Sunday, 10 February 2008

Destinations 2008 - Earls Court, London

It's been a cold few weeks since London's Destinations travel fair. By now I'm guessing that every visitor's 2008 holiday planning 2008 is well under way. Opening on a windy, rainy Thursday (31st Jan), the show was a timely tonic for the British winter. Battered umbrellas stashed and soggy coats were swapped for wines, cocktails, snacks and traditional dances courtesy of the assembled worldwide tourist boards. Trekking to Earls Court in this weather should have rewarded its visitors with infinite globetrotting inspiration.

Wanderlust's Travel Award ceremony took to the The World Entertainment Stage before lunch. With the likes of Singapore Airlines, Bradt Guides, Lonely Planet and the specialist tour operators hanging off Lyn Hughes’ every word, I think it's fair to say that the travel glossy put Destinations' official media sponsor in the 'too late to the pool' shaded sunlounger spot. While The Times punted its travel magazine's subscriptions from a stand modestly hidden alongside the Meet the Expert Theatres, Wanderlust monopolised centrally-located exhibition real estate. Their Travel Photographer Of The Year gallery space, basked in its usual popularity.

I've visited Destinations for the past few years and to be honest there weren't too many newbies infiltrating this somewhat staid face of the industry. There's Wanderlust; Bradt; Travellers Tales (the travel writing course providers); the Italian tourist board touting pasta; the Chilean tourist board, white wine. All doing wonderful jobs but not really pushing the imagination of the general public beyond the usual 'must-do this' of destinations. I haven't seen the Wonders Of The World or visited every continent, but I still want travel inspiration to open my eyes to something new. Perhaps travel blogs and online travel networks surpass exhibition stands.

Give me Gridskipper ; Boots ‘n’ All;
Itchy Feet Magazine and Vagablogging all in one room, so that I can see and talk to them... soon... please. Even if it has to be in Second Life!

This said, Sandwagon loved these things about Destinations, London 2008 ...

Taking a breather in the press lounge, listening in as Jonathan Scott - of Big Cat Diary fame - gave a live radio interview. And later in the day, watching him sort old-school slides for his Expert Speaker presentation.

David Shukman (BBC's Environment & Science Correspondent) and Justin Francis ( discussing the paradoxical notion of carbon-neutral travel.

Mark Davidson's presentation of his quality travel photography - an inspiring travel writer/photographer who also has celebral palsy and succeeds in this demanding field. He single-handedly renewed my faith in the Destinations fair and a travel media too often stifled and made scary by the old boys' network.

How Mike Unwin, author of Bradt's 100 Animals to See Before They Die (lucky barrrrrrstard of an author), convinced me that this was not as depressing a book commission to receive, research and write as it first seemed. The fact that the book's No 1 animal at risk of extinction - the Yangtze River Dolphin - actually became extinct in the time it took to publish a book is the saddest thing I've heard since working in publishing (the timeline from final page proof to printed book being just about two mths!). But then he would be fairly upbeat about the book, the researched having enabled him to see gorillas in their natural habitat ... I probably never will, nor my kids or theirs to come, or to come or to come.

What do you think of Destinations?

Never visited before? It moves to the Birmingham NEC on 29 Feb - 2 March.

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