This week-end, Paris is holding its annual International Tourism fair. We went for you, here is our feedback…
Paris annual International Tourism fair, is an event I had the pleasure to attend a few years ago before moving to Dubai, and was excited to see again as I am back in France for a little while.
Besides (usually) being a good place for pertinent informations on potential worldwide destinations, those fairs also tend to showcase the travel trends of the moment. And based on what I saw; local and regional eco-tourism is definitely the mood of the hour.
Gone for the most part the large state sponsored official booths promoting countries from all over the world. Also surprisingly missing, most of the press and major travel guide editors. (could it be because of the book fair taking place next door?) Instead, smaller, more specialized booths promoting regional or theme oriented tourism, private tour operators, and outdoor retailers showcasing their latest products are there to cover the void.
Let’s start with the official state tourism offices and their local representation, or obvious lack of it. Only Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Cyprus, Lithuania, Thailand and Japan had a noticeable presence. The award for best booth in that regard goes to Spain. Located right in front of the entrance, divided as expected by regions, each one of them with at least one person to assist you, offering a bundle of detailed informations with printed brochures on various subjects, the booth was everything you expect to find in a travel trade show, which couldn’t said of many others.
As you can see that ain’t much of an international offer. As a matter of fact, most countries were totally absent from the event, while a few more were only “represented” by private tour operators. The problem is that you can only get informations on those agencies travel packages for a designated country, instead of viable informations on the country itself.
All along the aisles you could see how traditional travel agencies and tour operators have “re-branded” themselves. In an age where specialization is key to success, forget world wide deals for the largest audience possible. They’re instead targeting identified niches with tailored offers, where the traveler is “guided” through all along the way.
The destination in itself is also no longer sufficient, it needs an extra “trendy” element to make it special and different from what the competition has to offer; Poland on bikes, Catalonia on horses, Paris tours for vegans, Boreal cruises in the Artic, etc…
But as this very specific, segmented, “we take care of everything for you” approach makes sense for those who have one desire in mind, want to escape their daily grind without complications, or don’t care to spend time thinking about any planning, it is in sharp contrast with the other trend of the moment; FREEDOM.
Again, as we desperately try to escape the misery of our wired and connected urban lives, the freedom to roam unchecked in an uncluttered nature seems for many to be a better way out. And that hasn’t gone un-noticed by the organizers, which is why a substantial part of the hall was dedicated to it. There, outdoor retailers, large or small, offered all types of apparels of course, but also campers and other clever ways to transform your car in the ultimate touring machine, not to forget specialized travel apps allowing you to make decisions on the go. (we’ll review some of those in dedicated posts)
Finally, the most obvious to come out of this year’s show, as I mentioned above, was the emphasis on local eco-tourism and regionalism. Forget New Zealand or some other place across the globe, it’s time to explore your own backyard. Narrow your interest to the marvels your own area has to offer, or the ones near by. That has always made sense to me and aligns with the booming “slow travel” philosophy. As such you could find many informations on local French regions; their culture, architecture, gastronomies and natural wonders and how to explore them in an environmentally conscious manner – On foot, bike or horse, staying in local farms or other “green” hotels, etc… – . You even had a special section dedicated to the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of world war one, with historical tourist informations related to that event.
These trends are interesting and show that, at least in Europe, people have come to grip with the environmental issues confronting us and are adapting their travel desires accordingly. It also reveals that you don’t have to go far to find interesting destinations, and that specializing your interests can be very fulfilling.
I can only lament, that at least in France, off-road overland travel isn’t something people seem to be too interested in. Or at least not enough to be advertised in a travel trade show. But don’t worry, Lost & Curious will always have you covered on that regardless.