You need a refuge, comfy shoes and plenty of stamina to get the most out of the World Travel Market … It’s like a giant sweetie shop, where the temptation to overdose on all those treats is almost overwhelming. The experience starts well before you get there – the journey to the Excel Centre on the (mostly) reliable Docklands Light Railway gives some indication of the multi-cultural experience ahead of you. Crushed up close and personal to a Brazilian dancer, a Maori chieftain and a kilted Highlander in full kit you start to realise this is going to be an anything but ordinary day.
This year was my first visit to the WTM; fortunately I was going with an ‘old hand’, Lynne Grey of That’s PR, who has worked in the travel industry for many years, been here lots of times and could help with advice on what to see, who to visit and pass on wise counsel about RnR what when feet started to complain too violently!
Here’s what WTM says it’s all about:
“The World Travel Market is the leading global event for the travel industry – it is a vibrant must attend four-day business-to-business event presenting a diverse range of destinations and industry sectors to UK and International travel professionals. It is a unique opportunity for the whole global travel trade to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business.
By attending World Travel Market, participants efficiently, effectively and productively gain immediate competitive advantage for their business and stay abreast with the latest developments in the travel industry.”
That definitely doesn’t catch the buzz, vibrancy and fun of the event – dull corporate-speak never does, so here’s a glimpse of some of the sights and sounds of a newbie’s 1st visit.
Walking into the cavernous, modern, echoey entrance to WTM was the worst bit – the brusque treatment on the Press Registration Desk was not a good ad for the organisers – first impressions really DO count guys! Fortunately, once the lanyard & plastic pocket was firmly in place things got 100% better as I gazed down the hall at the enticing signs tempting us to visit the whole world under one roof.
- An Indonesian dancer gracefully twirling elongated fingers to the sound of the Gamelan
- The Minister of Tourism for Antigua & Barbuda proudly showcasing their uber-modern airport plans and sharing champagne
- Infectious Irish enthusiasm on the Belfast stand for 2012 opening of the Titanic Experience
- Having a colourful band clamped to my wrist by a laughing lady (Ecuador?!) in an enormous orange dress
- The intense concentration on the face of a man carving intricate whorls into a large Thai fruit
- Being tempted by the taste of Soul Food in Serbia and the passion of their PR guy for a Gourmet Food trip
- Watching a teenage student getting her hand hennaed by an Indian woman in a teal blue sari
- The immaculate luxury of the no-expense-spared space in the strangely soulless Abu Dhabi & Dubai area
- Cocktail shaking and laughter in the Caribbean
- Discussing the unique culture and hanging monasteries of Bhutan and dreaming of a trip there some day
Having got a Press Pass we were able to use the facilities of the Press Lounge area, a godsend as a place to meet fellow travel bloggers and other media people and relax over a coffee and Danish pastry (VERY stodgy – Denmark would be ashamed to be associated with it!), write up a few notes and just rest those aching feet. I had just got my hands on the very new, uber-cool Eeepad Slider – the latest tablet from Asus (with a built-in QUERTY keyboard!) so I was able to show it off to fellow writers and have a play with the nifty widgets and Apps. There was also a good selection on press material, newspapers and other material to keep up with the outside world.
As well as all the stands there are seminars, workshops, press briefings and media events where specialists “delivered unmissable expert advice and key industry knowledge.” We were unable to get into most of the Social Media events as there was huge interest this year so most of the sessions were full ages before they were due to start. (Another highlight was an outraged Aussie guy yelling at the patronisingly powerful door keeper about the appallingly dreadful organisation – only he used slightly more colourful language …) I did go to some really interesting and useful talks – and some rather dreary ones too. That’s for another post.
As a thank you to their team of Super Bloggers, Visit Britain had laid on an evening dinner cruise with Bateaux London along the River Thames. What a treat – beautiful surroundings, great company, delicious food and some of England’s most iconic sights drifting past the window like a slow movie reel. The high points were passing the golden Houses of Parliament and slowing down by newly-painted, brightly lit Tower Bridge to a crescendo of ‘Zadoc the Priest’ - brought a patriotic tear to my eye …
At the end of a long, tiring day of sensory stimulus, you need somewhere comfortable to chill out; Lynne and I were very lucky to be offered the really fab Isis apartment in Canary Wharf. With two huge bedrooms, a well-stocked kitchen (we never did figure out how to work the coffee machine) and full services it had all the benefits of a hotel with the advantages of luxury of self-catering. Sitting on the balcony sipping our welcome bottle of wine, we could look out over the the river and the pointy pyramidal building (Canada Tower?) …. and the O2 Arena almost within touching distance, unwind and relax, whilst still being right in the heart of things.
Back at my desk at home, I’ve been slowly going through all the business cards, leaflets, brochures and quirky souvenirs I brought back, following up on interesting contacts, new and old friends and quirky ideas, starting to adapt my business based on all the excellent information learnt recently. Yesterday a fellow travel blogger, who hadn’t made it, asked if I’d be going back next year. Well … what do you think?
If you’d like to see more photos from WTM the check out The Quirky Traveller Face Book WTM Photo album. if you have been to WTM or want to go next time, do share your thoughts, tips, photos and reflections.