Vegas was the center of the universe for the travel industry at the 2013 Travel Goods Association show last week.
The TGA is a gathering of all the “Who’s who” in the industry as the manufacturers and retailers get together to plan their year and ruminate on how the previous one closed out. It is a launching point for new products and brands and it featured a mix of the biggest and the most innovative in the industry.
With travel and tourism approaching the trillion-dollar level it is no surprise that goods for travel are an industry in the billions themselves.
2012 has finally brought the Travel Goods industry to a level above pre-recesssion spending at over $25 billion in 2012 which actually represents a 12.5% increase over the levels spent in 2007. This increase had most of the people I spoke to feeling optimistic about the industry in general, with several being downright bullish on how 2013 would fare.
There were some definite trends that ran through the show.
LIGHTER IS BETTER!
Everyone had a “Lighter than last year” tag on their products and product names like Helium ran along side high strength to weight ratio polycarbonates and mixed soft side/hard side approaches to minimize weight.
Delsey was debuting an over weight indicator on their luggage that uses a resistive structure to show you that you have crossed 50 pounds when you lift the suitcase by its handle. With checked luggage fees skyrocketing, this can be a very useful feature.
They were also showing hard side luggage in their Aero line with front access panels for laptop storage and quick access. All this, and the carry-on hard-side is still less than 9 pounds.
Eagle Creek has long been a stalwart in the outdoor and packing products industry and their new Morphus was one of the coolest products I saw at the show in the pure luggage category. It begins life on the outbound portion of your trip as a hard/soft roller bag that is perfect for a carry-on only traveler.
But what is our well-intentioned one-bagger to do when they have spent a week in London and they have souvenirs for absolutely EVERYONE to bring home? With the Morphus, it is no problem at all.
The suitcase pulls away from the hard side polycarbonate portion with the wheels and becomes a backpack carry on, while the liner pulls out and makes the rolling section into a second suitcase that you can check on the way home! Talk about doubling your capabilities!
If you are trimming ounces but like to be organized you should also take a look at their gossamer Specter Pack It Cubes to go inside of the Morphus. A pack of three still weighs in at less than two and a half ounces!
Kelty has long been known for their outdoor gear and crossover packs but they have decided it is time they attacked the travel market.
The rather innocuous looking Ascender is a backpack with an external rolling frame that will slide into the overhead of a normal sized overhead bin.
The interesting thing is that the Ascender expands from a respectable 40 liters of capacity to 70 liters! Obviously, your carry on capabilities go away at this point, but it makes for a very flexible piece of carry. If that is not enough of a stretch you can add the Duffel or Trunk to the rolling frame and go to up to 80 liters of carry. Feel like taking your snowboard to Europe for some extreme Alps recreation? The Trunk will let you do exactly that.
Another trend I saw was in the realm of the venerable travel pillow. EVERYONE seems to be trying to reinvent this category.
Moon Morning was showing their combo product that is a neck pillow/lumbar pad/sleep mask/iPad stand. Whew, listing all of that wears me out!
Even more outside of the box is the Travel Halo. This is a really different approach to the travel pillow. For me, neck pillows just don’t work at all. The idea behind this headband based approach is that it keeps your head from flopping back and forth.
I was skeptical on the Travel Halo…but I flew the red-eye coming home and I have to say that it worked really well. Wheels up, mask down and Jeff was out until the plane set down. Nice!
Or if you are into multi-function (and I am!) the ExOfficio travel vest could roll itself into a contained pocket and convert itself into a travel pillow!
Also pretty appealing were the beautiful leather SIM wallets from Comfort Travel. These are for the international traveler that carries a SIM for every country they fly to. Beautiful leather and a nice idea to help you keep your cell life organized. They even come with a set of flag stickers to help you keep all your world of SIMS separated and situated.
The TGA offered an opportunity to have a close up look at a bunch of new products to make travel a little faster, safer, lighter or just a bit more comfortable. I picked up some really interesting products and will be posting some reviews over the next couple of weeks.