Today I returned from the Friday session of the Destinations show 2016, which started yesterday and will still be on until the end of Sunday 7th January 2016 (opening each day from 10:00 am – 5:30 pm).
This was the first time that I have attended the Destinations show (or any other travel show for that matter), and don’t know anyone else who has, so even though I was looking forward to it I was a little apprehensive… I mean how good can a huge convention about holidays really be? How is it going to differ to just going and speaking to these companies on the high street?
The answers to these are quite simple in that you firstly won’t find many of these companies on the high street and certainly wouldn’t ever encounter a high street which featured all of them! However this leads to one very important fact about the show and how it feels while you browse the many displays here… Yes these companies are trying to sell their tours but they are not generally pushing for a quick sale there and then. As there are so many companies represented here I think they know that most people have attended to get some inspiration! You don’t get inspired when someone is pushing you for a quick buck – however what does inspire is personal interaction, inside knowledge about the destinations and a friendly attitude – THAT is where this differs so much to the high street, and is exactly why you need to get the Destinations show in your life!
We spoke to a lot of people and enjoyed the atmosphere… And we’re already all booked up for this year anyway – We’re off to Australia soon and have planned another road trip to the Netherlands and Germany for the end of the year, but this is what we love, an I think you can never spend too much time looking at and dreaming about getting away. There is no doubt that we will return next year with a free schedule!
How to get there
The Destinations show is at Olympia London (Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX), however please note that it is in Olympia Grand which is to the side of the venue – there is an affiliate business convention at the front of the venue which didn’t look half as interesting as the Destinations show!
You can get there by car and there is car parking available in the area, but let’s face it… who wants to drive in London? We parked in North Greenwich and made our way in by tube, although for the last leg we had to use a replacement bus service. Olympia does have its own dedicated underground station which is on the district line (change at Earls Court) and head to the station called Kensington (Olympia), however this service generally only runs on weekends, and for some Olympia events – not this one on week days, but should be on for the last 2 days. Alternatively Kensington Olympia is also serviced by the London overground service, as well as regular buses which stop at the front of the venue.
What is there to do
Of course there are plenty of exhibitors for everything to do with travel, but we will get on to that in a minute. On top of this there is a very small food court… On their website it says street food and has a photo of a market with plenty of vendors busy getting their cook-on, but what is actually at Olympia is 6 small stalls, which was a bit of a disappointment, but they make up for it by serving delicious food (although the sausage stall serves bratwurst which taste, feel and look nothing like those I grew up with in Germany).
On top of this there are the very important meet the experts events which cover everything from travel awards to specific destinations, whilst the other end of the hall is home to the Stanfords travel writers area which has celebrity interviews with people like Levison Wood, Simon Reeve, Sean “the beard” Conway (I loved that the first thing he did after taking to the stage was to get a selfie), and of course Brian “the voice” Blessed – who I sadly missed as my back ached so much from all those brochures that we decided to head home. The final expert section comes in the form of a small area with talks about travel health, and a pre-bookable chance to take a photography master class.
A really nice little touch (although I think they could have done with making a bigger deal of them with some nice announcements etc) were the world stages, which were often over looked a little. They are such a great idea giving people a chance to sample cuisine from around the world and see (and hear) different cultural aspects from Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.
Who is exhibiting
I’m not about to list all of the exhibitors as there are over 500 exhibitors (including 70 tourist boards) ready to talk to you about everything from specific destinations or travel styles through to books and travel gear, although there were also a few other people who had nothing to do with travel such as guide dogs, meals in the post and hospitals… Whilst I know that at least some of these are good causes I must admit that I didn’t come here to be hassled by people touting for donations – out of all the exhibitors the only ones who bothered you for a sale or donation were those who had nothing obvious to do with travel. A full list of exhibitors can be found at the Destinations show official website.
There are however a few exhibitors which we spoke to and which I think are worth keeping an eye on and checking out if you get the chance:
Travelsphere – I have been on a couple of trips with Travelsphere and we actually heard about the Destinations show through them. They have some great trips on offer which we will take advantage of again for the future, and at their exhibit they are also running a competition to win a trip to lake Garda.
Wildlife Worldwide – Have some great trips on offer, especially if you’re interested in wildlife photography, and they were more than happy to spend time talking about their trips, including their cheapest which is a 2 day badger photography class! Their stall also has a competition to win a pair of binoculars.
Intrepid – You can see their display a mile off… its the one with the great tuk-tuk with a tv in the front! As well as also running a competition (I forget what the prize is), these guys are super helpful with talking to you about their various trips, which they describe as off the beaten track adventure without the bungee jumping!
Exodus – I have not used Exodus before but we went to their display as we have seen some good trips of theirs. We had sent off for some brochures and are still waiting for those but have got a couple to tide us over – although these don’t feature the Transylvania trip we were looking at. The guy we spoke to was very helpful though and great to speak to (apart from forgetting where Mexico is)!
Dragoman – We spoke to someone here after they liked my t-shirt… “Make Tea, Not War!” It is a company we have never heard of but all the people who worked for them here looked like great fun so I would recommend checking them out and taking a look at their over ground trucking holiday concept – one to look at for the future I think.
AfriCat UK – This is a conservation organisation who also organise trips with a travel partner out to the area where they are working with big cats (mainly cheetahs from the sounds of it) in the wild. They also have a volunteer programme where you can help with some of this work in the field and at their various centers… to be honest I was surprised that there weren’t many more volunteer programmes advertised at the show, especially when it comes to wildlife rehabilitation etc, which has become such a popular travel activity (especially amongst gap year students). To help them with their work they are running a raffle for which they ask for a small donation – its well worth entering for a beautiful lion print.