This year’s World Travel Market 2012 has seen an increased focus on business travel. Around 5,000 exhibitors are attending the event at the Excel, but WTM Chairman Fiona Jeffery admitted the exhibitor profile has changed for 2012 with regions including the Middle East and Africa both boasting fewer exhibitors while emerging markets like Brazil are on the up.
Jeffery added the growth in this year’s exhibitor numbers will increase again next year when new luxury and business travel shows are included, both of which will have a series of dedicated events over two days of the events.
The event kicked off with an exceptionally busy Speed Networking event, with more than 200 Meridian Club buyers each having a stand where they could meet potential contacts while delegates eager to attend began queuing half an hour before the 9am start.
World Travel Market Exhibition Director Simon Press said: “It proves that WTM is the place for buyers and suppliers to meet up and do business. With around 200 WTM Meridian Club buyers and 400 exhibitors conducting business meetings.”
The Captains of Industry lunch was attended by high-flyers in the travel industry where they heard Tui AG Chairman Dr Michael Frenzel predict that web-based technology companies like Google could soon start selling holidays. He argued the internet had empowered the consumer, allowing them to arrange and book their own packages, adding: “It is a short step for a technology platform to sell them (holidays).” He urged holiday companies to fight back by taking owning their product in order to continue controlling its distribution.
In the headline afternoon session reviewing the impact of the London 2012 Olympics, Tom Jenkins, Chairman of the European Tour Operators Association, told delegates it was “a savage blow to the visitor economy of London.” Jenkins added “the Olympic Games gave politicians the chance to pretend that they are doing something for tourism” and that they refused to listen to industry concerns about over-optimistic visitor projections “in order to save face”.
Meanwhile Israel Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov predicted the price of holidays to the country could drop by up to 20 percent as a shake up of the rule book means hotels would be built much quicker. He added this would mean more rooms becoming available, thereby reducing the land-operating costs for tourists. He said: “When we abolish them (the old planning laws), that will assist us to build the hotels in two to three years not just nine years.”
The Greek Government has revealed the Greek National Tourism Organisation’s year-long overhaul of its marketing of the country should further boost visitor numbers. The country currently attracts about 2.2 million Brits and it is hoped the UK’s travel industry will help drive more visitors to the destinations. Iain Gibson, Senior Research Manager at Arkenford which undertook the research of the UK market on behalf of the Greek Government, said about 73 percent of holidays by Brits to Greece are inclusive tours. He added: “This means we have to educate the trade as they are selling the vast majority of holidays. Every effort is being made to let people around the world know that Greece is one of the safest places for travellers.”
Peter de Wilde, CEO of VisitFlanders, is tapping into WTM’s global reach to talk to buyers from around the globe about the region’s plans for 2014, the centenary of the great war. “We want to talk to buyers from former Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, Canada and India,” he said, “because many people in those countries have ancestors who died in the conflict.” Many cemeteries and museums in the region have digitised their databases so that even more visitors can find out about the history of the war in an interactive and contemporary way.
A number of celebrities were also spotted at the event with Ben Fogle revealing he is using the Azores to start training for his bid to swim the Atlantic in about 100 days in 2014. The action man said the Atlantic islands made a perfect training base, especially since he has been visiting them since early last decade and also got married there.
Meanwhile TV adventurer Charley Boorman entered WTM in unorthodox fashion by abseiling down the walls of the building. Boorman was here to publicise his latest series, Extreme Frontiers: South Africa, which airs in the UK on Channel Five early in 2013.