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Since its inception in 2004, the New York Times Travel Show (a new addition to our 2011 list of Top 100 events) has expanded exponentially, growing from fledgling conference to a large-scale consumer expo with more than 400 exhibitors that draws some 24,000 attendees over three days. The 2011 installment started on Friday, February 25, and appropriated more than 400,000 square feet of space in the south side of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for a weekend that included seminars, live dance and music performances, a family-focused area with activities for kids, Jeopardy! auditions, and culinary demonstrations from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
“Eight years ago we were in an annex in the north side of the Javits Center—we weren't even inside the building—and we launched the show with about 160 booths. This year you see that not only do we have ownership of one of the largest spaces, but we have more than three times that number of booths,” said Seth Rogin, vice president of advertising for The New York Times. “We have more interesting speakers and we have more exciting tastings and events than we've ever had before. So it really has been a growth story.”
In large part, the show's growth can be attributed to strategic partnerships the newspaper has made that extend on-site offerings beyond staid displays to more interactive, hands-on activities. Perhaps the biggest of these was the culinary demonstrations from Florida chefs this year, the product of a collaboration with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
”The New York Times had been proud to be a sponsor of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival for years, and we are a founding sponsor of the New York City Wine & Food Festival. So even while we're having the travel show in New York, our sponsorship is very much active down in Miami on the same weekend,” Rogin said. The festival, which was celebrating its 10-year anniversary, staged a cooking showcase where chefs Tom Parlo of the Biltmore Hotel, Jonathan Bennet of Red the Steakhouse, and Anthony Velazquez of Bistro Urbano made dishes for the crowd on the show floor. The demo even included an exhibition from Yerba Buena restaurant mixologist Aaron Fitas.
Other partners supplied experiential components. Jeopardy! allowed attendees try out for the TV quiz show, 1010 WIns and CBS Radio broadcast live weather updates from the show floor, and Ecuador Tourism sponsored a 24-foot climbing wall. The latter was part of the new family pavilion added this year to entice more families and furnished with activities and exhibits from the American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Museum, Liberty Science Center, New York Hall of Science, and Queens Museum of Art.
Interactive elements also came virtually with the first Web-based guide to the show that allowed attendees to navigate the booths, browse the selection of travel-related seminars, and see the schedule for the five performance stages.
“I think there's demand overall for mobile media and that's something that's been a growth area in terms of the ways that advertisers are looking to expose themselves. [The mobile show guide] is a natural extension of the way people want to consume their media and we were excited to build it,” said Rogin, who added that the convention also used social media to engage consumers. ”The Times is very active in social media. It's part of who we are and social media is core to the show. We have a Facebook page and we have a Twitter page with over 10,000 followers. When you think of a three-day event that's essentially a consumer event, to have thousands of people who want to talk and tweet about it is really very exciting.”