Of the 196 countries in the world, 183 now exhibit at the World Travel Market, the travel industry’s annual jamboree that takes place here in the UK. Travel and tourism is clearly big business and it’s getting bigger as more and more governments wake up to the economic benefits that attracting tourists can bring to their countries.
The event is the largest of its kind in the world and proves just how popular the Excel exhibition centre is. Situated in London’s Royal Docks, it saw over 50,000 visitors go through its doors this week to visit the WTM, including countless government ministers, foreign dignitaries, international press and hundreds of travel professionals looking to close some business. It’s estimated that their business-closing activities will result in more than £2.5 billion worth of new contracts being signed.
How will the average reader of our blog benefit from those newly signed contracts? Well, in lots of ways. Most notably, UK-based tour operators will be offering their customers a wider choice of holidays to more destinations.
For instance, Iran was tipped at the show as the hottest new destination and with no fewer than 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites and more than a dozen ski resorts, intrepid travelers will soon be ignoring official government advice to get there before the rest of us do.
They’ll also be able to offer their customers a wider choice of accommodation, new types of activities or even new types of holiday. One example could be ‘Hipster Holidays’, where visitors travel to hip districts rather than historical tourist areas. Think Kreuzberg in Berlin, Amsterdam Noord, Norrebro in Copenhagen, District VII in Budapest or even Miera iela in Riga.
The WTM has a whole Hall given over to technology providers and although most of this techie-stuff is aimed at offering the travel trade ‘solutions like better booking systems, some readers may also see new gizmos appearing on their travels.
With so many travel professionals packed into one area (and having traveled such large distances to get there) the show organisers squeeze as much into the event as it can. Leaving aside all the on-stand parties, as well as walking around the exhibition itself, delegates can attend numerous seminars with discussion topics ranging from technology and terror to sustainability and aviation.
Finally, WTM also hosts the World Responsible Tourism Awards which aim to celebrate ‘the most inspiring and enduring responsible tourism experiences in the world’. Prizes up for grabs this year include ‘Best for poverty reduction and inclusion’. The Awards go a long way towards demonstrating how aware the travel industry is of its wider role in protecting the environment.
So will those 50,000 delegates forsake travelling to the event in the future? Mmm. Maybe next year.