A Morning of Travel, An Evening of Protest

Posted by on November 20, 2023

by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA

I went to New York for a travel trade show and ended up at a demonstration large enough to shut down Grand Central Station smack in the middle of the end-of-day rush-hour commute.

Thank goodness everything stayed peaceful, as it should when protesting against violence. This time it was about the Middle East. There must have been at least 200 police officers there, or so it seemed, with every entrance into the train station closed and blocked, the main concourse inside filled with both protesters and security. Crowds were singing, chanting and generally taking up space while spilling into the busy streets.

I love New York. I love the way the cops patiently took it in stride as another day on the job. The crowd grew as passers-by stopped and joined in. “Stop the violence in Gaza? Sure, that sounds good.” It didn’t take long for fruit vendors and middle-schoolers to start pacing the sidewalks, selling snacks to weary commuters wondering how long they’d have to wait before they could board a train to get back to their comfortable homes in the suburbs after a long day at work in the city.

  1. Meanwhile, the International Travel Show at the Javits Center on the city’s west side was finishing up a successful day. This year’s message is that 2024 is on track to be the busiest for tourism since before the pandemic – an optimistic reality. People are looking for new places to discover and experiences that fulfill the soul as well as personal curiosity.

Takeaways from the  International Travel Show 2023:

  1. Americans don’t always use up their earned vacation time because families are too busy; often it’s the kids with overextended extracurricular activities.
  2. Today’s young professionals are changing the face of travel as they strive for a better work-life balance. They’re not tied down.
  3. Solo travel is getting bigger. Is it that people are less social now? More confident? Maybe they developed a post-COVID comfort spending time alone? And there are plenty of single people who are tired of waiting for someone with whom to go.

Interestingly, while parents often considered their children too busy to travel:

  1. 79% of parents surveyed by the American Family Association and NYU’s School of Professional Studies said their children love to travel.
  2. 80% said travel has helped their children see the world from a broader perspective.
  3. 67% said their children have become more interested in other cultures because of their travel experiences.
  4. 76% of grandparents surveyed in the study said that travel is a great way to bond with their family and make their grandchildren more adventurous, adaptable and confident.

In between presentations,  there was time to visit the sellers of travel. Italy, France and Mexico remain popular. For those looking to get off the beaten path, 2024 expects to see more interest in Argentina with its favorable exchange rate, and Japan as Asia becomes more enticing to Americans.

Multiple times I walked past the vendor table promoting Ukraine. I felt sorry for the country and their economy, but I couldn’t end the day without having a conversation with the two representatives who assured me that it perfectly safe to go skiing in Ukraine’s beautiful mountains. Uh. Okay.

A representative from Israel’s tourism office talked about how wonderful it is to visit Israel. “Yes, but not now,” I said. He turned his head in frustration and resignation. I thought he was going to cry. It made me feel awful.

Caribbean beach resorts were highlighting their newer accommodations for multigenerational and extended families as “quality time” becomes more of a priority.

There were luxury private jet services, safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, quiet cottages in New Hampshire, and wineries from coast to coast and continent to continent.

It was after getting revved up about sharing my new travel thoughts and heading to Grand Central for the train ride back to Connecticut, that I stumbled upon the big protest demonstration. Absorbing it all for nearly an hour, I met a subway-savvy mom and daughter who were equally determined to find transportation to a train terminal outside of mid-town Manhattan.

Boarding a train at 125th Street a few hours later than my expected departure, I felt drained from the day’s energy level in New York City. The train rolled along. I looked out the window and weighed the two extremes of what I walked through earlier in the day. I thought about the protest and what it really meant. I thought about the children, the parents, the grandparents – both Israeli and Palestinian – and also those in Ukraine. Then I thought about where to go on my next family vacation. It seemed trivial; it seemed important. Maybe it has become more important than ever. Because so much in life is elusive, and what we all want, perhaps, is time.

Marcia Simon is a travel writer, travel advisor and strategic content creator for health, wellness and tourism. Connect via email: welcome@friendlygrouptravel.com

Posted in: Pondering Life, Travel
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