Joel Cohen has invested the past 44 years of his life in tourism and is very pleased that the investment has paid dividends.
Joel graduated from Temple University 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.
He is an avid photographer, has self-published a book called Random Photographs from Random Journeys, and has had several exhibitions of his works.
For the last 25 years, he has been devoted to helping travel advisors promote New York City as a leisure destination, and is now including Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Boston in his repertoire.
His life’s goal was to visit every major country in the world. His goal now is to eat in every one of the 17,000 restaurants in New York City. He doesn’t plan on accomplishing either goal but is having fun trying.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hello there, Joel. It’s good to be talking with you again. The last we talked was in 2020. There’s been quite a series of events since 2020. How are you these days?
Joel Cohen (JC): Yes, it’s been quite an eventful time since we last spoke. I’ve changed jobs, learned a new market, and mastered the remote workplace—but still enjoying this industry with all its ups and downs.
TRO: We’re here today to discuss Beyond Times Square (BTSQ), a luxury travel provider in New York City. We’ve gotten word that your team over there is growing. Does this indicate an increase in business like the rest of the travel industry right now?
JC: It sure does. We’re returning to 2019 levels, but we’re also growing as an organization. We’re heavily involved in new technology that will make us more efficient, provide travel advisors with more access to our products, and give us the scalability for future expansion.
TRO: BTSQ offers up luxury in NYC in many different ways. A few of these are yacht cruises along the Manhattan and East Rivers, and pizzeria tours led by a leading authority on this iconic food of NYC. But you’re now providing the new “Journey Around the World in NYC,” a 3-day Cultural Experience. Can you tell us about this experience?
JC: We’ve found that today’s travelers are often looking for more authentic local experiences in the destinations they visit. Our three-day cultural experience offers our guests the chance to participate in an in-depth exploration of the cultural side of New York City with visits to the city’s different boroughs and neighborhoods including the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem, Little Italy, Chinatown, and more. And, like all our tours, these 3 days include a private vehicle and a personal, private tour guide.
TRO: Luxury travel is all about top-tier hospitality. When creating these experiences for the advisor who book clients, how does BTSQ ensure that advisors’ voices are heard?
JC: We listen and react. We have a top-notch sales team, both in the field and in-house, so we’re constantly hearing what advisors say about us, about our products, and about what their travelers experience. We participate in one-on-one and virtual events with major consortia and travel organizations nationwide, so we get a lot of feedback that helps our product and marketing teams.
TRO: Does BTSQ do luxury tours in areas outside of New York City?
JC: We’re based in New York City, so we’re thought of as the New York City experts. But we also market our expertise and products in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, and outlying destinations like upstate New York, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Gettysburg, and Niagara Falls.
TRO: The holiday season in NYC is so well-known and sought-after that it is included in film and streaming shows. What makes this time of year so magical for travelers and locals alike?
JC: The department store windows are magical. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is astonishing. The holiday markets are charming. The way that Lincoln Center, Grand Central Terminal, New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood—just to name a few—go overboard to celebrate the holiday season. Some of the most famous holiday traditions, like the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, Santa Claus at Macy’s, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, are famous worldwide.
TRO: One of the holiday offerings of BTSQ is an exclusive Thanksgiving Parade Viewing Party from a fantastic viewpoint. What else about this party will travelers enjoy?
JC: The Parade itself is amazing to see in person. People line the sidewalks as early as 5 am to make sure they get a view. I might even do that too, if it was summertime. But we’re giving guests the opportunity to see the parade in climate-controlled comfort, with floor-to-ceiling windows along the 6th Ave. parade route. Toss in a full breakfast buffet, entertainment, and drinks… and it’s truly an extraordinary experience.
TRO: And, in big news, BTSQ has launched a New Year’s Eve Gala in Times Square. Providing a perfect viewing point for the festivities streamed to the rest of the world, what does this gala include for the traveler?
JC: So much! We are all very excited about this new offering. It’s a perfect fit for those seeking a sophisticated way to usher in the New Year by attending a luxurious private affair in a climate-controlled environment, done only the way New York City AND Beyond Times Square can—and ultimately avoiding both the city’s crowds and its unpredictable December weather. And it all happens in the center of Times Square—thus in the center of the festivities—three stories up in a sleek venue with unparalleled panoramic views of the world-famous Times Square Ball. The event is at the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel, with perhaps the best view of the ball drop and the Times Square festivities.
TRO: Does BTSQ have any other news or announcements that advisors can be on the lookout for in the future?
JC: There’s always something new and exciting around the corner. We just announced a unique way for holiday visitors to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular—with seats as close as 7 rows from the stage!
More luxury travel experiences, better communication with advisors, sensational special events, there’s a lot more on the horizon at Beyond Times Square.
TRO: Joel, thank you for talking with us. We wish the best for you and the team at Beyond Times Square and hope to speak again in the future.
JC: Thanks, Joey. Hope we speak soon!