By Anna Sekula Posted September 22, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT
Inspired by a visit to Thailand three years ago, Jean-Paul Kyrillos, vice president and publisher of Travel & Leisure, decided a multicultural fair would be the ideal way to engage readers and advertising partners, while building a signature event platform for the magazine to host on an annual basis. And this past weekend saw the first iteration of Travel & Leisure's Global Bazaar, bringing some 5,000 consumers to the Park Avenue Armory for an interactive show that included arts, crafts, food, and entertainment from more than 30 travel-related organizations and brands. The three-day affair also doubled as the magazine's 40th anniversary celebration.
“My wife and a colleague of mine were in Bangkok, the night market, three years ago, and we were just taken. It was magical—we wanted to buy everything, we wanted to eat everything. We wanted to bring this back to New York because this is the type of thing that would make people want to go to Thailand,” said Kyrillos. “This is the kickoff to what we hope to be a yearly fixture.”
To recreate the energy, lively visuals, and authentic tastes of a market, the American Express title enlisted the help of Mary Giuliani Catering & Events to coordinate logistics, design, and production. This involved building displays unique to each individual vendor, bringing in culturally appropriate entertainment, and working to execute interactive food activations from chefs like Marc Forgione, Marcus Samuelsson, José Andrés, Masaharu Morimoto, Scott Conant, and Daniel Boulud.
What transpired was a layout that wasn't defined by a grid pattern and booths of equal shape and size, but rather a bazaar-style configuration and mix of visuals interspersed by roving and stationary musicians and dancers, as well as interactive elements. For instance, the setup for the Barbados Tourism Authority recalled an island fish shack, while Incredible India's section was brightly colored fabrics draped over simple wooden columns. For Turismo Chile, the centerpiece was the same type of pod used to rescue the trapped miners last year, which, for a small donation, visitors could step into to pose for photos. Technology also had a place at the show—South African Tourism's map held QR codes, while InterContinental Hotels & Resorts invited attendees to chat with representatives in Tel Aviv, Frankfurt, and other destinations via Skype.
As an added element, at the Saturday night run of the Global Bazaar, Travel & Leisure hosted a live and silent auction to benefit the Happy Hearts Fund, model Petra Nemcova's charity organization that supports children in countries affected by natural disasters. More than $15,000 has been raised; bidding for the online auction at charitybuzz.com continues through September 27.