Laura French picks out the highlights of this year’s event
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Nope, not the day Love Island returns – or indeed disappears, if you’d prefer – but World Travel Market 2017, when exhibitors from across the world flock to London’s ExCeL Centre for three days of dancing, pageantry, food, drink, guest appearances, prize giveaways and, last but not least, business.
Expect the usual explosion of carnival-esque colour alongside cooking demonstrations, yoga classes, happy hours, roaming mascots and plenty more, as tourist boards, hoteliers and other suppliers update the trade on their latest news and plans for the year ahead.
This is no small beast, though, and with so many stands, it’s worth knowing what’s going on before you venture out. Here we round up the highlights, so that you know what to look out for and where.
The UK and Ireland will be out in full force this year with 42 stands including 10 new exhibitors. Look out for a four-metre-tall giant lingering around Tourism Ireland (UKI400) to highlight the Giant’s Causeway. While you’re there, say ‘hi’ to Luke Skywalker – or the actor playing him, at least – who’ll be publicising the Irish locations that have featured in recent Star Wars films, and hopefully helping the force be with you for the rest of WTM.
Expect more smiles on faces at Visit Wales (UKI100), where you’ll be able to get up to speed on the launch of The Wales Way – three themed tourism routes across the Welsh coast and country – and pop by Mayflower 400 (UKI300) to hear all about the plans for the ship’s 400th anniversary in 2020.
For something a little more exotic, try Cyprus Tourism Organisation (EU1300), which will be offering a smorgasbord of mouthwatering pastries and wines straight from the island, and saying ‘cheers’ to strong growth. UK arrivals were up 8.6% year on year from January to August, while Paphos has been reaping the benefits of its time as European Capital of Culture 2017.
Valletta will be taking the culture baton for 2018, so make a beeline for the Malta Tourism Authority (EU1450) to find out more about what the city will be doing to celebrate (hint: there will be acrobats, dancers and digital artistic projections at an official launch on January 20 and more than 400 cultural events throughout the rest of the year). For now, you can satisfy your cultural cravings by indulging in some Maltese food and wine at the stand from 4pm every day. While you’re at it, leave a business card for a chance of bagging three nights at the five-star InterContinental Malta in St Julian’s, with flights.
The Italian National Tourist Board (EU2000, EU2070) will also have plenty to rave about in 2018: Palermo will be Italian City of Culture while an Agri-Food Park, FICO, opens in Bologna offering 40 restaurants, markets, rides and cooking courses. Head over at 11am on Monday for a networking event and refreshments based on Italy’s historic villages, while all day on Tuesday, there will be wine tasting at the Campania stand (EU270). There will be plenty of surprises and entertainment throughout the show, so check out the full programme at the stand each day to find out more.
Neighbouring Slovenia (EU700) is celebrating its beekeeping heritage with a variety of activities, including honey tasting and beehive painting, during a trade and media event on Tuesday at 11am (register by emailing slovenia@ alexandramarr.com).
Meanwhile, at the Polish National Tourist Office stand (EU730) you’ll be able to sip some regional wines at a drinks reception for the trade from 1.30-2.30pm on Tuesday, while becoming something of a pro on the country’s rising health tourism and future hotel developments.
The Israel Government Tourist Office (EU750) looks set to steal the show here, though, with its plethora of attractions. Virtual-reality headsets will whisk you through the country quicker than you can say ‘Tel Aviv’; smoothies and local dishes from London’s acclaimed Bala Baya will be served up on Monday and Tuesday; and a caricaturist will be scribbling away, so you can pose for a picture with a backdrop of Israeli landmarks.
US & Canada
Brand USA (NA370) knows how to put on a show, and this year will be no exception, with live music from Nashville stars New North getting toes tapping from 5pm on Tuesday. It’s part of a wider networking event taking place from 4pm-6pm in the USA Pavilion, where guests will be able to indulge in American refreshments while learning more about what the US has in store – including a string of new flight routes and another giant megafam in the spring.
At 4pm-6pm each day on the Visit California stand (NA240), you can meet delegates from across the Golden State while indulging in some Californian vino and beers.
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (NA150) will also be worth a look. Visitors can slip on a pair of virtual-reality goggles to get a sneak peek of Vegas-inspired art from British artist INSA – set to debut at Miami’s Art Basel in December – and pick up a flashing sign at a 3pm giveaway on Wednesday.
If all this walking has you in need of a pick-me-up, head to the Utah Office of Tourism stand (NA270-2) between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday to make your own ‘trail mix’ bar with nuts, marshmallows, granola, chocolate chips, dried fruit and other treats, designed to promote the state’s plethora of hiking and biking trails.
If craft beer is more your thing, head to nearby Colorado Tourism Office (NA270) from 4pm-6pm on Monday and Tuesday for Happy Hour and to find out more about Norwegian’s recent launch of a twice-weekly service from Gatwick to Denver, as well as a United Airlines route from Heathrow starting in March 2018.
For more tipples, check out the Port of Seattle (NA260) at 4pm on Tuesday for a Washington Wine Tasting afternoon in partnership with Holland America Line. The city has plenty to discuss, with Thomas Cook Airlines launching direct flights from Manchester in 2018, and more than 3,000 hotel rooms also set to open.
If you’re feeling lucky, head to Illinois (NA100), which will be offering agents the chance to win two return airline tickets to Chicago with three nights’ accommodation. Great Lakes USA (NA100) will also be running a competition for agents – in this case to win a CD specially compiled for WTM, featuring local artists such as Prince, Eminem, Madonna and the White Stripes.
It’s been a big year for Canada, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Check out the Ontario Tourism stand (NA200) to hear what’s been going on in Ottawa and beyond, and to wise up on the new six-module online training programme, Discover Ontario Agent. There’ll be a prize giveaway for those who complete the programme by January 12, 2018, with the opportunity to win a seven-night holiday, including return flights with British Airways, which will be flying direct from Gatwick to Toronto from May 1.
The Caribbean has had a tough time of late, but its tourist boards will be out in full force. And if there’s one area you can rely on for a bucket-load of glitz, glamour and entertainment, it’s here.
Trinidad & Tobago Tourism (CA250) will have cultural performances featuring dancing, drumming and singing at 5pm on Monday and Tuesday and 4pm on Wednesday. But if you’re after some chocolate, head over at 11.30am each day, when Duane Dove from the Tobago Cocoa Estate will be holding tastings.
There’ll be more colour over at the Grenada Tourism Authority (CA135) in the form of free face-painting from 2pm-4pm on Wednesday. While you’re there, throw in a business card for the chance to win some local rum, for a draw taking place at 3pm. If you’re around on Monday, look out for Johnson Beharry VC, a British Army soldier awarded the Victoria Cross in 2005, who will be opening the stand at 10am.
At the Barbados Tourism Marketing stand (CA220), mixologist Ryan Adamson will be dishing out rum-based cocktails every day from 3pm-4pm, with delicacies from Bajan chefs to soak them up. For more of the same, head over to the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (CA245) afterwards – the team will be serving rum punch at 4.30pm on Tuesday, while updating the trade on its news.
And if you see a masked, devilish-looking character hanging around the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism stand (CA300), it doesn’t mean you’ve overdone it on rum – it’s a carnival character who will be on the stand throughout the show, bringing some exotic colour to autumnal London.
Latin America’s tourism boom continues, with Costa Rica (LA450) reporting a 12.3% rise in visitor numbers year on year for the first half of 2017. Visit the stand to find out more about its 2018 strategy and trade megafam plans, then head to El Salvador (LA240) at 4pm on Monday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by canapés and drinks with the minister of tourism.
Nearby, Chile (LA500) will be getting the party going with daily wine tasting from 2pm-3pm and a pisco sour cocktail class from 3pm-4pm. The country has plenty to chink glasses to, including an outdoor adventure park that is set to open in Santiago in 2018, as well as a new route connecting 17 of the country’s national parks.
At the Ecuador booth (CA260), there’ll be chocolate-tasting every day for those in need of a sugar fix, and at 4.30pm on Tuesday, the new minister of tourism will be unveiling the destination’s growth strategy. Agents will also be able to apply for an invitation to a trade reception at the Rainforest Cafe Ecuador Evening, taking place at 7pm-9pm on Monday and featuring canapés, drinks and further chocolate tasting.
For some Mexican inspiration, head to UNICO 20°N 87°W Hotel Riviera Maya (CA300), which will be making its WTM debut. It’s offering agents the chance to win a five-night stay at the hotel with a business card drop. The Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya (pictured, below), at the same stand, also has a week up for grabs to promote its new Woodward Riviera Maya sports facility, and if you stick around, you can get a selfie with the facility’s ambassador, BMX champion Kriss Kyle.
Middle East & Africa
The Middle East is going all out this year. Dubai Tourism (ME300) will have an Emirati artist creating a piece of art over the course of WTM, so pop by if you’re feeling creative, and linger on if you fancy getting a tattoo from a henna artist.
You’ll also find a five-metre model of the iconic Burj Khalifa, and a 360° interactive screen designed to showcase everything there is to see and do in the city.
Sharjah (ME400) will be hosting an event at 12pm on Monday featuring networking, a talk from the chairman and a raffle to win a trip for two to the UAE’s third-largest city.
For something a little different, flit on over to the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, (ME200, ME201 and ME204), where you can get a selfie with a falcon, the national bird of the UAE, while wising up on key new attractions including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opening later this month; Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, coming in 2018; and SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, set to open by 2022.
Don’t miss the Oman area, either. The country is on the radar right now with plenty of new development, including two soon-to-open luxury hotels in Muscat – Kempinski and W. You can surround yourself with the country’s aromas thanks to free frankincense burners being handed out at the Oman Air stand (ME620) from 2pm-3pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. The carrier will also be holding a trade and media reception from 4pm-6pm on Monday to celebrate 10 years since it began flying from Heathrow, alongside a travel and trade awards reception at 4pm on Tuesday.
When it’s time to cool down, wander over to Jordan Tourism (ME140/ME150), which will be giving out free ice cream from local brand Four Winters. Meanwhile, at the Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority stand (ME640) there’ll be a Formula One simulator where you can race around a virtual track; the visitor with the fastest lap each day will win a holiday to Bahrain for two with tickets to the Bahrain Grand Prix. If pearl diving is more your thing, try out the virtual-reality experience, and post a photo on Instagram to be in with a chance of bagging a trip to try the real thing.
Ras Al Khaimah (ME500) is about to launch the world’s longest and highest zipline as it continues to establish itself as the Middle East’s adventure hub, so head here to find out more about how to sell the emirate to active clients.
On the Africa side, Morocco (AF300) is hosting a cooking show – we can already smell the tagine – as well as a calligrapher. Kenya Tourism Board (AF200) will be serving dawa cocktails from 5pm-6pm each day, and there will also be a photo booth for snaps against backdrops of the Masai Mara or Indian Ocean.
There’s plenty going on at South African Tourism (AF250), not least a wine-tasting session from 6pm-7pm on Monday, where partners will be on hand to discuss news including increased BA flight capacity and the Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy. There will also be agent training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday (11am-12pm and 2pm-3pm) – to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And at 4pm on Tuesday, one lucky trade partner will be awarded a £3,000 diamond necklace.
Asia & Indian Ocean
Dazzling shows, vivid colours and sequins aplenty will bring a touch of vibrant Asia to WTM. India Tourism (AS300, AS350) will be setting the bar especially high this year with everything from music and dance performances to henna masterclasses and a social media competition. The main focus for the destination in 2018, though, is spiritual tourism, so expect calming sounds, Buddhist prayer wheels and various yoga and dance sessions to fit with the wellness boom.
While you’re here, check out Madhya Pradesh Tourism (AS130), which will have its own Mowgli on the stand to promote the region’s tiger-filled lands and its setting for The Jungle Book. There’ll also be an augmented-reality experience, enabling you to pet langur monkeys and tigers without leaving east London.
Tourism Malaysia (AS700), meanwhile, will feature a 40-strong dance troupe from Sabah district Keningau at 10am on Monday to mark the opening of the stand – think gongs, drums and local instruments – alongside free foot massages throughout all three days.
Over at the Taiwan Tourism Bureau (AS750), you’ll find local delicacies, drinks and performers livening things up from 4pm-6pm on Monday. China Airlines will launch the first direct flights from the UK – from Gatwick to Taipei – next month, so there’s lots to discuss, and you can enter the on-stand prize giveaway if you fancy jetting off to the island to celebrate. And don’t miss mascot Oh!Bear, who’ll make an impression with his dancing skills.
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (AS570) will be holding a drinks reception at 5pm on Tuesday, and you’ll be able to pick up a traditional non la palm leaf hat (pictured, below) if you fancy really getting into it. Nearby, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (AS140) has news to announce, including five Six Senses luxury lodges opening in January; they’ll be raising a glass at 4pm on Tuesday at a drinks reception in the North Gallery Room 8.
On the artsier side, you’ll find the Japan National Tourism Organization (AS940) offering demonstrations of kamikiri – a traditional, elegant art form involving paper folding – alongside calligraphy. Visitors to the Korea Tourism Organization stand (AS850), will even be able to make a miniature figure of themselves cheering for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, using a 3D printer based on a photo of them in the on-stand booth. Now that’s creative.
The Indian Ocean will also have its fair share of goings-on. Swing by Visit Maldives (AS540) to pick up a goody bag and hear more about hotel openings – including the Waldorf Astoria, Fushifaru and Lux North Malé Atoll – and check out Onyx Hospitality Group (AS520) to celebrate the justopened Amari Galle Sri Lanka, with an on-stand drinks do at 5pm on Monday.
At 4.30pm on the same day in the South Gallery Rooms 7 and 8, Cinnamon Hotels (AS440) will be hosting a Dream Wedding Launch Drinks Reception featuring none other than Jack Eyers, Mr England 2018, so dust down that selfie stick and get that pose ready – you’ll be needing it.
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