The Old Travel Show Is Dead, Long Live the New York Travel Festival

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 11 April 2013

On April 20 and 21, 2013, the New York Travel Festival casts its inaugural spell on the New York metropolitan area. Conceived of and given shape as something more inspiring and more anchored in place than the typical travel event, it aims “to reinvent the consumer travel show for a crowd seeking more interaction and a better sense of NYC and beyond.”

New York Travel Festival logo
In other words, it’s nothing like the New York Times Travel Show, the DC Travel & Adventure Show or anything in that vein. And as far as we at The Travel Word are concerned, that’s a very good thing. Very much in keeping with the thoughts expressed by Roni Weiss, Founder of the New York Travel Festival, we think the standard-model travel show is well past its prime. Weiss says “The magic is gone.” We say the old travel show is dead and should be gone. Long live the New York Travel Festival!

Embrace Change

Change scares a lot of people. We know that. Unless made remarkably simple, breaking old habits and attempting new things take a lot of effort. But change is also critical, especially when something once tried and true has lost its vaunted utility. These days, ‘disruption’ is the word used – perhaps a bit too often – to convey the power and promise of as-yet untried and maybe too-good-to-be-true tactics that will change the way we do things for the better. Whatever term you prefer, we think it’s healthy to challenge the status quo.

Fortunately, change has at last reached into the consumer travel shows space. And in keeping with our commitment to fostering change by urging consumers to take new things into account when they travel – especially alternative and ethical considerations like responsible, sustainable and local travel – The Travel Word is pleased to be part of the festival as a media sponsor and support the effort to breathe life back into an ailing and broken beast.

Broken may be too strong a word. Misguided? Misleading? Misanthropic? Maybe all of the above. By contrast, the New York Travel Festival is a very different animal. It re-injects a couple of critical qualities back into the mix: people and places.

“The demographic we’re going for sees travel as an extension of life, not as a way to escape from it,” reports Weiss. “We’re trying to reinvent the travel show for people who are tired of the convention center, booth-based model. Part of our pedigree is local travel, as a package ticket includes tours in NYC, all done by smaller companies with many focusing on otherwise unseen experiences.”

Touch Base Indoors

The first day of the New York Travel Festival is Saturday, April 20 and takes place at Bohemian National Hall. There, attention will be directed to “an array of speakers, panelists, tastings, and other experiences.”

The main theater of the Bohemian National Hall

The main theater of the Bohemian National Hall will present travel luminaries at the New York Travel Fesitval

One proud part of the dizzying mix of personalities, The Travel Word is presenting a panel on Responsible Travel: It’s More Than What You Do with Your Hotel Towel.

“It was a natural fit to include The Travel Word in the Festival,” says Weiss. “Ethan Gelber, its founder and editor, is bar-none the most dedicated and qualified person I know in the field of responsible/sustainable travel, so I implicitly trust any content he would create on the topic.”

The first of a series of engaging conversations in the Niche Breakout space, our panel takes place from 10:30am to 11:15am and involves Anna Clark, Communications Associate from the Rainforest Alliance, and Alice Gugelev, Founder of the Do Good As You Go Movement, along with Ethan Gelber, Founder and Editor of The Travel Word. It is our intention to try and answer questions like:

* Why don’t people care about things the same way at home and when they travel?
* We now know that what happens ‘over there’ affects what’s ‘over here,’ so why do some people behave so differently?
* Does ‘responsible travel’ in marketing mean anything to you?

We hope you will join us and other panels in the Niche Breakout space that will cover beer travel, food in NYC, solo travel for women and gay travel.

Of course, there will be plenty going on in other rooms too. The main stage will host the travel luminaries, as well as contests, debates and more.

In parallel with this, there is a Local/Regional Breakout space devoted to New York City and vicinity. More panels and presentations will bring to life the unmissable and hidden treats of the NYC metropolitan area. Associated with this is Taste of the Hudson Valley, an incredible showcase of entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and experts offering culinary, cultural, and outside attractions.

World Travel Market 2011

This part of World Travel Market in London shows what the New York Travel Festival *won't* look like. Photo courtesy of Ethan Gelber*

Keep It Local… Outside

On Sunday, April 21, day 2 of the festival, everyone heads into the streets to come to firsthand grips with what makes NYC tick. In line with our passion for going local, throughout the day 11 tours touch base in all five boroughs and help festivalgoers to get under the hood of different parts of the city.

For foodies, taste some pizza secrets, lift the curtain on NYC’s alcoholic drink industries, discover Williamsburg’s Moore Street Market, come to grips with Brooklyn’s Smith and Court streets restaurant scene or sample your way through Queens’ ethnic neighborhoods.

Urban scapes buffs won’t want to miss a trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Manhattan’s Highline Park or the great sights of the Bronx, including Yankee Stadium. And for something entirely different, unforget Staten Island of discover the busking in the NYC underground.

After all, a travel festival in New York City should have something to do with New York City, right? Visitors will see a side of town that many don’t take time for; New Yorkers will find themselves marveling at stuff they never knew was right under their noses.

“We find that younger travelers are consistently concerned with the ‘authenticity’ of the experience, something that local travel is implicitly attached to,” shared Weiss.

Join Us

If you’ve been to other travel shows, you know what they’re like. But don’t expect that. Don’t expect what Weiss describes as “character-less convention centers [where] you find circuit speakers doing a talk that doesn’t recognize any difference in the calendar.”

Instead, “By focusing on varied, dynamic content and simply by virtue of this being our inaugural event, we’re providing something novel for the travel consumer.”

The New York Travel Festival takes place April 20-21, 2013. Purchase tickets here.

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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cities, ecotours, festivals & events, local knowledge, North America, Northern America, opinion, responsible travel news, USA,

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