The Embarcedro, where cruise ships dock in San Diego. ©IBIT/G. Gross
The arrival of Unicomm’s Travel & Adventure Show series shows the travel industry is starting to recognize California’s second largest city as more than just a destination.
Every year, Unicomm’s Travel & Adventure Show series is the largest travel trade show in the United States. Over a winter weekend in a handful of the largest US cities, veteran travelers and travel dreamers alike get to soak up tips from experts and see what’s available from scores of tour operators and travel providers, all under one large roof.
For Southern Californians, your only chance to get in on this has been the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show, held annually in Long Beach.
Two weeks from now, that will change. That’s because the San Diego Travel & Adventure Show will be held March 29-30 at the San Diego Convention Center on San Diego Bay.
Fans of the wildly popular San Diego Comic-Con are already well familiar with this venue. Now, you have a reason to come back.
For those up in the Los Angeles-Orange County area who missed the Long Beach show, it means you get another shot at it, and a lovely little drive or train ride down to San Diego in the bargain.
A TWO-WAY TRAVEL MARKET
For San Diegans, it means not having to schlepp up to Long Beach and back to immerse yourself in a world of travel possibilities.
But for those of us who follow the doings of the travel industry, it means that, at long last, “the trade” is starting to recognize this region as a two-way market.
And if you call this area home, that could be a very good thing, indeed.
With its seemingly endless beaches and almost sinfully perfect weather, San Diego has long been recognized as a great tourist destination year-round, especially by anyone who’s ever had to shovel several hundred pounds of winter snow just to find their front door.
But in justifiably hyping it as a cool place to visit, it often feels as if the travel industry forgets that San Diego also is a place where a lot of folks live.
Los Angeles may have the largest population in California with 3.8 million people, but the 3.1 million of San Diego city and county aren’t that far behind. And San Diego area residents like to travel as much as anyone else.
The arrival of America’s biggest travel expo to “America’s Finest City” would suggest that at least some in the industry are starting to recognize San Diego as a two-way travel market. And that’s all good.
NOT BIG NAMES, BUT BIG INFO
Coming on the heels of — and in such relative proximity to — both Unicomm’s Long Beach show and the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, several of the big-name speakers who highlighted those two events won’t be in San Diego.
That means no Rick Steves, the PBS European travel guru. Likewise, CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg. Even more significant by their absence, Arthur Frommer, the man I call “the Godfather of Travel,” and his equally well-traveled and insightful daughter, Pauline Frommer.
Another significant absence will be Ethiopian Airlines, which is a shame, because too few Americans know about what just might be the best airline in Africa.
So what’s in it for you if you go? A lot, actually.
The Travel Channel will “represent” with two of its more popular show hosts, Don Wildman and Samantha Brown.
Patricia Schultz, author of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” also will there. Not one to rest on past publishing, Patricia likes to update her books for her travel show audiences, which makes hearing her “must-sees” a must.
But it’s some of the not-so-famous speakers who may offer the greatest value at this show.
EVERYTHING FROM EVERYWHERE
There’s Jorge Meraz, host and director of the KPBS San Diego television series Crossing South. His focus is northern Baja California — the attractions you know, the ones you thought you knew and the ones you’ll want to know.
Jorge comes across not as some sort of haughty “I’m-Jorge-Meraz-and-you’re-not” expert, but as a cool, curious, fun-loving guy who’s willing both to learn and to challenge his own fears.
In other words, the kind of guy you’d love to have riding shotgun on your own travels.
Beth Whitman, founder and editor of Wanderlust and Lipstick, will be offering tips for safe, successful solo travel for women.
In the mainstream news business, they call topics like this one an “evergreen,” because it never gets old. There’s always interest and there are always questions.
Beth figures to have a lot of the answers.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Angel Castellanos of AngelsTravelLouge.com will have two sessions of travel tips and tricks, including one devoted to how to use your iPhone and other personal electronics to your advantage when you travel — without bankrupting yourself.
If you know what “roaming” to your cellphone bill, you’ll want to hear this guy.
Think you’ve seen it all when it comes to Europe? Gary Scott of Right Path Adventures will be talking about the attractions of a region of Europe still largely unknown to most Americans, the Dolomite mountains, including Croatia and Slovenia.
And Chris Liebenberg of Piper & Heath Travel will be addressing a subject close to my own heart, “The Conservation and Social Value of Travel in Africa.”
There will be cooking demonstrations hosted by Cuisine Noir, “the first food and wine lifestyle magazine for African-Americans,” as well as dance performances representing cultures of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
And that’s all on the first day.
LOTS OF EXHIBITORS
But you’ll want to save some time during your day for the exhibitors. There are more than 100 of them, representing travel in virtually every major region of the world, including Africa.
That last point is important, because more American leisure travelers to Africa come from the West Coast than any other part of the country.
It’s one of the reasons why the Africa Travel Association, the leading organization promoting travel and tourism in the Mother Continent, also will be on hand in San Diego. Sop be sure you stop by and meet their reps.
And if you’re there on Sunday, stop by the ATA booth and say hello to IBIT.
IF YOU GO
The San Diego Travel & Adventure Show
San Diego Convention Center
111 West Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA
Saturday, March 29
Sunday, March 30
COST (per person)
One day — $10 online before March 28, $12 online after March 28, $15 at the door.
Both days — $16 online before March 28, $18 online after March 28, $24 at the door.
NOTE: If you’re coming down from Los Angeles, Orange County or northern San Diego County, there’s an alternative to battling Southern California’s notorious freeway traffic — the train.
North County residents can hop on the Coaster, while those farther north can take advantage of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. Both stop at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
From the station, jump on the San Diego Trolley’s Green Line. You’ll be at the Convention Center in two stops.