves.

Also, at the International Media Marketplace (IMM), I had a chance to meet with the marketing folks behind Faroe Islands. I asked several people over the course of our several day stay in Manhattan and not one had heard of them. They’re spectacular as far as I can tell — remote, pristine, eco-friendly and the views are out of this world — think of the best of Scotland and Iceland but indeed, a bit more off-the-beaten path.

I learned that the 18 mountainous islands of the Faroe Islands were shaped by volcanic activity 50-60 million years ago. The original plateau has been restructured by the glaciers of the ice age, and the land­scape eroded into an archipela­go characterised by tall mountains, steep cliffs, deep valleys and narrow fjords. What that equates to is raw and stunning natural beauty.

The Faroe Islands are located at the doorstep of the Arctic so those who appreciate colder climates will find this to be a more appealing option than the Cook Islands. Not unlike Iceland, you can experience rain, followed by snow, then sun, or literally all four weather seasons in one day.

The fauna reflects the remoteness of the islands, as there are few terrestrial species, but plenty of seabirds and marine animals. In fact, the marine ecosystems around the Faroe Islands are highly productive and boast a lot of unusual and diverse marine species.  The Faroe Islands are calling to us and we are eager to visit. Check out their website for more ideas, inspiration, photos and things to do.

Cultural Stages & Offerings

Each year, there are various cultural stages in each corner of the exhibit hall and nearly every hour, something unique (and fun) is being presented.  For example, this year, we were entertained (music, dance, etc) by the tourism boards & country regions of Costa Rica, South Africa, Brazil (a country I’ve yet to still visit), Italy (traditional Sicilian songs were performed by Luca Mangano), Avalon Waterways, Croatia and Alaska.

Speaking of Italy, we learned about a new cooking class experience in Tuscany — stay in a castle in a small Tuscan Village and take cooking classes every day.

Puglia is also always present and touts their incredible wine routes — they often have tastings at their booth.

Tokyo showed an ice sculpture made of Japanese iconic images created with crystal clear ice: it’s an exciting and dramatic demonstration to witness as it comes together with such speed & precision. We are huge fans of Tokyo and Japan — be sure to see our coverage from our trip last fall.  Indonesia showed up to present some lovely dances on stage as well as some of their renowned puppets and art.

Beautiful Indonesia Puppets at the Indonesia booth

And, we always have a good time at the Colombia booth every year — one year, they took videos of people dancing in front of a vibrant, colorful and creative prop.

Ready to head to Colombia with us?

Polar Latitudes Hayley Shepard spoke about Antarctica and programs you can do there, and Turkish Airlines updated attendees about flights from their new Istanbul Airport. Thailand brought us into the world of Thai Boxing, and we sipped wines as we do every year from Puglia and Argentina. I always love watching the traditional Indonesian dances on stage and this year was no different — they’re amazing as always. Rwanda did an “Intore” dance performance and the Rhythms of the Caucasus were led by Alyona Badalova and Uzbekistan performers.

Anthony and I had a surprisingly fun trip to Salem a few years back, so much so that we ended up staying longer than anticipated — Destination Salem presented an reenactment of a Salem witch trial — be sure to also see the coverage from our trip. There was also a performance by the Greek Tourism Board and an informational presentation by the Polish Tourism Board where they were offering a giveaway for two to Poland.

Salem Massachusetts Tourism Board at the New York Times Travel Show

And as we mentioned, New York State always has a huge presence as well, not surprising given the show’s location.

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There are boutique tours of Cuba as well, which is growing as a popular destination now that it is wide open.

And of course, there’s a growing interest in China — we were scheduled to head to China last year, but it fell through, so it remains on the list.

Additionally, Sagres Vacations presented on Portugal and Spain — from their pristine beaches, castles, palaces to family friendly hotels and food. We are eager to get to Portugal to explore it as a possible country for sacred retreats and events. This makes a great segway into the world of spiritual travel and wellness.

Ancient Wisdom & Spirituality

There have always been ancient pilgrimages you can take to sacred land — quite frankly, all land is ‘sacred’ but there are destinations people think of more often when we speak of spiritual experiences, like Egypt, Israel, Jordan, India, Peru, parts of Mexico and Hawaii, China, Japan and Tibet. And, because this category is of great interest to us and our readers, we spent time with some of the tour operators and tourism boards who lead sacred tours to attractions on land and at sea.

I haven’t been to Morocco in over two decades so curious to see how it has changed — I feel that there may be some magical places here to hold retreats and sacred journeys — we’ve yet to explore. We spent a little time chatting with a couple of tour operators to see what offerings could be co-created for a retreat from the United States.

The Morocco booth

We were excited to present on one of the workshop stages on Sunday. The topic? Transformative Travel: Why Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone will Transform Your Life. A big aspect of what we talked about in our session was the internal journey and why the inward exploration is as important as the external one if you want true transformation. We spoke of the approach to Transformative Travel (or some may refer to it as Conscious Travel although there are slight distinctions), as a mindset. In other words….in order to tap into the real magic on the road, it requires a mindset shift.

Transformative Travel

Transformative Travel is a Mindset!

This includes things like being present while you’re on the road, being a participant rather than the observer, engaging with cultural activities to ‘feel the energy‘ and understand a culture more deeply. Themes like gratitude, taking time to just BE PRESENT and connect with locals were examples we discussed during our talk and afterwards, in an interactive dialogue with attendees. We included deeply immersive nature and eco-tourism experiences so you can also not just connect to the cultural aspects of a destination but the land itself.

And, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the power of purpose & contribution — giving back to something bigger than yourself. The idea is that having truly immersive and transformative experiences over time will shift your consciousness so much that you will return from your travels wanting to give back as well, i.e., volunteer, help a cause, teach your skills.

Ways to give back while having a truly immersive travel experience, like volunteering your skills (academic, creative or other) on the ground, or volunteer to assist with things which need our help like clearing our oceans from plastic, re-igniting our reef and helping elephants be treated in fair and humane ways.

Delivering our talk on Transformative Travel on Sunday

Here are some useful links — read last year’s coverage of the show as well as from 2018. Don’t miss this show next year — it is always held at the end of January at the Javits Center in New York City.

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