From the 30th of September to the 2nd of February, the Sunday Times hosted its annual Destinations Holiday and Travel Show. I received free tickets with one of my magazine subscriptions and attended the convention held at Olympia London on the Sunday with my parents. There were over a hundred different exhibitors set up in the immense exhibition space- too many too see but definitely enough to provide inspiration and provoke some serious wanderlust.
There were talks on everything from professional explorers, leading travel companies and writers and these were split into different sections including ‘Meet the Experts’, ‘Travel Smarter’ and the ‘Stanford Writers Festival’. The first talk I attended was on Botswana, having made it just in time after waiting for my parents to arrive (late as usual). The speaker walked us through the various features of each key area in the country. We were treated to pictures from the speaker’s own trips as well as his clients’ from regions like the Okavango Delta, a wildlife lover’s paradise where prides of 35 lions are common and you can encounter elephants drinking from the unique vantage point of a mokoro or dug-out canoe, to the Makgadikgadi Basin which boasts one of the best night sky views the speaker had ever seen. I can definitely see why this is one of my mum’s bucket list destinations.
We then spent the next few hours, coffees in hand, exploring the maze of stalls in the convention centre. Unfortunately the expo guide didn’t exactly make it easy to navigate or find exhibitors in specific locations but we managed to speak to various people including small, tailor made travel companies that focus on lesser known destinations such as Eswatini and the polar seas. There was also a ‘Taste the World’ stage which offered a little New Zealand wine tasting in conjunction with DK Travel Guides. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the red wine we tasted, the stage was a very cool idea that offered other tastings of unusual food such as Finnish Poronkaristys and South African Bobotie.
We found that Intrepid Travel were running an incredible deal: if you booked a trip with them on the day you could get 20% off and only pay a £1 deposit per person. My parents and I had been planning a trip to South East Asia in December for a little while now, and so decided spontaneously to provisionally book with Intrepid as we fell in love with their itinerary for a 18 day, small group trip that included a motorbike city tour, cooking classes and an overnight train! The great thing about Intrepid, for those of you concerned about tour group travel, is that while they organise transfers and some activities each day, you are always left time to explore on your own.
For the last few hours of the expo before I dashed off to catch a bus back to Oxford, we attended a talk by Jonathan Copley on deep ocean mapping and exploration (my choice – ever the Geographer) whose descriptions of the potential discoveries to be found in the deep ocean made me want to become a bathynaut like Gloria Hollister.
While I had a wonderful time adding places and experiences to my already over-long bucket list, I was struck by the demographics of the people attending the expo. Young people in their twenties were far and few between and the majority of the exhibitors were focused on luxury, tailor-made (read: expensive) travel to various destinations. As someone who loves to travel solo and who tends to travel more on the budget side, I was not exactly the target audience of the expo. If you want to hear from leading experts in the field or discover new up-and-coming destinations this definitely ticks those boxes, however you may have to return to the internet to find those budget travel hacks one relies on to make each trip both special and affordable.