International tourism has a staggering impact on the global economy. To fully understand its impact, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) World Tourism Highlights Report of 2014 world tourism was responsible for 9% of global GDP, supported 1 in 11 jobs globally, and was responsible for $1.5 trillion in global exports. The number of international tourists rose to 1.13 billion in 2014, with France, the United States, Spain, and China ranked as the top global destinations. With the number of international tourists expected to increase this places a great emphasis on national and regional governments and tourism promotion organizations to promote and capture as much of the international tourism market as possible.
Typical destination promotion methods include online, television, and print advertisements. Travel trade show participation offers another way to capture the attention of potential tourists. These shows offer governments, organizations, and travel agencies the chance to promote destinations in ways traditional advertising cannot, such as giveaways, food and drink, and lots of free materials to get interested travelers on their way.
I recently attended such a travel show, the Travel & Adventure Show in Washington, DC (February 20-21), which tours several U.S. cities throughout the year. This particular show provides attendees an opportunity to explore approximately 100 exhibits promoting a range of travel destinations from regional promoters like Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania to international destinations like Armenia. The show also offered the chance to meet travel industry experts, like Peter Greenberg, Phil Keoghan, and Wendy Perrin. This was my first time attending and I was excited to see the exhibits and hear what the invited speakers had to say.
Nearly all of the exhibitors were destination promoters, either from the national or regional level or travel agencies-a great chance for attendees to learn more about possible travel destinations. I was most intrigued by agencies promoting destinations I haven’t traveled to, like Iran (Hayahoo Tours), a destination I selected in my travel in 2016 list and Armenia (Gardman Tour), a country that is often over-looked, but has much to offer the adventurous traveler such as majestic mountain landscapes and ancient ruins.
The first speaker I heard was Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS, known as the Travel Detective. He spoke for an hour about the state of travel, particularly the consolidation of airlines and the effect it has had on the cost of flying within the U.S. The consolidation, he said has had a serious impact on competition, with fewer airlines now serving fewer routes. As a result he encouraged everyone to travel overseas, because Peter said “it was often cheaper to fly from Iowa to Oman than Iowa to New York City.” After Peter’s talk I was lucky enough to get his autograph and a photo taken with him. I highly recommend checking out his very informative website.
Later that afternoon I caught the best attended talk of the day, by Phil Keoghan the host of The Amazing Race. Phil’s talk focused on some of his personal experiences with the Amazing Race over the years and the theme of his book No Opportunity Wasted. He encouraged the audience to do just that. Phil came to this important realization during a near-death diving incident, and immediately drafted a list for life-a list of all the places he wanted to travel to and experiences he wanted to seek out. After the talk I waited for an hour to get his autograph, have a photo taken with him, and chat briefly about our travels. Phil said to get in-touch with him when I hit 100 countries, which I hope to do by the time I turn 40.
Overall, I had a great time at The Travel & Adventure Show and look forward to attending next year. I highly recommend attending to anyone looking to travel, but unsure of where to travel to next.