The parking lot was nearly full at the 2023 Travel & Adventure Show in Dallas, Texas. It was still early in the day, and the parking lot reflected something other than the emerging Texas heat. This filling parking lot reflected that the travel industry remains alive and well, and that casual travelers are massively interested in what comes next.
The busy parking lot was my first clue into, honestly, what I had hoped to find at this year’s show.
I wanted to think that travel was back after the grueling patience of the global pandemic. My hope was to find that travel in 2023 wasn’t just for travel elites but for people like you and me. I wished for affordability and increasing access to the places and activities that filled my bucket-list along with all the mental health benefits of travel.
Given the trending upswell in travel, I just knew that if I opened the door to this year’s show, my hopes would turn into evidence.
Through a range of interviews, discussions, and observations, there was firm consensus about one central notion. The time to travel is now. Need evidence? Read on.
Travel & Adventure Show in 2023
For those of you not familiar, the Travel & Adventure Show is one of the preeminent trade show for the travel industry and for casual travelers alike. I include both categories (industry leaders and casual travelers) because this is a rather unique feature of the Show.
It’s not only a gathering place for tourism boards, travel celebrities, and industry insiders, but also the point of contact with thousands of travel-minded individuals desiring to learn more and find great travel deals. Within this interface resides the Travel & Adventure Show, a multi-city series that boasts over 2.5 million travelers and over 4,500 exhibitors represented.
Jonathan Golicz, Vice President of the Travel & Adventure Show, estimated that show attendance this year was approaching pre-pandemic levels. He highlighted that his team had been to multiple cities as part of the Show tour and had not encountered any travel-related obstacles. I’ll also share his takeaway recommendation about the current state of travel: “Just go do it. Travel is back!” Finally.
The bustling scene between exhibitor booths was slightly unexpected. I say slightly, because although travel trends have been increasing as Covid has been decreasing, I underestimated the volume of casual travelers that were actively seeking to lock in travel opportunities right now. Not “someday”. Today.
You could hear them talking, already imagining themselves at their next vacation destination. Smiles aplenty as new destination ideas jumped from the brochure pages into the eager minds of pent-up travelers.
I did overhear some mentions about surging travel demand due to all of the travel challenges and restrictions from the fading global pandemic. However, it’s not just “revenge travel” as it has recently been coined.
From speaking with guests, exhibitors, and presenters at the show, I think it could be more aptly titled “love travel”. You see, the primary motivation for traveling seemed to be a passion for what’s next, not a frustration with what is behind.
Fortunately, there were plenty of expert travel tips to fuel that passion for what’s next in travel. The celebrity presenters did not disappoint.
I spoke with Peter Greenberg, Emmy Award winning investigative reporter and producer, to learn more about one of his presentation points regarding the importance of “conversation” when making travel plans. Actual, honest to goodness, face to face (or at least Zoom to Zoom) conversation with travel providers like airline or hotel representatives. It seems to have become a lost art in the world of impersonal travel apps and online services.
When asked if there’s still a role for conversation in our digitalized world, he responded “It’s essential. Without it, you’re a victim.” I don’t think this is an overstatement, as some critical pieces of travel information are not shared online. Why rely exclusively on online content when a simple conversation could open up useful options or exclusive savings?
Mr. Greenberg went on to tell me that “There’s a cultural disconnect. People are so tied to their phones they may not know any better.”
Similarly, Jeff Corwin of Ocean Treks fame (and currently in association with Princess Cruises) highlighted some of the unique benefits of ocean voyages in 2023. I asked him his views on cultural exposure, even in relatively brief doses like during a cruise excursion, and his response was insightful.
“We’re better when we’re more well rounded…any time you can gain exposure, even moderately immersive exposure, to the beliefs and lives of others makes us all better”, stated Mr. Corwin.
He added that Ocean Treks was designed to help get people out and into those cultures through watching the show. That message seems to be working, as evidenced by the turnout to hear him speak. Not to mention the nervous giggles of fans lining up to take pictures with Mr. Corwin after his presentation.
Booths From Around the World
As this show was in Texas, I was anticipating a nod towards stereotyped views of Texas with tumbleweeds blowing across some kind of boot-trodden desert. Instead, I was pleased to see a more accurate representation of the Lone Star State. Traditional Southwestern elements, though not cheeky, were side-by-side with booths featuring high-end luxury accommodations and urban centers fitting all walks of life.
Now I pride myself on knowing my Texas state history, as any good Texan should, though I admit I learned a few things here. Did you know that Lindale, Texas has one of the most picturesque Christmas towns in America? Think Hallmark movie style, and you’re close.
Stepping outside the Texas zone, I met Elizabeth Burnam, a Visitor Services Manager with Visit Albuquerque at her booth. She offered a delightful description of the inspiring culture and unique activities to be found in Albuquerque. Count me in for the annual hot air balloon festival!
Exploring down the tidy rows of exhibitor booths, eventually I found myself in international waters. Well, not literally, but it sure felt like it from the beautiful and sometimes exotic locales featured in this area. Spanning prominent locales from around the globe, I could have spent a whole day exploring those international travel opportunities.
If there was a theme across all of the exhibits, it was the connection between emotions and travel.
We all want to be happy. Per Ruth Daly, Regional Director (North America) for Tourism Fiji, one of the best places in the world to find happiness is in Fiji. Capturing the essence of that message, the updated Tourism Fiji campaign spotlights the slogan “Where happiness comes naturally.” Hard to argue to the contrary upon observing the in-the-moment joy on the faces of the Fijian residents pictured on the Tourism Fiji booth exhibit.
Ms. Daly, discussing the happiness found with Fijian culture, stated that “Cyclones come through about every five years…so it’s not about the things you own, but rather what you carry with you in your heart.” Sounds like good advice for any culture.
New to the 2023 Show
There were several new and returning aspects of this year’s Show as compared with last year’s version. One welcome return was the Global Beats Stage, an inspiring collection of dance presentations reflecting the truly worldwide range of dance as an artistic expression.
Anindita Nanda, a classical dancer and performer, recognized the importance of what she called a “judgment free” dance opportunities, adding that “creativity doesn’t flow otherwise. Dance in a place that doesn’t have limits.” The dancers gain such a space, and guests already mentally primed for travel and culture receive a taste of those arts.
Anindita continued, “I come from a culture that is thousands of years old. We are helping to preserve it and carry it on our shoulders.” Connecting dance with travel seekers in this way is a natural fit.
Another fun update to this year’s Travel & Adventure Show was the Dive & Water Sports Pavilion. This was a series of exhibitor booths featuring a central theme of water-based travel adventures. Personally, I found the information about PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and an array of specific diving destinations very interesting. Great to be packaged together in one convenient pavilion area.
It was even possible to renew your passport via the Passport Acceptance Program. This program was an on-site opportunity to renew your passport while at the Show. I didn’t utilize this service, but it’s a nice way to maximize your time if you need it!
Final Travel & Adventure Show Takeaways
The Travel & Adventure Show series currently winds through scheduled stops at nine U.S. cities: Dallas, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Washington D.C., San Francisco/Bay area, Atlanta, and Denver. Check out their website Travel & Adventure Series for the latest updates and schedules.
For additional guidance as you plan your travels, check out this post on the psychology of travel planning.
Between the exhibitors, hands-on activities, and talented speakers, it’s not hard to find travel inspiration at the 2023 Travel & Adventure Show. Finding a close-up parking space with all this buzz…well, that’s a different story.
For more, check out the Travel & Adventure Show website, and remember to sign up for the free Psychology of Travel Newsletter for more expert travel tips. Comment below with other travel expo info and tips for your fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Special thanks to Travel & Adventure Show – Dallas for sponsoring our entry ticket admission and media credentialing. All opinions remain my own and an honest attempt to review my experiences for my readers and followers. For more information, see our disclosure statement.