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Anyone Else Attending the Virtual Travel and Adventure Shows?

I had a ticket for the March, 2020 Travel and Adventure Show in Santa Clara, California, where Rick was scheduled to speak. The conference was pre-empted by the pandemic, but the organizers regrouped, and have launched a monthly series of online shows.

October was for Europe. Rick showed excerpts of his travel skills videos and answered audience questions.

November was for Latin America and the Caribbean. Pauline Frommer, daughter of the famous guidebook publisher, gave practical advice about the return of travel.

December will be for the USA.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two. There's a bit of a commercial slant, with sales talks by cruise lines and resorts, but there is also plenty of non-sales content. Best of all, you can get an invitation to a Zoom "happy hour" at the end of the show (10 PM Eastern, 7 PM Pacific), during which you can talk with fellow attendees.

I'm curious whether other forum members are attending these online shows, and what you think of them.

Posted by
1581 posts

Never heard about them. I did attend several years ago here in Santa Barbara.

Posted by
1260 posts

I haven’t, I used to go to the physical shows but that was basically for the freebies. Over the last few years, they’ve really cut back on the free stuff, you might be lucky to get a couple of pens now.

I’ve seen some of Rick’s presentations from the travel shows, pretty similar to his books for general information. It’s a great way for those who aren’t readers to get some good information

Posted by
2536 posts

We’ve always attended the NYTimes travel show in NY a which is usually the end of January. It has been cancelled for 2021 with no virtual option. We usually had an idea of where we were going and I would pick up city maps and some brochures to help with my planning. We would speak with the vendors and get some that way too. We always stopped by the Croatian booth. Last year the representative knew my husband’s aunt. Small world.

Posted by
4147 posts

We attended the Wash DC show a few times. Rick’s presentation was essentially the same each time as was Pauline Frommer’s. While informative, Rick’s seemed more like sales pitches for his tours. Also, when he was there, there were fewer vendors from Europe than the years when he wasn’t there. We did enjoy seeing Andrew Zimmern, Samantha Brown, and Don Wildman.

Posted by
91 posts

Thanks for replying, Diane, Dale, Barbara and jaimeelsabio. Maybe someday I'll get to attend the physical version of the show, and perhaps there will be new freebies to help lure people back to travel!

I didn't know about the New York Times travel show; let's hope it returns in a future year, too.

In the meantime, will I see some of you in the Zoom happy hour at the end of the December 9, 2020 Travel and Adventure Show? There was a free ticket offer on Black Friday, but I think you might still be able to request a free ticket. I recommend providing a secondary e-mail address so as not to be overwhelmed by vendor e-mails. To get an invitation to the happy hour, which is the truly interactive part of the show, you have to visit all of the vendor booths and scan your virtual badge, allowing each vendor to e-mail you.

I especially want to support this month's event because it focuses on the US, with representatives from many states in attendance, and Pauline Frommer as the keynote speaker. We keep hearing that our first, tentative steps back to travel will involve discovering places closer to home.

Posted by
3706 posts

When a person can find out the answer to all travel questions instantly online, I don’t see the purpose of a travel show. What are these, pep talks?

I haven't dealt with travel "professionals" since this 1980s experience. I was trying to book a charter flight to Mexico to do some roughing it travel across the Yucatan. I called a travel agent to book the flights, it was a self-proclaimed "adventure travel" company, and the answering machine recording had the sound of monkeys hooting and elephants braying in the background. The woman called me back and refused my business, saying she doesn't book flights to Mexico, only "adventure destinations" like tours to Costa Rica. I don't see how vegetative state travel, where all the transportation and meals and activities are pre-booked and the person just plays follow-the-leader day after day to be any kind of travel I want to do, much less be legitimately called "adventure" travel. The adventure is working it out for yourself, partly in advance and partly on the fly while there. An independent trip to Ohio can be vastly more adventurous than a packaged tour to Uganda.

Posted by
6876 posts

When a person can find out the answer to all travel questions
instantly online, I don’t see the purpose of a travel show.

I've never been to a travel show but I imagine it's like any other trade show - like a car show, ComicCon, SXSW, tech shows, etc. - where people actually enjoy the person-to-person interactions and presentations from travel writers they've heard about or read. Some people don't draw inspiration purely from the internet or use it as their sole source, and there are a lot of people who are not advanced travelers (and some haven't ever been abroad) who benefit from being able to compare, ask questions, and talk to people from the industry directly. Sure, it's all an advertising and marketing bonanza, but just because the stuff they're selling it doesn't fit your style of travel doesn't mean it's useless for many people. If the internet could answer all questions and succinctly package trusted information for every segment of the travel market for free, there would be no travel shows, no guidebooks, no guided tours, etc. If people didn't sincerely trust certain players in the business (like Steves) and have the opportunity to interact with him someplace (Edmunds, the travel circuit, etc.), this forum wouldn't exist either.

Posted by
3706 posts

I've never been to a travel show

Maybe those who have can say what the appeal is, what they have learned, aside from freebies. Not trying to veer the topic away from what these shows are about. Is it inspiration? Can't you get that from reading National Geographic? Has independent travel not worked out for you, or is there some reason you want tours? Do you have mobility issues, time constraints, etc, that make independent travel impractical? Or do you pick up glossy tour brochures at the show and then model an independent tour based on one or more?

there would be no travel shows

My experience with parents of high school tour groups is that the average American has no idea what travel actually costs, or what the markups on the tours are, or worse that there is some kind of savings there in bulk discounts or something, and the tour is the cheaper way to go. It could be that the perpetual ignorance of the traveling public is the travel business model.

Posted by
759 posts

It is called human interaction. Some people like being around other human beings. Cheaper? Maybe, maybe not. And who gives a damn about “cheaper”..ok, some do but many do not. I travel for the experience and education. Cost is the last item on my list of considerations. There is so much more to the world the staring ar a computer screen. A show can provide onsite, differing opinions, stories of experience from others, to just general conversation from others in similar situations (learning about travel) and all of that can roll into “inspiration” and confidence. Are tours better then solo travel, yes and no. The exact same can be said of independent travel. There is no absolute correct answer for each situation and individual.

Posted by
2207 posts

I've been to a few Travel Shows over the years. My last one was the BIT Milano in early February 2020, just as COVID was developing in the area. This public travel forum in northwest Milan attracted more than 10,000 travelers and had an intertwined B2B component. It was a multi-level facility and the top two floors were travel representatives from around the world. The ground floor was all Italy and most definitely, the most crowded part of the building.

Similar to other trade events, each Seller had their own booth/displays with plenty of literature, video, guest speakers, USB sticks, and staff eager to talk about their product/location. One of the most popular was the Museo Ferrari booth, as you could "drive" a Ferrari on the Monza track (At times, huge lines!). As mentioned, personal interactions, the ability to ask specific questions, to be exposed to locations you've never considered, and meeting future-travel contacts made my two-day visit worthwhile.

Posted by
3706 posts

I travel for the experience and education

Aside: the quantity/intensity of the travel experience, and the educational aspect, is inversely related to the money spent. Money insulates and numbs when it comes to travel, it doesn’t enrich.

I’ve never heard of a travel convention, or even seen an advertisement for one. From Ron’s pic I see that destinations like Kerala have booths, in addition to tour companies.

Posted by
2207 posts
  • I’ve never heard of a travel convention or even seen an advertisement for one.

  • When a person can find out the answer to all travel questions instantly online, I don’t see the purpose of a travel show.

  • ... the average American has no idea what travel actually costs, or what the markups on the tours are, It could be that the perpetual ignorance of the traveling public is the travel business model.

  • The quantity/intensity of the travel experience, and the educational aspect, is inversely related to the money spent. Money
    insulates and numbs when it comes to travel, it doesn’t enrich.

@Tom_MN, I'm a little surprised by your postings. If you've never been to a trade convention, how can you criticize their viability? I suggest you search on the internet and you'll find hundreds advertised all over the world. Try one out! At these events, you will find tour companies, small, resort & 5-star hotels, tourist information desks who are excited to talk about their country, city, or region, guide companies, museums - like the Louvre. Prado, or the Museo Ferrari, Rail Europe (or SNCF, Trenitalia & Italo reps), government agencies, conservationists, and too many more categories to list. Travel Forums like RS are a great resource - if the information is valid current, and fact-based. (Building the RnR website for 7 years, I KNOW how important those factors are). Yet forums are hardly the only option.

Having worked in the travel business and as a former guide, I am curious - with your experience in group planning what is the actual MARK UP on a tour? Perhaps I may have been undercharging so I'd be interested in your calculation. And are you saying my business model as a tour guide was based on the ignorance of the traveling public? Frankly, I find that remark rather insensitive towards me and my clients.

And I can understand your position that Money insulates and numbs a travel experience. but that's certainly not an absolute. What money can get you is ACCESS - along with some great guides. Access to a private tour of the Louvre or the Vatican after hours, entrance to Mauirthuis before they open; for a private entry & tour of the basement of the Colosseo. Access to the BACK DOOR of St. Peter's Basilica (I did not even know there was a back door until I met this guide who had that access). A private safari is an incredible experience as is sailing on a sailboat through the Greek Isles - just you and your friends. Whether you spent money - or travel without spending much money - it's the substance of your travel that matters. And, yes, you can create substance at all monetary levels.

An excellent private guide is like a great teacher. They bring the location to life. They paint a picture of what used to be. Yes, you could read about it on the net and do lots of research, but you'll get a limited viewpoint. A great guide has the answers but also reads his clients and knows when to talk, when to walk, and when to just wait. I've met numerous private guides that what I paid them wasn't close to the value they provided me. And the great ones, again, have that ACCESS!

Through work, I've been fortunate to have some incredible experiences that I could never have afforded - and they were quite memorable. Entering Monaco harbor by yacht, Ballooning across Catalunya and Provence, Sailing Transatlantic on the Queen Mary II, Having an incredible lunch sitting in a Tuscan vineyard with the owner, helicoptering along the French Riviera, ... and so on. Thus, while money CAN numb an experience, money spent "correctly" can create lifetime memories.

Certainly, all that may not be your cup of tea... but I think when you talk in absolutes, it can limit your experiences.

Posted by
4147 posts

| Maybe those who have can say what the appeal is,

We went to see the personalities, i.e., Rick Steve’s, Andrew Zimmerman. Samantha Brown, and Don Wildman to see them in person and see if their personalities in person matched their TV personas. Most were the same. While we liked Andrew Zimmerman on his TV show, both my wife and I disliked him immensely after listening to him in person. Never watched another of his shows. As far as getting any valuable information for trips from the vendors, no we didn’t get any.

Posted by
3706 posts

Looking into it a bit it looks like I would have to travel to get to a travel show, which I’m not going to do.

I’m basing my triple price estimate on repeated pricing out of high school tours. The most recent one I was able to book both my wife and I the same flights and hotels for less than the tour company was charging for one student.

I don’t need extraordinary travel, it’s all memorable and a learning experience even if it’s not perfect.

Guides are a mixed bag: positive, neutral, and yes often they can be a drag on visit. Several times I’ve had to ditch a bad guide to salvage a visit (the kind of guide that comes with the ticket price).

Posted by
2207 posts

I've planned a few of those trips - and because my wife is a teacher - I've actually been on a few. If you and your wife were able to travel to Europe for 7-10 days and together spend less than $2500 ($750 each for flights and $100/nt hotel), then, by your example, the school trip was three times that amount or more than $7500 per student? That's a lot of bake sales and car washes.

It's also applies to oranges in that the student trips are generally prepaid (but refundable) and all-inclusive. Their trips include flights, hotels, in-Europe transportation (usually a 50-passenger touring bus), meals, guide fees, entry fees, gratuities, and some form of travel protection. Most of the student trips I've experienced are priced generally at - or slightly above - products like Globus or Trafalgar. (Back then, I think our intra-Europe touring had a targeted-budget well under $200 per student, per day - flights were purchased separately at consolidator rates).

That said, this was not my preferred mode of travel! There aren't too many things more stressful than worrying HOURLY about losing a kid in Europe, And, as teenagers, many were determined to break the rules! In addition, because we had to get 30-50 seats on the same plane - based on availability - we got the worst flight times and layovers. Those teenagers are sleeping on their bags in the airport for a reason.

The European touring buses were perhaps the "perceived" luxury item on these trips. Many have video and wifi to keep kids entertained. The hotels were always LARGE and usually not in the city center (easier for the buses to access and far enough out to keep kids from heading to the Spanish Steps). The tours were often groups of 25 (or more), wearing earpieces and following one guide - which was like herding cats. The restaurants were always a fixed menu - exceptions made only for those students with dietary concerns. And at night, there was a curfew. As chaperones, I don't think we ever slept! We devised techniques like tying bells to doors or masking tape to see who broke the seal. So for me, this was NOT my preferred method of exploring Europe.

But for the 17-year old students, it was incredible. They were first-timers in Europe, "on their own" with their buddies, and their "war stories" would far exceed their experiences! For a few years, this would be the GREATEST TRIP OF MY LIFE! I just don't recall too many of these costing SIX TIMES the price of one person traveling to Europe.

Is there a markup versus booking internet promotions independently? Most certainly. Can an educated traveler replicate a touring experience? No doubt, I do it all the time and it appears that you do also. I would say many people who take the time to post their experiences on Travel forums like this probably do too. But I would push back on what that markup is and each person then has to determine the value of the supporting travel group, DMC, travel agency, or guide and will it enhance their experience.

Regarding travel conventions/events... most of the travel events I go to now are located in Europe. You might swing by one on your next trip. For example, the Food Expo in Milan was an incredible experience - like a World's Fair of travel through food. They had more than 22 million visitors. Thus, travel conventions come in many formats.

And I understand your frustration about guides. I've been in the Vatican 250+ times and I cringed every time I heard a "guide" telling a group about Michelangelo having to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling while lying on his back. The adage "you get what you pay for" certainly applies to guides. If you're on a ticket-entry-only-priced group tour, you're probably not working with a registered guide (Those skip-the-line tours outside the Vatican are an entirely different post). That said, I learned quickly who the best guides were and I'd pay to be on their tours (market research) to improve my presentation.

Posted by
3706 posts

School trip: The total for my wife and me was $2900 for the week, $1450 each, the tour company charged mid-3000s for one so well over double. And the school trip was absolutely not refundable, lost a bundle with the covid issue and am taking them to court (will finally get a hearing date sometime next year, glad to see the tour company renewed their incorporation for 2021 so still solvent). The costs I booked for my wife and me, including the non-refundable bits, were completely refunded.

Posted by
91 posts

Reporting back from the December 9, 2020 Virtual Travel and Adventure Show...

This show focused on the US, with presentations by states and cities. The Alaska presentation was the best of these; the tourism board chair personally knew the owners of the small businesses that she recommended. I also enjoyed the North Carolina presentation, which gave good ideas for places to see. The sense of pride in each state and city went far beyond commercial concerns.

The organization of the online shows continues to improve. Inside each principal (state or city, this time) booth were links to secondary booths for specific hotels, attractions, events and tour guides.

Pauline Frommer rehashed her remarks from last month about the current state of world travel. She spent a lot of time answering audience questions (posted in chat). Samantha Brown, who has a PBS show too, was the most interesting of the keynote speakers.

Sadly, there was no Zoom happy hour at the end, perhaps because the presentations, which were more numerous than in the first two shows, extended later into the evening. Instead of receiving a Zoom invitation, people who "checked in" at many booths won free water bottles, which should come in the mail. I guess freebies are back!

There is another show right away next week, about Asia.

To answer the question about what people get from travel shows, I find them inspiring because they make me think about my own future plans, and because they teach me about what other travelers look for. For example, I commented that the first two VTAS shows were heavy on cruises and resorts. I like being able to explore a small number of places in great depth, independently, and don't like more separation than necessary from local people, so cruising and gated resorts aren't for me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed learning about innovations in those industries, and seeing what many other American travelers look for when they go on cruise or resort vacations.

Hope to see some other forum members online at future VTAS shows!