Travel Industry Shines at San Diego's Travel and Adventure Show

This 2015 travel and adventure show stopped off in San Diego in mid-February to be welcomed by 40% more attendees than last year. Indeed, travel has significantly rebounded from the recent recession-era lows.

This 2015 travel and adventure show stopped off in San Diego in mid-February to be welcomed by 40% more attendees than last year. Indeed, travel has significantly rebounded from the recent recession-era lows and John Golicz, the entrepreneur who started those shows has certainly seen his passion in travel rewarded.

He is the opening speaker at this show sponsored by the Travel Channel and supported also by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Rick Steves’ Europe, all 3 very much in evidence. The show, now in its 13th year, “gives travel enthusiasts the chance to dream, plan, and book trips with inside local information from thousands of experts who man the booths at the events.” The first show launched in January 2003 in New York City with attendance topping 26,000. After 60 shows and over 1 million attendees to date, Golicz and his company say they have influenced over $2.6 billion in travel decisions.

Golicz is a comfortable speaker. He tells his audience listening to his ideas on how to “Travel Smart, Travel Fun” that he learned about traveling smart when he took his family to London and they wanted to see the most popular event in the city, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. “We arrived late,” he said, “along with a million other people and couldn’t see anything!”

He pulled out Rick Steves’ book and found Rick had addressed this event with “Come early and the best place to watch is standing on this statue…” Golicz found where the statue was and hurried his group over to it. Now they had a view! There was some bustle beside him. He looked around and there was Rick Steves with staff who were shooting TV for one of his programs! He’s lucky Steves didn’t scold him for not coming early!

The show varied from celebrity speakers on noisy stages to quiet booths with all the time in the world for attendees to ask questions. We found Dan Drennen, the director of sales and marketing for the Travel Insurance Center, standing with his sign saying travel insurance can take the bite out of unexpected expenses.

Physicians at times see fraudulent work and accident claims so we asked if there was much fraud in travel insurance claims. He thought not. “Most people buying insurance for a trip want to go rather than make false claims and not go.” Any fraud tends to be in false baggage claims where the incident may be exaggerated and the contents over-valued. “But people make mistakes,” says Drennen, “The first believing their insurance covers everything.

“The remedy,” he says, “is to find a reputable broker who will walk you through the policy, an agent who knows those policies inside and out.” Such a broker can explain why a pre-existing condition may not be covered and if, indeed, a policy can offer a waiver if bought 15-21 days before travel. Some policies might offer help with pre-existing conditions if stability can be shown in the condition.

The second mistake travelers can make is not creating complete documentation of events in their purchase of the insurance. Third mistake? If evacuation insurance has been purchased the travelers must let the insurance company deal with the evacuation process and not arrange it themselves. The insurance company will get better rates and not leave a balance due the evacuating service.

The show space seemed crammed with booths offering African safaris and we walked around them feeling like Ernest Hemingway.

Experiences were offered at some booths for those who would rather would be Jacques Cousteau than Hemmingway. Those who wanted to stay dry but needed to lie to their son-in-law about the big one they caught with fragile linen line, 3-thread can head for the Mammoth Lakes, CA stall then brace their leg and start faking.

Attendees can climb a rock wall with experienced professionals on hand to keep them safe or watch a video then ride a Segway. (Helmets provided. Remember George Bush, our President, “failed the Segway test” while clutching a tennis racket and without a helmet.)

We pass a sign reminding us of the woes of some families who bought timeshares in the heyday of that concept, when the market was virtually unregulated. A travel writer friend active at that time tells us the timeshare business then was like the Wild West and that some people had put their life savings into the investment and were paying the mortgage on something whose shares had no value. And that there are people out there who will pay you to take a timeshare off their hands. We noticed the sign referring to a website TimeshareExitTeam.com that will give you an exit strategy.

We noticed, too, the new emphasis on protection against pickpockets by wearing the right clothing. Chad Casper the business manager of TravelSafeProducts shows what he gets from UnderTech but we wondered, What if a model needed XXL size?

Adam Rapp, the owner off and designer at Clothing Arts stands beside his most perfect employee, a mannequin. “He works all the time, doesn’t complain and is always handy.” Rapp shows that although his fabrics breathe they are still water-repellent and, to prove it, he drops water on the pants he’s holding and it beads and rolls off. Rapp designed the first theft-proof pants pocket for a smart phone and is confident your phone will always be in your pocket when you want it.

The press has been abuzz with health information clothing that communicates with your smartphone. Mona Dehshid, a partner in SittingBridge, had something simpler to show: a device like a loose garter you place around your elbow when you are stuffed in an airliner’s seat and may be troubled by a close-by elbow. You place the band around your arm, insert a finger from the opposite hand and create, as it were, a figure of eight, fixing and restraining your elbow so you can thereafter ignore it. Ideal for the center seat that airlines give to those in Economy who don’t want to pay to get an indistinguishable Economy Plus.

We met Steven Persitza, the president of justmyticket.com who is capitalizing in the ease travelers in the digital world have with their smartphones. He has zeroed in on 3 feeder markets: San Diego, Chicago and Phoenix, Arizona, believing they have similar people. (Chicago persons head for Phoenix in winter, Phoenix folk for San Diego in summer.) At a time when most persons are reluctant to give out their email address, Persitza asks for yours promising, once he knows what you’re interested in, you will receive promotions only on your interests. And it seems to be working!

We met enthusiasts for Aranui 3, the freighter cruise from Tahiti and others for Fiji and will tell you more about those islands, both favorites of ours, another day. And dancers from different countries were demonstrably happy to show attendees their national rhythms: Middle-Eastern, Bollywood, Chinese Classical, European Folk Dances, Traditional Taiwanese and even Morris Dancers.

We heard about Samoa from Amanda Ladd. Samoa she said is a group of 10 islands, 5 inhabited, 4 hours north of New Zealand with 3,000 years of culture that was still alive. “Samoa,” she says, “is Hawaii 100 years ago. If relaxation was in the Olympics, Samoa is where you’d come to train. It’s the one place on Earth that hasn’t sped up. And the people!”

She reminds us that Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist lived and died on Samoa. He was a bridge between the colonists and the natives and beloved by both. When he died, his corpse was passed hand over hand by local people until it reached his grave.

Those who would want more excitement might want to try Taiwan, says Trust Lin. Asked why, he responds, The New York Times has said it’s the Eleventh Best Place in the World for visitors, Fox News has called it the Top Budget Destination, and CNN has reported that Taiwan does Ten Things Better than anywhere else: Night markets; themed restaurants (from Barbie-style restaurants, aborigine food to afternoon tea); nature hikes like the Taroko Gorge in a country that has 258 mountains more than 10,000 feet high; museums such as the National Palace Museum called, one of the top 5 museums in the world by TIME magazine; and temples, with 14,993 in a country that is 14,000 square miles.

National Geographic has called Taiwan “China in miniature,” and the Lonely Planet, “The best kept secret in Asia.”

We felt we were playing hooky from Rick Steves’ class but still hurried over to the stage where he was about to present his mixture of savvy humor and wisdom about the continent that constantly wins the title of America’s favorite, Europe. He was articulate even as he talked about the ossuaries across Europe to his unflinching audience.

We will give you a separate story on Rick Steves within a day or two.

Photograph by the authors.

The Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the New Hampshire Academy of Family Physicians. Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written 5 books, the last called The Man Who Cried Orange: Stories from a Doctor's Life.