“Please use travel agents,” is the mantra of the New York Times Travel Show Trade Day. The show itself is driven by destination tourism bureaux and travel agents, with a big dose of mega cruise ships, so that focus is understandable.
I dipped in and out of the panels to hear industry naval-gazing and topics different from my travel life. A panel on tour agents reported surprising strength in bookings from millennials, and the fierce struggle for ever more authentic-seeming experiences that can be sold en masse and are “fully commissionable.” I give Harry Dalgaard of Avanti Destinations, a company that packages tours for consumer and travel agents, the humor award for quips like an answer to a question about travel agent bookings for honeymooners, “We see a lot of travel agents booking honeymoons, a lot, whether or not there are any honeymooners.”
River cruising is the hot thing in high-end travel as operators scour the world for navigable waterways.
By all the talk of Croatia, I suspect there are more tourists there in high season than locals.
Most fascinating to me was the peek into medical travel. Companies such as Companion Global Healthcare, which was represented on the panel, have sprung up to create global hospital networks and serve as intermediaries in pairing patients with overseas facilities and coordinate with home country physicians and insurance. There are many nuances and seemingly endless choice so I see a useful role for such intermediaries. For instance, many candidate patients assume their travel insurance will cover mishaps, however medical travel is a standard exclusion for policies in the US, giving rise to specialist insurers such as Global Protective Solutions. The moderator cautioned general travel agents from straying into medical advice, and to check with liability insurance first if they are tempted. I need to check if my employer’s medical plan cover medical travel since some do.
Medical travel is not just for wealthy country residents seeking low cost care or to skip the line, but also, as the Dr. Mary Won Lai Lin from the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council noted, for a large number of patients who have no viable care in their home country. She did a great sales job for Malaysia as a destination – only in Asia would several slides be pictures of piles of food!
There had to be a panel of the future of travel media. It was a dud that I left the packed, overheated room halfway through and heard later there were finally some sparks when Jason Clampet of Skift reportedly made a comment that many travel blogs are “worthless” due to little audience, understandable in the context of the discussion, according to one level-headed attendee.
‘How to Find and Work with Travel Bloggers’ by Jennifer Miner of The Vacation Gals was interesting to see old school travel agents seek to come to grips with what value blogs may offer. Core message: trust nothing but Google Analytics when it comes to stats.
An interesting travel day where I heard virtually nothing about airlines, hotels, rental cars, frequent flyer programs, or…credit cards.