Since 1998, Joel Cohen has been Vice President of New York City Vacation Packages, a company devoted to promoting “the Greatest City in the World.”
He graduated from Temple University’s School of Business Administration and attended its Law School, has spoken at many travel industry events including the ASTA World Congress, and has been named to Who’s Who of American Business Leaders.
His life’s goal was to visit every major country in the world. His goal now is to eat in every one of New York City’s 17,000 restaurants.
He doesn’t plan on accomplishing either goal but is having fun trying.
Travel Research Online: What was your first experience in travel? What is your most memorable experience traveling?
Joel Cohen: I was a counselor for a teen travel camp in the late ‘60s. We toured New England, and the first time I saw the White Mountains in New Hampshire I was hooked on the beauty and sheer magnitude of nature. I had a similar experience many years later on my first trip to the National Parks in the west. On a drive from northern Arizona into Utah I visited Monument Valley – and I’ve returned there several times since.
TRO: What first made you interested in the joining the travel industry?
JC: By the mid-‘70s I was the director of the teen travel camp and totally enjoyed planning the camp’s summer trips to Canada and Florida. I was friendly with Barry Tenenbaum who was the president of a chain of travel agencies. He convinced me to join his organization. I’ve been working with Barry ever since.
TRO: What is the advantage of a tour company which promotes only one city?
JC: As a travel agent I learned that I had to rely on destination experts. There was no way I could possibly know the whole world, but to be successful I had to have all the answers for my clients. The destination knowledge that our staff possesses on New York City will help make travel agents experts so they can sell the City with confidence.
TRO: Could you name a few aspects of New York City Vacation Packages you would like more agents to know about?
JC: We’re so flexible. Every vacation package we sell, whether it’s for a family, a honeymoon couple, or even a large group, is customized. There’s no “one from column A, one from column B.” We have a broad range of accommodations from which to choose; from there, everything else is optional – Broadway shows, sightseeing, museums, harbor cruises, walking tours, dining, special events, private tours and even spa treatments.
TRO: What are your personal favorite sights and happenings in the Big Apple?
JC: Since we focus exclusively on New York City we can provide some special events that travelers can’t get from the big online giants – they can only get them from NYCVP through travel agents: 4th of July family picnic and fireworks cruise, escorted NY Yankees games, private viewing parties for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, exclusive party in Rockefeller Plaza for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop Party. We’ve had a lot of fun planning these events and travel agents’ clients have had incredible experiences attending them.
TRO: Let’s say I’m an agent with a customer looking to travel to New York. Why should I be in touch with NYCVP?
JC: Arranging a complete vacation in New York City can be a daunting task. Where to stay, how to get good seats at a Broadway show, when is the best time to visit the City, how do I make sure my clients see everything, where should they eat, what about transportation, how can I save them money – these are the questions that our staff can answer easily.
TRO: Is there anything new or exciting on the horizon for NYCVP?
JC: In a City as exciting as New York there’s always something new. New hotels, new restaurants, new shows, big events (hint: Super Bowl 2014). We’re never at a loss for excitement!
TRO: How are those life goals coming along?
JC: Well I might have to revisit them. There are now 18,000 restaurants and I’m 20 pounds overweight. The math isn’t working.