17 NOVEMBER 2014


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Article from BTNews 17 NOVEMBER 2014

World Travel Market

The 35th World Travel Market has had to confront several threats to the industry, ranging from the ebola epidemic to risks of war on three continents.  A Foreign Office warning about lone attacks on travellers worldwide did not help.

John Burke has visited 80 countries as a tour-guide and foreign correspondent.  He has attended every World Travel Market since 1985 as well as ITB.  WTM cannot be considered a MUST for the business traveller, or his booker, but it is an interesting show with many smaller airlines represented plus all five from the Gulf region including the airline of that name, Emirates, Etihad, Oman and Qatar, the last three with massive stands with their latest cabins on display.

John’s piece is a resume.

World Travel Market attendance seems to have held up at the four-day show at ExCel in London’s Docklands.  Figures released for last year included 50,029 visitors, of which 24,198 came from abroad, plus 2,888 journalists.   There were 4,205 exhibitors, and the 200 new entrants this year included Saudi Arabia and North Korea, while Denmark  returned after missing the last five shows and so did Cambodia – absent in 2013.  Opinion seems to be that in truth three days is enough

Total representation may have matched last year’s 186 countries. Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan attended as well as Iran and Iraq, although not Syria.   Israel was there, but the tourism minister, Uzi Landau, did not give a news conference this year.  Strange as visits remain strong in spite of what is happening with its neighbours. Ukraine and Estonia were absent, although there was a large Russian presence, including its part of Lapland.  Canada and Norway also highlighted their Arctic backyard at the glitzy show.

Introducing the show was Justin King, late head of Sainsbury’s supermarkets who warned travel agents not to abandon the High Street. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnston has not turned up on his bike for the past two years, having abandoned his campaign for an airport in the Thames estuary.  Even so, WTM had the presence of 107 tourism ministers or heads of national tourist offices, 13 of whom took part in the usual Global Summit. The 2014 theme was Tourism and mega-events; a lasting legacy rather than the geopolitical situation.  Vinicius Nobre Lages of Brazil defended investment in this year’s World Cup.

The debate’s conclusions will feature in a UN World Tourism Organization report, according to its Jordanian secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.    Euromonitor has already used the show to launch its ninth edition of Global Trends, while the other travel research company, PhoCusWright had a stand, as did Trip Advisor – and there were requests for it to monitor the level of service from national tourist offices.

Britain’s tourism minister, Sajid Javid, arriving late for a separate speech, stated that the “seven trillion dollar industry” must keep renovating itself.   He was heard by half as many visitors as at the news conference for his Greek counterpart, Olga Kefalogianni,  who is reviving her land’s so called "classical” appeal.    Albania’s tourism minister, Eglantina Gjermani, told me that it was an advantage to be a new destination, and that there were easy day-trips from Corfu.

Among the 102 seminars, there was a separate one about the threat of ebola in West Africa, although Nigeria had such a large stand that it even included a Monopoly set whose properties are in Lagos.   Another seminar considered the contraction of the European market.  “We are at WTM to sustain existing clientele,”said Bongani Dlamini of Swaziland, “and can offer a new international airport”.

An aviation conference dealt with trends among the carriers, Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic and Chris Browne, Thomson/TUI interviewed by John Strickland.  No real news from these two but Virgin is very happy with its Delta relationship and Thomson pleased with the Dreamliner.  Lufthansa made a debut among exhibiting airlines, while WOW of Iceland was among low-cost carriers announcing new services.  Jozsef Varadi announced that his Wizz Air in Hungary would make a second attempt at listing in London.  

Ukraine International used the show to express hopes for more flights between Kiev and Britain despite a “challenging year”.   Ecuador’s tourism minister, Sandra Naranjo, held a promotion that included impressive statistics, but avoided the lack of direct flights from Europe.

Philadelphia and the Philippines were each expecting to capitalise on a visit of Pope Francis next year, while various interests promoted sports tourism.  There was a debate about Britain’s hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup, while Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke attended the Trinidadian stand. 

Besides the customary discussion of environmental and moral protection, there were two novel features at the show.  One was mobile and wearable technology for selling travel (South Africa has begun marketing through virtual reality) in the usual technological section.   The other was tourism’s high end, doubtless to counter the rival Luxury Travel Fair, taking place the same week at Olympia which is as central in London as ExCel is remote.

With the debate about the Thursday, fourth day, still not complete, pencil in Monday 2 November for the 2015 version.   www.wtmlondon.com

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