They praised the platform for the wide range of business meetings it enabled and the quality of industry conference debates and sessions.
The tourism board of Andalucia was the Premier Partner at WTM Virtual, which ran online on 9-11 November.
Antonio Martín-Machuca, International Marketing Director for Andalucia’s tourism board, said: “WTM Virtual has been a success for Andalucia as the Premier Partner.”
The four members of the Andalucia team held almost 60 virtual meetings during the online event, which replaced WTM London because of pandemic restrictions.
“We have contacted travel agencies, tour operators, bloggers, aviation companies, travel planners, media, PR companies and more,” said Martín-Machuca.
“We cover all markets, and we made good deals and new US and EMEA contacts. We found it very productive in terms of branding as we were the 2020 Premier Partner.
“Virtual meetings and the whole event page were very intuitive and easy to work with.”
Antonio and his colleagues found the conference sessions were helpful for keeping up-to-date with travel and tourism trends – especially the interview with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, which was sponsored by Andalucia.
The tourist board also updated international media during the Andalucia Destination Briefing, which included news about a plan to offer tourists free COVID-19 insurance.
Visitors who stay in accommodation regulated by the regional government will be covered for medical and surgical expenses, pharmacy bills, medical repatriation and quarantine stays.
Carol Hay, Director of Marketing UK & Europe at the Caribbean Tourism Organization, held almost 50 meetings on the virtual platform.
“It was a good event and I have lots to follow up now,” she said.
She missed meeting people and networking in real life but said the online format would be practical for industry people who may not be able to travel to events in 2021.
“WTM should make the most of the virtual platform and perhaps organise a virtual catch-up half-way through the year,” she commented.
“It will allow people who cannot come to London to build brand awareness and understand about the market.”
Sharon Ehrlich Bershadsky, Director of the Israel Government Tourist office in London, was also full of praise for WTM Virtual.
She said: “It was a brilliant event – the industry really miss meeting each other face-to-face but until we can do that again, this platform was the closest thing we can get. I was amazed to find out how many people were taking part.”
She took part in 42 meetings and, along with colleagues, networked with tour operators, online travel agencies, marketing specialists and journalists – which resulted in new contacts and new deals.
She also helped to organise a key session, ‘Tourism: The Path to Peace in the Middle East’, which featured tourism ministers of Israel, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, said her organisation took part in WTM Virtual because of “the great significance of this event for establishing new relationships (…) and enhancing existing ones”.
“Numerous pre-scheduled meetings between Slovenian tourist providers and foreign travel agents and tour operators took place during the three days of the event, contributing greatly to concentrating the attention of the media on Slovenia as a sustainable destination for unique, especially gastronomic and active experiences,” she commented.
Further praise for WTM Virtual came via Twitter from destination marketing companies (DMCs), PR specialists and B2B firms.
B2B platform Tourism Exchange Great Britain (TXGB) said it was “great to explore valuable business opportunities” and it had “fantastic meetings” with suppliers.
Rooster PR described it as “a great virtual event” with “some awesome sessions” about current trends in the market.
DMC Heart of Ireland said it was “a little different from the norm but fantastic to meet so many enthusiastic and creative travel professionals ready for 2021”.
Enjoy Tatras launched a sports travel guide to tour operators and travel media at WTM Virtual and is now developing tailored itineraries requested by the international trade.
Gabriela Kohuthova, Executive Director of Enjoy Tatras, said:
“This year was, of course, virtual, but no less powerful in terms of creating new business connections. We will look to develop those new relationships created and translate them into products and eventually new tourists to the region.”
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director at WTM London, said:
“We were delighted to see so many of our exhibitors conducting fruitful meetings – meeting new and established business partners and sealing deals to set the foundations for recovery.
“Our delegates were greatly buoyed during WTM Virtual when news was announced of a vaccine that can hopefully set us on a path to opening up borders and enabling international travel to recover fully.
“We hope we can meet again in person for WTM London 2021 and the experience we’ve had of a virtual show means we can add extra online elements to our future events.
“Our sister event, Arabian Travel Market 2021, will take place live in Dubai from 16-19 May, in a new hybrid format, with ATM Virtual running during the week afterwards – 23- 26 May 2021 – to complement and reach a wider audience.”