On Sunday, I checked out Toronto’s Ultimate Travel Show. No, not because I’m planning a trip, but because I was hoping to come across some ideas that could be turned into pitches for travel-related articles.
I’d never been to the Travel Show before but an aunt and uncle had and they seemed to enjoy it. The event was set up in Hall C of the Direct Energy Centre so I knew that it wouldn’t be a massive affair but based on the number of vendors listed on the website, I thought it would be big enough. I was wrong.
There just fewer than 125 vendors present but it actually felt like far fewer since multiple booths had little or nothing to do with travel. For example, Car2Go was there, along with the OLG, multiple “natural” food vendors and the usual newspapers and telecomm companies. While I kind of get why these businesses purchase booths at these events, I have no interest in stopping by them.
What I wanted to see were dozens and dozens of booths that were each either dedicated to a specific country/region or a specific resort or tour package. While there was some of that, there wasn’t enough. I didn’t expect to see the whole world represented but I did think that more countries would be there. I was though happy to see that two of my favourite Caribbean destinations, Bonaire and Curacao, both had booths.
In addition to the booths, there was a free climbing wall, a little food count, a silent auction that had nothing to do with travel, a SCUBA demonstration tank, a presentation stage (I heard a chunk of a very thorough presentation on Contiki tours) and a bank of Flight Centre agents who were ready to book your trip right then and there.
Flight Centre was offering several show-only specials and its agents were busier than I was expecting. As for the rest of the show, while it wasn’t quiet it was also far from packed. Personally I liked this but I’m sure the organizers don’t feel the same way.
Besides not having enough quality vendors, I was also disappointed in many of the people who were working the booths. I would say that I stopped by at least two-thirds of the booths that were about a specific, non-Canadian destination. Sometimes the booth workers were busy talking to other people but the majority of the time, at least one booth worker was free. Despite that, I was only acknowledged about half the time. And when I was acknowledged, it was usually just a “Hi” or “Here’s a brochure.” An actual conversation took place at exactly six booths.
Sometimes the booth workers were too busy talking to each other to talk to me but most of the time they either ignored me or looked at me blankly. I realize that I’m not old nor was I was of the many couples who drifted over from the neighboring wedding show (they all had distinctive tote bags) but hey, I still deserve attention. I feel quite confident in saying that I’ve likely spent more on travel in the last five years than most people at the show.
The best booth of the show was run by Belize’s Splash Dive Centre. The woman I spoke with was informative, enthusiastic and helpful. Because of her, Belize has moved up on my countries-to-visit list.
Tickets to the Travel Show cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Given the quantity, and quality, of the booths, I would this to be a little high. I don’t think I’ll be checking out the Travel Show again unless it grows quite a bit.