With the knowledge that the coronavirus pandemic may be winding down and travel having emerged as a viable entertainment and recreational option, thousands of people visited the 2023 Travel & Adventure Show that took place on Feb. 4-5 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District of Columbia.
“I decided to come because the world is opening up post-COVID,” said Ashley Johnson, 32, a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland. “I wanted to see what options were available. I also wanted to think outside of the box. Hidden gems in travel are what I’m looking for.”
In the convention center’s exhibition hall, representatives from dozens of booths representing travel concerns from countries such as Korea, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Aruba, Barbados and Japan presented literature and engaged visitors. U.S. cities such as Anchorage, Alaska and Atlantic City, New Jersey, and states including North Carolina, Florida and West Virginia, and even in Maryland counties such as Cecil and Harford had booths. Airlines, cruise companies and public and private-owned travel agencies had agents explaining their offerings to visitors. Four large theaters set up in the exhibition hall served as a place where visitors could listen to speakers talk about their travel careers and interests. Many of the exhibitors offered the chance for visitors to win free trips or discounted excursions to their locales either by a raffle or an encounter at the booths.
Primate World Safaris, a tour and travel company based in Uganda, had a number of people visiting its booth. Jackson Bagumm, a representative of the company, said visitors seem interested in traveling to his country to see the wildlife.
“We are here to present people options to see Uganda, the pearl of Africa,” Bagumm, 37, said. “We have a range of safari options such as viewing the habitat of gorillas, looking at wildlife in general and visiting our country’s nature parks. We are also encouraging tourists to have cultural encounters with the people. The Ugandans will benefit directly from the tourists and the tourists will have real experiences with people in the communities.”
Lucia Barnard, a sales manager for Sarasota, Florida-based Go Touch Down Travels & Tours that offers excursions to South Africa, offered reduced packages at the show. For example, an eight-day tour of the Cape Town area that normally costs $4,000 had a $3,200 price tag.
“Our customers have to arrange their travel to and from South Africa, but when they are in the country, we move them around comfortably,” Barnard said.
Visitors also showed great interest in domestic travel. A number of people hovered around the Anchorage, Alaska booth, with representatives constantly talking about visiting the state and its largest city.
“We have been overwhelmed. People coming by has been non-stop,” said Judy Overstreet, 60, a representative for the Anchorage booth. “Alaska is a beautiful destination. Some tourists consider it to be a little exotic but that’s okay. There is something for everyone in Alaska.”
Debbie Tompkins of Alexandria., Virginia spent two hours on Feb. 4 at the show. She expressed her excitement on resuming travel.
“It’s been a while since I have traveled,” said Tompkins, 62. “I am interested in going to Africa, the southern states such as South Carolina [and] Florida, and the Caribbean. I am glad I came to this. Some of these companies are offering decent deals.”