LOS ANGELES, Ca. February 3, 2012 – The LA Times travel show, held January 28 and 29 at the LA Convention Center is a joyfully overwhelming frenetic beehive of adventurous, far-flung insanity. Grass-skirted Fijians strum upbeat island melodies over a Kava Kava ceremony enticing would-be tourists to come check out their exotic destinations and peculiar elixirs while screaming thrill seekers zip-line overhead.
In one corner Rick Stevens lectures on efficient European travel while somewhere else, audiences watch as a chef prepares meals eerily and elegantly inspired by the menu of the Titanic in honor of the anniversary the century old tragedy. Other speakers include the Travel Channel’s Lisa Ling, travel expert Johnny Jet, and Arthur Frommer, creator of Frommer’s Travel Guides among many more notable experts in the field of travel.
Booths from Japan, China, India, Ecuador, Mexico, Yosemite, Costa Rica, Africa, Ireland, Wales, Guam, Yukon, Alaska, Argentina, Egypt, Mongolia, Malaysia and many many more inundate potential travelers with ideas on how to carve out a weekend, a week, month or even six months to come explore the wonders of their city, state or nation. At every turn is a giveaway or a discount. Laker girls inexplicably but effectively entice sports fans and pheromone driven males to inquire about Taiwan and the Ecuador Department of Tourism that makes handmade ice cream as a culinary gateway to their expansive and diverse country.
Each booth offers a variety of pamphlets, DVDs, business cards, and fliers loaded with glossy photos, travel deals, and pre-arranged packages. Many go so far as to offer enormous discounts to individuals that book at trip at the time they visit the booth.
Not only are there official booths but young entrepreneurs roam the show floor offering a variety of services from passport expedition to LA tours. One gentleman with a thick accent and a backpack approaches attendees with a flier selling underwear with zipper pockets sewn into them. He is from a company called clevertravelcompanion.com.
Discussing underwear with a stranger is at first peculiar, but upon consideration of the product, it is hard to defeat its logic. These unmentionables with passport sized pockets could unquestionably foil any pickpocket.
On another, a predatory property timeshare company attempts to sucker visitors into a tour of a San Diego property in exchange for a free two day trip to Hawaii. It is only after a fifteen minute inescapable deluge of a sales pitch that the already horrible experience goes further south when they ask you for a forty dollar deposit in order to secure your spot on the San Diego property tour. So unpleasant is this experience that one can only feel sorrow for the neighboring booths as attendees go running away, eyes down as quickly as possible to escape these used car salesmen.
Despite this peculiar and unnecessary thorn in the side of an otherwise tremendous convention, the day is a true joy. While each experience sounds so otherworldly and unique, they all blend into a strange blur of potential adrenaline rush mixed with profound relaxation. To anyone interested in learning more about travel, getting first hand advice from people that know the countries you want to see, and for people who have traveled so much that they don’t know where to go next, the LA Times Travel Show is a perfect place to satisfy any global curiosity.
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