Industry Report: Travel Industry Execs Say Digital and Direct Outperformed Traditional and High Street During Covid

Industry Report: Travel Industry Execs Say Digital and Direct Outperformed Traditional and High Street During Covid

Digital technology served the industry more effectively than traditional options during the Covid-19 pandemic, reveals research released today (Monday 1 November) by WTM London and Travel Forward.

Nearly 700 senior execs from around the globe took part in the WTM Industry Report and were asked to rank the efficacy of a range of technologies and channels. Nearly half the sample (47%) said that digital marketing channels such as search engine optimisation, paid search and email marketing were very effective during the pandemic, with a further 30% describing them as quite effective. Only 6% described them an ineffective.

In contrast, only 25% of execs said high street travel agents were very effective at supporting their business during the crisis, with slightly more (31%) saying they were  quite effective. A large minority (16%) said high street agents were ineffective.

Generally speaking, direct-to-consumer channels performed the most strongly during the pandemic. Brand web sites, apps and contact centres were described as quite or very effective by more than 70% of the sample, with the number dismissing them as ineffective was in the single digit percentages.

In contrast, traditional media such as print, TV and direct mail were quite or very effective for less than 50%,  but a relatively high percentage – 17% – dismissed these channels as ineffective.

Elsewhere, execs were asked specifically about two pre-Covid era’s technology trends. The cloud was effective for more than half the sample (52%), although cloud vendors and account managers will be interested to find out why one-in-ten thought the cloud was ineffective.  Similarly, APIs – software which allows two systems to interact with each other – were effective for more than half the sample but still ineffective for 8%.

However, the poorest performing category was bedbanks and aggregators, with less than half (48%) saying these businesses were supportive during the pandemic, the lowest approval rating of any on the list. Again, a significant minority – 13% – dismissed them as ineffective.

In contrast, the best performing technology use case was communication, with both staff and customers. More than 80% of the sample said these tools were effective for internal use, with only 4% saying that these tools fell short. Using technology to talk to external customers worked effectively for nearly three-in-four (74%), with only 6% unsatisfied.

Simon Press, Exhibition Director, WTM London and Travel Forward, said; “This is a fascinating insight into how effective technology –  in the broadest sense – was during the height of the pandemic. It shows that the tech landscape is still fragmented with some technologies and/or channels not yet fit for purpose and falling short of what is needed, while others seem to have emerged with universal approval.

“WTM London and its technology-focused sister show Travel Forward are there to help travel companies gauge what sort of technology they need and with whom to partner to rebuild travel.”

WTM London and Travel Forward takes place over the next three days (Monday 1 – Wednesday 3 November) at ExCeL – London.




World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents, generating more than $7.5 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating over £3.71 billion in travel industry contracts. In 2020, WTM Virtual facilitated 20,000+ meetings and held 42 live content sessions over the 3-days show.

Next live event: Monday 1 to 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next WTM Virtual: Monday 8 to 9 November 2021 – Virtual

Travel Forward London is the leading travel technology event, co-located with WTM London. Travel Forward is renowned for showcasing the next-generation technologies for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Over 19,000 travel officials and 150+ innovative solution providers attend for 3 days of cutting-edge insights, open debate and unrivalled networking opportunities. The combination of a 2-day conference, interactive exhibition and start-up showcase makes Travel Forward truly unique.

Next live event: Monday 1 November to Wednesday 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next Travel Forward Virtual: Monday 8 November to Tuesday 9 November 2021 – Virtual

London Travel Week, brought to you by WTM London, is the one-stop-shop for event hosts and visitors to be able to shape the next 12 months of travel together. The festival of events supports the global travel and tourism industry through capturing invaluable news and enhancing industry connections.

Next event: Friday 29 October – Friday 5 November 2021

WTM Virtualis the WTM Portfolio virtual platform, created to offer global delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one virtual meetings, to do business, attend conference sessions and roundtables, take part in speed networking and more. WTM Virtual embrace the global leading travel shows in one platform.

WTM Latin America takes place annually in São Paulo and attracts around 19,000 tourism professionals during a three-day event. The show offers qualified content, as well as networking and business opportunities. In its ninth edition – the first 100% virtual – WTM Latin America followed its focus on effective business generation and reached the milestone of 4,200 meetings held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors.

Next event: Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 April 2022 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. More than 6,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Next event: Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 April 2022 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town

Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 29th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2021 showcased over 1,300 exhibiting companies from 62 countries across nine halls at Dubai World Trade Centre, with visitors from more than 140 countries over the four days. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #IdeasArriveHere

Next in-person event: Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11 May 2022, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2022. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ATM Virtual, ILTM Arabia, Arival Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, as well as Travel Forward. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country summits.

WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub.

About RX (Reed Exhibitions)

RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organisations. We elevate the power of face to face events by combining data and digital products to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society and is fully committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all our people. RX is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.


RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX. The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*

*Note: Current market capitalisation can be found at

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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.

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