After arranging with National Express to change my booking (National Express Review) as I really wanted to go to the Adventure Travel Show that was taking place 28-29th January 2012 at the Olympia, Kensington, I duly got on the tube and made my way there on the Sunday around midday.
I didn’t know what to expect as this would be the first time I would attend a travel show let alone as a travel blogger, but I made sure my expectations were kept low.
Arriving at the Olympia, I duly paid the £10 entrance feel and with a sense of bubbling excitement, I arrived on the floor the show was based and came out to a 80s cubicle office style convention! Sure enough all the adventure travel companies tried to jazz their stands up with colours and tried to be appealing as possible but it was still very much an old style office place.
Dropping off my backpack at the cloakroom and armed with a notepad and my iphone, I started going round the stands and seeing what each travel company had to offer.
At the end of my 3 hours there, I had a mixed bag of impressions and I think I did come away feeling that I did not get what I set out to do. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
- The layout of the show was great! It allowed easy access to all the stands and never once I did have to slow walk behind people whilst burning evils into their eyes!
- There were some great people who positively bubbled with excitement and enthusiasm and actually wanted me to learn more about the company.
- There were some companies who recognised the importance of travel blogs and were clued up how social media actually worked in their favour. They were very few and far between however. But those who did talk about social media and online advertising were pretty friendly!
- The talks made by Charley Boorman and James Cracknell proved to be very inspirational! Wish the talks could have been longer!
- Lots of competitions to enter!
- Most manned staff seemed to be bored. Yes it’s a Sunday and the second day, but it’s no excuse to look impatient as you ask more about them.
- There was a stand that I felt extremely awkward. I went up to one of their staff who was holding a leaflets out with a bored expression. I asked what their company was about. He didn’t really speak to me and pushed me with one of this leaflets which I read quickly and I asked what projects he’s been on. He stared at me in stone cold silence and eventually rolled his eyes and just said one project name. I was left hanging and I wanted him to explain the project but he didn’t. I gave him back the leaflet and said it was very informative and interesting to speak with him about it. He probably didn’t see through the sarcasm. But I was disappointed for his company for employing someone like that.
- Literally no freebies. All I got from there was a Pen and that only happened as I was talking to one stand and my old pen ran out. They gave me one of theirs and told me to keep it. Many stands said there were loads for the Saturday but ran out. Perhaps, they should have reviewed the numbers they were expecting.
- The main thing that struck me from the stands was how many of them were clueless towards travel blogs and social media as a tool for promotion. Understandably, they are not expected to know but my attempts to explain it was brushed aside or perhaps aggressively ignored. I wasn’t at all promoting myself but rather explaining how social media or travel blogs could help them. Luckily, there were a few who were genuinely interested and many thanked me for showing me how and if they wanted to, left me with their business card to discuss at a later date.
- The promotion of this event was hardly to be seen before the weekend. I only found out about it when I was already on my way down to London and got told this by a mate who texted me. I didn’t see this event through Twitter at all until the day before when I tracked down who would be exhibiting at the event.
- There were a couple of stands that I absolutely did not like. They were purely there to make money off us without any regard if we wanted to travel. Without naming the companies, I got approached by one of their staff and I got sucked in their speel of what I could be involved in with if I went with their company. Keen to learn more, I sat down with them and asked questions. The first danger came when I asked the guy what projects has he been on with his company. He admitted he hadn’t been on anything and was purely an events guy. Then why was he telling me how real and amazing the projects were? He asked me if he could send me more information about the projects…keen to find out more, I said ‘sure’ and he got my address details and then proceeded to ask my bank details. I froze. I realised that he was actually looking for money for the projects that they are running. I immediately stopped there and ended the conversation and walked off. Sure enough the projects sounded good but I wanted to go on them not pay a set fee every month for the projects. This definitely left a bad vibe on the show for the rest of the day. Maybe it’s my fault for not realising this could happen but really people are looking to volunteer on projects not pay for them. As a result, I had to avoid them for the rest of the day in case they asked again. Not happy about that whatsoever and it was very ugly in my opinion.
All in all, it was definitely a mixed bag. I’m happy I came away with a few contacts and some ideas what adventure travels I could do in 2012 and 2013 but I didn’t feel inspired by the event as a whole bar a few companies and the talks. Also, I was left with a bad taste due to the ‘chuggers’ (charity mugging). I can just about justify the price and if it was £20 then I would feel let down. Maybe travel blogs has no place within adventure travel companies but they don’t realise how much of a market they are missing out on…
So 2/5 Rexy Stars for me.
Would I come back to the event again next year? Probably not. But I am thankful to the few companies who took the time to take a genuine interest and also enthusiastically tell me what they are up to!