Tuesday saw a busy second day at World Travel Market London with buyer numbers up a huge 29% and visitor numbers up 3% by lunchtime compared with the same day last year.
A key event was the UNWTO & WTM Ministers’ Summit, where more than 50 tourism ministers and deputy ministers met to debate the challenges of branding destinations in the “brave new world” of social media.
As well as hosting one of the largest gatherings of ministers in the world, the summit also heard from Facebook, Expedia, Eurostar and the World Travel and Tourism Council.
“The rules of the game have changed and the consumer is in command,” said Dr Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General.
“Destinations can reach out directly to consumers on social media, and consumers can be whistle blowers or ambassadors. It’s not enough to say you are good, you have to be good.”
However, the debate’s moderator, CNN International anchor Richard Quest, warned that the rapid rise of social media meant countries’ brands were at “the mercy of so many external forces” over which they have no control.
Two key award ceremonies also took place. The WTM World Travel Leaders Awards saw 12 WTM London media partners honour key individuals or organisations in their region.
Meanwhile, Japan, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Etihad Airways and eRevMax were named winners at the WTM London 2015 Best Stand Design Awards.
Japan National Tourism Organization (AS370) won the overall Best Stand accolade; Canary Islands (EU1600/EU1650) was voted Best Stand for Doing Business and Etihad Airways (ME350) was awarded the accolade for Best Stand Personnel.
The Egyptian Tourist Authority’s impressive wooden boat with oars was voted the Best Stand Feature (AF500/AF550), while eRevMax (TT550) received the gong for Most Innovative Stand within the Travel Tech Show@WTM.
WTM London Head of Sales Deborah Dewe said: “Every year exhibitors pull out all the stops to ensure their stands achieve maximum exposure. This year, feedback shows stand design has moved up a gear with the judges reporting a greater selection of design stands than ever before.”
Another gearshift came with the appearance of Olympic cycling hero Sir Bradley Wiggins. ‘Wiggo’ dropped in on the Balearic Islands’ stand for a photo shoot to promote sporting initiatives in the Spanish destination.
The industry also learnt about creating a foodie culture in travel. World Food Travel Association executive director Erik Wolf told a WTM London audience: “Food and drink can be drivers of economic development – they’re great ways to excite people about a destination.”
He noted a well-marketed food culture driving the rise of ‘underdog’ destinations such as Asheville in North Carolina. “Food and drink travellers are gravitating towards smaller areas. If you’re a foodie, you’ve done New York, you’ve done London, you’ve done San Francisco; you’re looking for something different.”
Similarly, a sports tourism debate heard that the numbers attracted by an event may be relatively small, but the media exposure can be enormous.
Iain Edmondson, Head of Major Events at London & Partners, said three NFL games together may only attract a total of about 9,000 overseas visitors – “a drop in the ocean” compared to the 19 million international visitors coming to London each year.
“However, politically, and from a media perspective, sport punches above its weight and certainly helps with destination marketing,” he said.
“Sport has lots of eyeballs on it, so you can achieve more than bums on seats.”
Also hoping for more bums on seats is Sicily, which will receive a new daily flight from London. British Airways’ first ever direct flight to Palermo launches in May, with tourism officials expecting its “Sicily, so much…” campaign to help raise the island’s UK profile.
Mexico City, meanwhile, will work with the country’s popular beach destinations to encourage more twin-centre holidays. In the past six months, seven carriers have announced plans for new routes or expanded services to the Mexican capital from key North American and European cities.
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.
Almost 52,000 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 36th year, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals. WTM 2014 will generate around £2.5 billion of travel industry contracts.
World Travel Market is part of Reed Travel Exhibition’s WTM portfolio, which also includes Arabian Travel Market, World Travel Market Latin America and World Travel Market Africa. www.wtmworld.com
The World Travel Market Portfolio is comprised of the leading leisure travel events in the world; World Travel Market in London, WTM Latin America in Sao Paulo, WTM Africa in Cape Town and Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
The WTM Portfolio’s events are attended by the global travel and tourism industry’s senior executives to conduct business deals and discover the latest research, insight and opinion.
In 2014, the WTM Portfolio facilitated around $7 billion in industry deals from negotiations between the more than 15,000 buyers, 9,500 exhibitors (1,500 main stand holders and 8,000 stand sharers) in attendance of its four events.
WTM is owned by the worldʼs leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions.
About Reed Exhibitions
Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events organizer, with over 500 events in 43 countries. In 2014 Reed brought together over seven million active event participants from around the world generating billions of dollars in business. Today Reed events are held throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa and organized by 41 fully staffed offices. Reed Exhibitions serves 43 industry sectors with trade and consumer events and is part of RELX Group, a world leading provider of professional information solutions. www.reedexpo.com