UNWTO and WTM Ministers’ Summit: Investors say working with government is like ‘dancing with a gorilla’

UNWTO and WTM Ministers’ Summit:  Investors say working with government is like ‘dancing with a gorilla’

Private sector entrepreneurs who invest millions in travel have asked tourism ministers at WTM London – the event where ideas arrive – to cut red tape and help them support new business ventures.

Speaking at the UNWTO and WTM Ministers’ Summit, a panel of technology investors told the politicians that they want a ‘framework for innovation’.

Alexis Bonte – who is Venture Partner at investment firm Atomico and Chief Executive and Co-Founder of games company eRepubliks Lab – said: “Working with government is like dancing with a gorilla. Make it more efficient.”

He said if governments “flip flop”, then investors don’t know what the rules and regulations are, so they are less likely to put money into new technology firms.

Lio Chen – Managing Director at Travel & Hospitality Center of Innovation in the venture capital firm Plug and Play – used the example of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force earlier this year in Europe.

“It’s a great thing in the long run but in the short term it left investors with butterflies in their stomach,” he cautioned.

He asked ministers to incentivise the top five corporations in their country to work with start-ups and foster innovation.

Katherine Grass, Venture Partner, Thayer Ventures, told ministers: “It needs to be easy for start-ups to grow and expand – if rules change too quickly, investors will hesitate to invest.”

Danish investor Morten Lund, Founder and Chief Executive of Poshtel, added: “I want a framework for innovation…what is hard is when the political wind changes too fast.”

He also urged ministers to boost sustainability and help tackle the world’s problems such as rising carbon emissions.

Michael Ellis MP, the UK’s Tourism Minister, agreed there are some lessons that politicians can learn from the business sector but added: “Some things need regulation. They [investors] want a hands-off approach but the public expect things to happen in certain way.

“It’s a question of balance, and it’s a challenge to get that right, especially in technology.”

He said venture capitalists sometimes avoid dealing with governments, saying: “If there was more mutual trust, things might move more smoothly.”

The minister added: “Technology can help to get people out to explore the wider countryside, such as our Discover England Fund, which promotes areas outside London, and we’re getting millions of visitors.”

He also said he liked Chen’s idea of encouraging larger technology companies to engage with start-ups to boost ideas, new people and investment.

Dr Mario Hardy, Chief Executive of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, agreed, saying: “Young start-ups need more support from government.”

However, he said few countries in Asia have the right ecosystem to help, and thought that governments can be slow to adapt to innovations.

Moderated by Richard Quest of CNN International, the debate also considered the challenges and opportunities faced by the tourism industry in Africa – although the investors on the private sector panel admitted none of them had yet invested in African ventures.

Quest rounded off the summit by asking ministers to mention the tourism highlight of their particular country.

The final word went to Ellis, as the minister of the country hosting WTM London, who said: “Visit the UK and you visit the world.”

This was the 12th ministers’ summit at WTM London and Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director of WTM London, said the event has led the agenda over the years, highlighting issues such as overtourism; the impact of sporting events on tourism; destination branding; safe and seamless travel; and responsible tourism.

This year has tackled the topic of technology – reflecting the new Travel Forward event, which is co-located with WTM London. The summit also has a different format, with a panel of private sector leaders, followed by a panel of ministers.

“WTM is the event where ideas have arrived over the past four decades. We bring the public and private sector together in a unique format, and hope it will deliver real change in the industry,” said Press.

“The overall picture is extremely positive, and if tourism is to grow, then technology will play a key role.

“We have a packed room for this summit, which demonstrates the importance of the topic.”


About World Travel Market

World Travel Market (WTM) portfolio comprises six leading B2B events across four continents, generating more than $7bn 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. About 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating about £2.8 billion of travel industry contracts. http://london.wtm.com/. Next event: 5-7 November 2018 – London.


T>F Travel Forward is a new travel technology event co-located with WTM London 2018 and part of the WTM portfolio of events. The inaugural T>F Travel Forward conference, exhibition and buyer programme will take place on 5 – 7 November 2018 at ExCeL London, showcasing next-generation technology for travel and hospitality.


WTM Latin America, now in its fifth edition, attracts about 9,000 unique senior executives. The event generates about US$374 million of new business. Taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this show attracts a global audience to meet and shape the direction of the travel industry. More than 7,000 unique visitors attend the event to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry news. http://latinamerica.wtm.com/. Next event: 3-5 April 2018 – Sao Paulo.


WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Nearly 5,000 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. http://africa.wtm.com/. Next event: 18-20 April 2018 – Cape Town.


Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2017 attracted almost 40,000 industry professionals, agreeing deals worth US$2.5 billion over the four days. The 25th edition of ATM will showcase more than 2,500 exhibiting companies across 12 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre, making it the largest ATM in its 25-year history.  http://arabiantravelmarket.wtm.com/ www.wtmworld.com. Next event: 22-25 April 2018 – Dubai.


International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) is the meeting place for the global B2B golf travel community. Taking place annually since 1998, IGTM brings together more than 500 golf tourism suppliers and 400 pre-qualified buyers for four days of unmissable pre-scheduled appointments and exclusive networking opportunities. Showcasing a different golf destination every year, IGTM brings together 1,400 golf tourism professionals from more than 65 countries. http://igtm.wtm.com/. Next event: 15-18 October 2018 – Slovenia.


About Reed Exhibitions

Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events business, enhancing the power of face-to-face through data and digital tools at more than 500 events a year, in more than 43 countries, attracting more than seven million participants. East, Asia Pacific and Africa and organised by 41 fully staffed offices. Reed Exhibitions serves 43 industry sectors with trade and consumer events. It is part of the RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries.


About Reed Travel Exhibitions

Reed Travel Exhibitions is the world’s leading travel and tourism events organiser with a growing portfolio of more than 22 international travel and tourism trade events in Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Our events are market leaders in their sectors, whether they are global and regional leisure travel trade events, or specialist events for meetings, incentives, conference, events (MICE) industry, business travel, luxury travel, travel technology as well as golf, spa and ski travel. We have more than 35 years’ experience in organising world-leading travel exhibitions.


More information, please contact:

Paul Nelson – WTM Portfolio PR Manager

E: paul.nelson@reedexpo.co.uk

T: +44 (0)20 8910 7032/ M: +44 (0)79 1955 5510


Natalia Hartmann – WTM Portfolio PR Executive

E: natalia.hartmann@reedexpo.co.uk

T: +44 (0)20 8439 5535/ M: +44 (0)74 0336 7331

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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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