Taiwan, Ecuador & South Africa Dominate the 2013 LA Times Travel Show

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Within weeks of attending the New York Times Travel Show (see my extensive write-up here), I ended up in LA for the LA Times Travel Show, my first time at both. I didn’t have as much time as I did in New York and somehow while it seemed to be roughly the same size, fewer countries I’ve been targeting lately for upcoming trips were in attendance.

What’s great about shows like these is that if you have a favorite memory from a country or two, you can find the booth and share it in all your glory and they’ll actually listen, care and resonate. Talking about an exotic place to someone who hasn’t been there often falls on deaf ears, even if they may be interested in travel. Below is my favorite show, a pair of slippers in the Azerbaijan booth.

I was surprised there were so few South American and Central American countries represented although Ecuador was a sponsor and there in all her beautiful glory (love that country). I was hoping to have conversations with folks from Peru, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil, hot on my list for the next couple of years.

Asia had quite an extensive presence with Taiwan taking the cake with a massive booth as you entered the main hall. Large plastic dolls danced around you in that Disneyworld kind of way, so much so that the event started to feel like one big Epcot to me, so I decided to take photos in each booth to make the point. That said, travel shows are all about sampling and tasting and having conversations with reps who can entice you to come to their country, when so often in my head, I had already made up my mind. There are very few countries I DON’T want to go to. When travel is in your blood as they say…

Below I’m with the rep from Zagreb who gave me a Zagreb heart to wear around my neck. It is now hanging in my garage near the wash machine so I see it every day.

Thailand had a prop. How appropriate. Next to me is Mona Gable who contributes to the site and is also a force over at BlogHer as well.

I learned a little about Yap from Vincent. Did you even know that Yap existed? It’s a small island in Micronesia, somewhere now on the list to explore.

Then there was Fiji. I’ve been twice. I remain in love with the place and the people.

See what I mean about Taiwan? It feels like they took over the entrance, a country I still haven’t visited, though you will obviously find content on Taiwan from our contributors on the site.

A travel show wouldn’t be a travel show without a whole lotta Latin dancing.

Or, a little girl from Guam who wants to put flowers around your neck.

The South Africans were in full force, as always. I had to bury them towards the bottom of this post or people will actually think they’re paying me since we have so much content on South Africa on our site and its possible I give them more Twitter love, even if I’m not trying to. They’re not paying me but it doesn’t hurt that I’ve lived there twice, Cape Town is one of my favorite places on the planet and my ex was South African. Oh yeah, and the wine is out of this world.

What did I know about Suriname before I arrived? Essentially where it was and that’s about all. Dinesh and Nick surprised me with some fabulous stats and showed me awe-dropping photos. Now, I’m eager to visit. Suriname, what do you have in store for me?

Korea also had a major presence and well, with dancing dolls running around, I couldn’t resist but to grab Delbert and have a shot taken with them in that Epcot kind of way. BTW, this is something I rarely if never do when I’m actually on the road. Delbert and Mona both asked me what on earth I was going to do with these photos. Tweet and post them on We Blog the World of course, I replied.

Mexico’s Jorge Gamboa was charming as ever, encouraging me to explore parts of Mexico I didn’t know about and so, it’s now on the list…

Dancing anyone?

Did I mention that Taiwan took over the entrance?

The South Africans were in close second place in terms of presence. They also had the most prolific and noticeable presence on social media, with their Twitter handle posted on a table as part of a contest they were doing. Yes, I entered and tweeted. I met Darren Humphreys aka @travelsommelier, who left me smiling with a great bottle of South African Chardonnay to take home.

The Truphone guys pitched us on their app, which enables you to make low cost calls to any landline or mobile via the internet from anywhere in the world using your Android or iOS device. And, the SmugMug team was there, something I was about to give up, but they said they’ll talk me about it. I do still have an account at the moment however…once a photographer, always a……That said, I have my own site over at Magic Sauce Photography not to mention all the great photos here and my five going on six photo books. I never use Flickr anymore nor Instagram – there’s just too much to keep with. While my Canon 7D is never far from my side as most know, I ended up at the LA Times Travel Show with only my iPhone 5, which is why the above images are so blurry.

There were also a number of sessions and talks throughout the weekend, including strategies to grow your luxury travel business, travel trends and statistics, secrets from Don George of Gadling.com, and blogger buds @johnnyjet and @jenleo were there, although we didn’t manage to connect on the ground. Norweigan Cruise Line was there (oddly, I have only taken two cruises in my life, maybe three, they’re never memorable).

Jessica Barrow from G Adventures did a session with several others entitled Popcorn Topics for Young Professionals (under 40 years old), Opportunities & Issues in Social Media, River Cruising, Understanding Markets and more. Some more notable speakers included photographer Mark Boster, foodie Cathy Chapman, Julia Dimon, LA Times writer Chris Erskine, author of “How to Eat a Small Country” Amy Finley, Arthur Frommer, Josh Gates, Catharine Hamm and Barbara Hansen, another foodie, who writes over at tableconversation.com and eatmx.com.

Others included Blake MyCoskie, Christopher Reynolds (photography), Booth Moore, Andrew McCarthy, author of the Longest Way Home, Nico Melendez, Roberto Martin, author of Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, Debbie Lee, another foodie, Brian Malarkey, Tomo Kurokawa (Tasting Tips Around the Globe), Phil Koeghan, host of the Amazing Race, Brian Kelly, Dylan James Ho and more.