If you were looking for more evidence that travel is back, World Travel Market (WTM) has drawn a crowd of more than 2,000 destinations and travel companies from around the world to London.
The massive Excel Center in east London where it was held was absolutely buzzing with deals being done, a complete program of interesting educational panels, fun native performers from India, Mexico and Africa, evening parties, and awards events.
The overall mission for this year, the 43rd WTM, has been to showcase how the industry has evolved and reshaped itself over the last two years to meet the demands of the new consumer market.
Grounds For Optimism in Travel? Survey Says “Yes”
The event opened with BBC Journalist Peter Nunn hosting a panel with Claire Steiner, U.K. director, Global Travel and Tourism Partnership (GTTP), John Strickland, director, JLS Consulting, and Pippa Jacks, group editor, TTG Media discussing WTM London’s survey of 210 exhibitors and senior Buyers’ Club members and compared their views with those of 2,000 U.K. consumers, both surveys were conducted in September 2022. Overall, the panel was very optimistic, despite the data indicating a more tempered result.
Consumers feel more strongly than trade stakeholders about the cost of living slowing down travel. While 44 percent of the trade felt that the cost of living crisis will negatively impact business, 66 percent of consumers said that the cost of living would affect their travel plans for 2023. Other worries: 27 percent of consumers were concerned about the cost of gas; 20 percent were worried about COVID coming back, 13 percent about the war in Ukraine, and 11 percent each were worried about a new global heath scare and Brexit. Interestingly, the least concerning item was climate change at just under 10 percent.
According to the survey, the top three consumer travel priorities in 2023 are:
Visiting missed family – 26 percent
Taking a family holiday – 23 percent
Trying a unique experience – 19 percent
Having a luxury break – 19 percent
The most underrated destinations, according to the trade, are:
The Azores, Portugal
A final interesting finding of the study: More than a quarter of young people use travel advisors in the U.K., while those over 65 said they were least likely to do so. The panel felt these numbers were low and that post-pandemic people really want the added security of booking with an advisor.
The big opening session, “Landscape of Travel in 2030 and Beyond” included a panel with Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future; Simon Calder, travel journalist and broadcaster, The Independent; Julia Simpson, president and CEO, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC); Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority, and Peter Krüger, chief strategy officer, TUI. The major insight from this group: Pent-up demand is outstripping supply, according to Simpson. They all saw sustainability as an opportunity—not a threat—with Krüger saying there are many business cases for sustainable operations that actually are big money-savers.
Along the same lines, Talwar predicted that electric planes will be with us sooner than we think, while Hamidaddin spoke about the importance of preserving heritage sites in Saudi as well as globally. Saudi was a major sponsor of WTM with rows of booths for deal-making and lots of promotion around Neom, a city being built in the country’s northwestern region, and the overall “Saudi Vision 2030,” which is an investment and plan by the Kingdom to move tourism from 3 percent of GDP to 10 percent.
Other big themes over the three days: Sustainability, wellness, technology and inclusion.
Source: Travel Agent Central