Summer holiday fun in winter: #Vakantiebeurs

0265-VKB-Banner-250x250pxFor many people the first weeks of the year are the time to think about trips to make in the year ahead. This is also the time of the biggest annual holiday convention in the Netherlands. For me the ‘Vakantiebeurs’ has become synonymous with the beginning of a new travel season. In the past I always attended as a visitor, collecting brochures. Nowadays I also attend as a travel blogger, including the two professional travel conference days that precede the convention for the general public. So what will Vakantiebeurs 2015 have in store?

I no longer attend travel conventions to collect brochures or learn about destinations. We live in an online and virtual world, where all information is only a screen away. I do not want to carry brochures or talk to sales agents. I attend the fair to be inspired and to experience as many destinations and adventures as possible in a day. Unfortunately the organization has been very slow to adapt to the online traveler. Even in 2015 many booths still feature tons of heavy brochures, stacked up behind boring desks, staffed by sales agents and interns. But… there is hope. More and more destinations realize that the demands of the 21st century traveler are different from those they served 10 or 20 years ago. Slowly they are throwing away the white desks, replacing them with white sand, good food and live bands, giving the visitors the experience that will inspire them to book that trip… online and at home!

Last year I attended the public days, consciously wearing the hat of the experience seeker, expecting to be inspired and entertained. I went looking for a 21st century travel experience, trying to answer the question: Is there a future for large-scale offline public travel conventions and if so, what should it be like? Follow me on an online tour to Vakantiebeurs 2014:

A day at a travel convention starts at the non-inspiring convention center. Unfortunately Jaarbeurs Utrecht is no exception...

A day at a travel convention usually means going to a rather non-inspiring convention center. Unfortunately Jaarbeurs Utrecht is not the most idyllic place of the Netherlands.

And to add to the challenge, I brought the most difficult-to-please travel consumer along: a teenage girl (my daughter)...

And to add to the challenge, I brought the most difficult-to-please travel consumer along: a teenage girl… In this case my critical 13 year-old daughter… “Are you sure this will be fun, dad?”

As expected, a (too large) part of the convention is stuffed with uninspiring white booths where you have to beg to receive a colorful brochure. Very 1990! #fail

As expected, a (too large) part of the convention is stuffed with uninspiring white booths where you have to beg to receive a boring brochure. Very 1990! #fail

But there is hope! In an attempt to please the pleasure seekers like us, the convention has a few new features, like the culinary route: A route along several destinations on the convention where you can try some of the local delicacies! Of cuorse we bought the extra ticket!

But there is hope! In an attempt to please the pleasure seekers like me and my daughter, the convention has a few new features, like the culinary route: A route along several destinations on the convention where you can try some of the local delicacies! Of course we bought the extra ticket!

The bite from Spain was a plastic wrapped piece of ham, handed from a very non-Spanish student at a very uninpiring counter at the back of the Spanish booth... Bad start...

The bite from Spain was a plastic-wrapped piece of ham, handed from a very non-Spanish student at a very uninspiring counter at the back of the Spanish booth… Bad start…

But admitted, most culinary route places were okay. The Austrians understand entertainment a lot better. This loud Austrian style café, serving large local beers and Tyrolian snacks was filled to the brim. This is the type of travel entertainment we want!

But admitted, most culinary route places were okay. The Austrians understand entertainment a lot better. This loud Austrian style café, serving large local beers and Tyrolian snacks was filled to the brim. This is the type of travel entertainment we want!

Some North African destinations replaced the brochures with local arts and crafts, although the travel sales agent clearly still had to get used to his new job and new outfit.

Some North African destinations replaced the brochures with local arts and crafts, although the travel sales agent clearly still had to get used to his new job and new outfit.

But your name written in Arabic makes a nice souvenir, without having to go all the way to Tunisia!

But your name written in Arabic makes a nice souvenir, without having to go all the way to Tunisia!

We also really liked the aircraft test cabins of several airlines, especially when free tickets could be won! Hoping to have another chance at Cathay Pacific Airlines this year!

We also really liked the aircraft test cabins of several airlines, especially when free tickets could be won! Hoping to have another chance at Cathay Pacific Airlines this year!

We also liked the local experiences, like the Gambian hair treatment. By posting pictures of our nice experience we won a package of goodies from the Gambia! So Go-Gambia.com!

We also liked the local experiences, like the Gambia hair treatment. By posting pictures of our nice experience we won a package of goodies from the Gambia! So Go-Gambia.com!

Resting tired convention legs in EVA Airlines business class seats sure beats the convention center cafeteria! Flight attendant, can we have a drink please?!

Resting tired convention legs in EVA Air business class seats sure beats the convention center cafeteria! Flight attendant, can we have a drink please?!

One of my favorite tour operators is Djoser, an organizer of small group tours to exotic destinations all over the world. We traveled to China with our kids with them back in 2008. Their pavilion (it's no longer a booth) is a true trip around the world! I hope they are present again in 2015!

One of my favorite tour operators is Djoser, an organizer of small group tours to exotic destinations all over the world. We traveled with Djoser to China, with our kids back in 2008. Their pavilion (it’s no longer a booth) is a true trip around the world! I hope they are present again in 2015!

Another cool experience is the 'camping by night' exhibit. Here all camping travel suppliers are placed together at an indoor camping, set in evening atmosphere, with camp fires and evening drinks. Very long summer evening!

Another cool experience is the ‘camping by night‘ exhibit. Here all camping travel suppliers are placed together at an indoor camping, set in evening atmosphere, with camp fires and evening drinks. A true holiday summer evening experience!

How about a campervan that you can stuff in a backppack? Brilliant innovations to make camping fun again! Looking forward to the 2015 edition!

How about a campervan that you can stuff into a backpack? Brilliant innovations to make camping fun and cool again! Looking forward to the 2015 edition!

In the age of Instagram and visual social media we were happy to see an instant cover photo booth at National Geographic Traveler. And if they put the picture directly onto social media, there is no need to print the photo ;-)

In the age of Instagram and visual social media we were happy to see an instant cover photo booth at National Geographic Traveler Magazine. And if they put the picture directly onto social media, there is no need to print the photo ;-)

Another 2014 first was the business lounge for travel professionals, that is also accessible to travel writers and bloggers (like me!)

Another 2014 first was the business lounge for travel professionals, that is also accessible to travel writers and bloggers (like me!)

A great professional place to meet other bloggers and to discuss campaign strategies with potential customers. This will be a feature in 2015 again! Oh, more powerplugs please!

A great professional place to meet other bloggers and to discuss campaign strategies with potential customers. This will be a feature in 2015 again! Oh, more power plugs please, so we can write our blogs on the spot! That is… if I don’t win the Verkeersbureaus charging travel suitcase!

So, is the Vakantiebeurs worth coming out of the virtual world for? I would say definitely! The entrance fee gives you a nice day out to more countries than even the most seasoned traveler can cover in a year. And the 2015 edition will have enough entertainment to keep you inspired, happy, relaxed and fed for the whole day! You will hopefully leave without brochures, but with more than enough travel inspiration for the year!

You can get your tickets for Vakantiebeurs 2015 at a great discount if you pre-purchase online. Use this link to get a good €4,50 discount on your tickets (link is to the official Vakantiebeurs web store with a special discount code). Of course I encourage you to spend this saving on a nice tropical cocktail at one of the Caribbean pavillions! 🙂

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