35 World Travel Market Facts

35 World Travel Market Facts

The leading global event from the travel industry marks its 35th anniversary with 35 little-known facts

World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, is this year celebrating its 35th event.

World Travel Market first opened its doors back in 1980 when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and Blondie, Abba and David Bowie were all topping the music charts.

More than 21 million UK and a massive 83 million US viewers tuned in to US TV soap Dallas to find out who shot JR.

The news in 1980 was dominated by the election of former actor Ronald Reagan to US President and the assassination of Beatles legend John Lennon by Mark David Chapman.

Also in 1980, the world’s best selling toy the Rubik’s Cube hit the international games shelves selling more than 390 million over the past 34 years.

The Post-It Note became the must have office accessory, while the world discovered the identity of Luke Skywalker’s father with the film release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Below are 35 facts (some serious, some interesting and some quirky) you may or may not know about the 35 years of WTM.

35 WTM Facts

  1. WTM almost did not take place at all. The critics told launch Exhibition Director Frank Boiteux WTM wouldn’t work, which led Bryan Hope – the man behind the WTM concept – to question his own sanity. Bryan and Frank were determined to prove the doubters wrong.
  2. Their determination and commitment to the WTM cause was almost defeated before the event launched by a contractors’ strike days before the opening. Stage builders walked out over American exhibitors employing their own contractors.
  3. World Travel Market has been hosted in three London venues, Olympia, Earl’s Court and ExCeL, London. WTM launched at Olympia in 1980 before moving to the larger Earl’s Court in 1992. The leading global event for the travel industry grew so popular it moved to London’s largest exhibition centre ExCeL, London in 2002.
  4. WTM has been opened by six royals, four British Government Ministers, seven industry figures, four explorers, an opera singer, two London Mayors and a Miss World.
  5. The 1980 launch event was opened by both the Duke of Kent and Miss World, who was Kimberly Santos of Guam. A royal returned to WTM in 1989, with Princess Anne helping WTM to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
  6. In 1985 security was increased with the opening ceremony a standing room only affair as a record number of visitors watched Princess Diana open the event.
  7. WTM has played host to a variety of animals over the past 34 years. Most famously, a West Indian exhibitor attracted a lot of attention by bringing a parrot to its stand. The parrot slipped its chain and flew off into the roof at Olympia. Despite elaborate attempts to catch the bird it seemed an impossible task. The parrot finally returned later in the day of its own accord.
  8. A regular to WTM during the 80s was an armadillo, brought by the Texas delegation. The reptile lived in quarantine in London Zoo prior to its annual appearances at WTM. A crow, an elephant and a white horse are just some of the animals which have also attended WTM over the past three decades.
  9. One celebrity animal who nearly attended WTM was Grand National winning horse Red Rum, who was booked by an exhibitor in 1982. However, the Hall Manager, a stickler for regulations, insisted an armed vet was on standby to shoot the national treasure in the case of a fire alarm!
  10. WTM has played host to an array of celebrities over the past 34 years. Celebrity WTM visitors have included film star Michael Douglas, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, England football Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, five-times Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave, Aussie soap star, singer and TV talent show judge Dannii Minogue and at WTM 2013 Brazilian superstar striker Ronaldo.
  11. Over the last 34 years WTM has held almost 11,500 (11,470) conference sessions.
  12. World Travel Market 2013’s Conference and Event programme experienced a 9.5% increase smashing through the 16,000 barrier for the first time. WTM 2013 hosted more than 100 conferences and events with a total attendance of 16,290. Furthermore, the number of unique delegates attending the sessions increased by an impressive 13% to 8,482, compared to WTM 2012’s 7,494.
  13. Entertainment has always been at the forefront of WTM, bringing vibrancy and razzmatazz to the show floor. West End and Broadway composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber tested a scene from one of his musicals at WTM, while River Dance has made several appearances.
  14. The move to Earl’s Court in 1992 saw the launch of the WTM Meridian Club (rebranded WTM Buyers’ Club in 2013). WTM Buyers’ Club is for the industry’s senior buyers, who use WTM to negotiate deals with the exhibitors. Meridian Club launched with almost 7,000 (6,907) members.
  15. Environmental Awareness Day, launched in 1994, was renamed World Responsible Tourism Day (WRTD) in 2004. WRTD is supported by the UNWTO and leading industry associations. The day is vital – for business, for profitability and for our planet. It means taking care of a world that we seek to promote, preserving our heritage and cultures and taking into account the views and needs of local communities. It is the largest day of action on responsible tourism in the world.
  16. The first WTM at Earl’s Court saw the Boat Show’s pool utilised as a Venice gondolier. Marilyn Monroe and Laurel and Hardy and other Hollywood look-alikes could all be spotted taking a leisurely ride on the water during World Travel Market.
  17. During the last seven years of WTM more than 180,000 glasses of champagne have been toasted in celebration, 9,030 bottles of house wine and 875,000 cups of coffee have been drunk.
  18. In 2013, more than 550 catering staff worked at ExCeL – London to keep WTM’s exhibitors, visitors, international media and ministers refreshed with more than 37,000 canapés and more than 125,000 cups of coffee.
  19. WTM is run by a skilled exhibition event team comprising of more than 35 staff working all year to deliver the leading global event for the travel industry.
  20. The total combined exhibiting floor space over the past 34 years of WTM at Olympia, Earl’s Court and ExCeL, London totals almost 1.4 million square metres (1,311,730 m2). That’s the equivalent of almost 350 football pitches!
  21. A delegate visiting WTM for the four full days can expect to walk more than 100,000 steps.
  22. In 2013, one delegate walked an astounding 120,000 steps – that’s a whooping 60 miles burning almost 1,600 calories.
  23. World Travel Market has played host to more than half a million (518,320) exhibitors over the past 34 years, with 198 countries and regions represented.
  24. Last year WTM smashed its participant record with more than 50,000 exhibitors, visitors, international media attending the event. Each visitor group recorded an increase with buyers increasing by 8%.
  25. WTM has the largest reoccurring Press Centre in the UK. Only twice has the UK hosted bigger one-off press offices; 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and the 2012 London Olympics
  26. In 2008, WTM updated its admission policy to make the Monday of the event an invite-only day for exhibitors’ key contacts and buyers, international media and government tourist ministers.
  27. In 1998, then WTM Exhibition Director Fiona Jeffery founded international water-aid charity Just A Drop. The charity raises desperately needed funds to build wells, bore holes, hand pumps and run health and sanitation programmes throughout the world. Just a Drop has raised more than £1million and supported 900,000 people in 28 countries around the world.
  28. WTM welcomes performers from all corners of the globe to descend upon WTM to showcase their countries origins and traditions. Bizarre requests include two people dressing up as mosquitoes and a ‘naked’ Lady Godiva riding a white horse.
  29. WTM has worked with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for the past eight years to produce the Ministers’ Summit at WTM.
  30. WTM 2013 saw the launch of The Travel Technology Show at WTM. The technology region of the exhibition floor had grown by 70% over the past three years the ‘show within a show’ concept was created to give travel technology the dedicated focus and resource it deserved. This year the show is poised to grow a further 20%.
  31. More than 1.2 million participants have passed through the doors of WTM over the past 34 years.
  32. World Travel Market generates a massive £160 million for the London economy. The figure covers participants spend on hotels, restaurants and entertainment during their stay in England’s capital city for WTM.
  33. WTM 2013 will facilitate a massive £2.2 billion in travel industry deals. The figure includes deals signed onsite at World Travel Market and deals sign in the following 12 months from negotiations started the event.
  34. WTM opening hours will be extended, with the event opening at 9am every morning (previous years the exhibition floor opened at 10am). Furthermore, Wednesday 5 November opening hours have been extended until 8pm, giving exhibitors the opportunity to evening receptions and parties as part of WTM’s 35th anniversary celebrations.
  35. World Travel Market 2014 will attempt to break the world record for the largest single speed networking event on the planet on Monday 3 November.

– ENDS –

About World Travel Market

World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.

More than 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.

WTM, now in its 35th year, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals.

WTM 2013 generated more than £2 billion of travel industry contracts, revealed independent research by Fusion Communications.

WTM is owned by the world’s leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions (RE), which organises a other portfolio’s of travel industry events including IBTM Events, the world’s leading showcases for the meetings and events industry and International Luxury Travel Market events.

In 2013, RE held more than 500 events in 40 countries bringing together more than six million people from around the world generating billions of dollars in business.

Reed Exhibitions

Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) is the world’s leading provider of exhibitions in the travel and tourism industry, with a wide-ranging portfolio of 21 international events in 14 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa.

Its market-leading, business-to-business events cover all elements of travel and tourism, including leisure travel, luxury travel, meetings, events, incentives and business travel, as well as golf, ski and spa travel.

RTE is part of Reed Exhibitions.


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World Travel Market brings the travel industry together through world leading events, content and digital tools, that make it easier for you to find personal and business opportunities and do more effective business.