The New York Times Travel Show is one the largest trade and consumer travel events in North America, judging by the big increase in numbers at its 14th annual tourism showcase held January 25-27. Participating this year were 700 exhibiting companies representing 170 countries. Tucked into the program of this colorful 3-day Travel Show—complete with traditional dance troupes from Bhutan, Botswana, Georgia, Indonesia, Ireland, Martinique and Uzbekistan; culinary tastings from Margaritaville (New York) to Israel to India and beyond; countless samplings of wines and other national libations—were seminars focused on top travel destination trends and picks for 2019-2020.
Certainly, ‘tis impossible to cover this event in depth, so this guest focused on new horizons: first time exhibitors and new products. Consider this sampling.
- Italy’s most exciting new gateways seem to be Bari and Brindisi in Puglia, the new discovery region in southern Italy offering a whole new world of art and architecture, slow food, beaches, luxury accommodations in masserie (manor farm houses) and traditional trulli. Exhibitor Apulvia Service (apluviaservice.it) offers a Cultural Tour including UNESCO sites of Alberobello and Castel del Monte, as well as Lecce, Bari, Ostuni; a weeklong Biking Tour along the Appia Way; and a Food & Wine Tour. Each of these programs includes time in the UNESCO site and this year’s Cultural Capital of Europe: Matera, located in neighboring Basilicata. Inhabited for 7,000 years, Matera is famous for its fascinating cave dwellings and rock churches.
- The Caucasus were on hand, with Georgia (georgia.com) welcoming visitors to its Tbilisi capital with its mosques, synagogues, Armenian and Georgian churches, as well as spa-baths and cafes. Exhibitor Silk Roads Treasure Tours (silkroadstreasuretours.com) introduced several tours combining the emerging southern Caucasus countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan that offer UNESCO designated places, crafts and cultural traditions, as well as magnificent scenery and flavorful cuisine and wines.
- Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe (after Russia), was a new entrant at the show, a destination with easy access from the U.S. with direct air service on Ukraine International Airlines (flyuai.com). Big, diverse, largely undiscovered, Ukraine is entering a new age, introducing guests to UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kiev, Lviv and Chernivisi; touring wineries near Odesa; treating music lovers to performances at the ornate Lviv Opera House; visiting traditional villages in the Carpathian Mountains; enjoying the comforts of international brand hotels and home stays. Experts at the table included Cobblestone Freeway Tours (cobblestonefreeway.ca), focused creatively on travelers’ handcrafted cultural experiences.
- Bolivia is South America’s hot new kid on the Andean discovery block, being newly discovered by lovers of living cultures, magnificent scenery and emerging culinary highs. The emerging destinations was ably represented by Bolivia Milenaria (boliviamilenaria.com) whose exclusive travel experiences range from cultural encounters in the markets of La Paz and Tarabuco to colonial towns such as Sucre and Potosi to wildlife touring (bird count:1,350 species) in Madidi and Noel Kempff National Parks.
- A surprise entrant on the exhibition floor was Pakistan (one of my most sensational travel experiences ever), a far-out cultural adventure choice perhaps; however, for the first time in 15 years, Lonely Planet is updating its guidebook. Exhibitor Adventure Tours Pakistan (atp.com.pk) represented his country well with a selection of cultural tours departing from Islamabad: a 14-day Kingdoms of the Himalaya, an 8-night journey of faith and history on the Gandhara Civilization itinerary or the Tribes of the Hindukush; or the Shandur Polo Festival in July or a 12-night Cholistan Desert Safari.
- Adventure operator Wild Frontiers (wildfrontierstravel.com) is always blazing new trails, such as its 8-day Walking in Palestine Tour through the Jordan Valley, staying with local families, experiencing a Bedouin tent camp, visiting Bethlehem and Jericho. To come is a new Indonesian itinerary—the current passion of company founder Jonny Bealby—visiting Sulawesi, the ruins of Bobourduro, and Komodo Island, home to the world’s largest lizards: the dragons.
- Closer to home. Austin Adventures’ (austinadventures.com) Mighty Five National Parks embraces Utah’s grand rock havens: Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce, Zion and Capitol Reef, where the super-stars are surreal scenery and the variety of activities. Upon completion of this 6-day adventure, participants will have checked off five of America’s 59 parks.
- Frommer Guide Books maven, Pauline Frommer, did not disappoint on her annual and always excellent survey of the world travel scene. She shared with her audience how to avoid many of the over-touristed corners of the world by discovering alternative and undiscovered horizons in the destinations. For instance, she predicted Tahiti would be hot this year, due to direct air service from the U.S., but recommended getting away from it all in the popular spots of Moorea and Bora Bora by hopping over to the Austral Islands, which she describes as “Tahiti as Gauguin would have enjoyed.” She also suggested if booming Iceland seems too crowded, take in the Faroe Islands, and certainly, in the high season, think twice about Italy’s Cinque Terra or even Amalfi Coast, and head further south to yes: Puglia and Basilicata, the newly fashionable boot of Italy.