Destination not only driving force in travel industry

Fri Mar 2, 2012 12:35pm EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Travelers still long to experience far-off places and exotic locations, but destinations are not the only driving force in the travel industry.

Travel experts say vacationers are increasingly matching their interests and passions, whether it is cooking, yoga, wine-making, culture or a longing for adventure, with the places they decide to visit.

"Travel continues to evolve from something they want to something they actually need," Ellen Bettridge, vice president of the American Express Retail Travel Network, said ahead of the opening of the New York Times Travel Show on Friday.

"We are hearing from travelers that it is not always about the destination, but also about what their passion points are, what motivates them, what they love to do in their life."

Although cruise lines, including Disney which christened its newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, in a star-studded ceremony on Thursday evening in New York, have been at the forefront of theme travel with family, cooking and art-themed cruises, the trend is also steaming ahead on dry land.

Many of the hundreds of exhibitors from 150 countries at the New York Times Travel Show on March 2-4 will be focusing on more than just exotic destinations to lure visitors.

Doug Duda, a chef and host of the cable television show "The Well-Seasoned Traveler," said in addition to culture, art and adventures, food and wine are playing a bigger part in travel choices.

"I think people are building their travel around, for example the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (in Miami) or the New York City Wine and Food Festival, and coming to town at that time of year to have access to dining experiences that just aren't available any other time of year," he said.   Continued...