Heading to World Travel Market? Laura French gives the lowdown on the most exciting shenanigans happening on the stands this year.

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From sparkling celebrity appearances to colourful carnival performances, immersive culinary experiences to cocktail-and-canape tastings, World Travel Market has always been as much about celebrating the heritage of destinations across the world as it is a chance to network with the greats of the travel industry – and this year promises to be no exception.

Taking place from November 4-6, the UK’s biggest travel trade exhibition will once again showcase the very best of the world’s cultures, cuisines and celebrations, with more than 4,000 tourist boards, hoteliers, operators and other exhibitors gathering from across the globe at the ExCel centre to do business in an experiential way – and if you’re not there, chances are you’re missing out on some first-class opportunities.

But where do you start when it comes to conquering the ‘world’? We’ve rounded up the highlights to help you decide where to head and when, with wellness treatments, prize draws, dance troupes and West Ham United players among the offerings you’ll find filling the halls this year.

Asia & the Indian Ocean

Have a health check-up

In need of a wellness kick? Head to the Malaysia stand (AS600) at any point in the show to see a certified medical professional, then heal tired muscles with a Malaysian massage. Cultural performances – one at the Grand Opening at 11am on Monday, one at a cocktail reception at 5pm Tuesday – will also be on hand, transporting you from the halls of the ExCel to more exotic lands, and at 9.45am on Monday there’ll be a rather novel ‘Breakfast Bus’. That’s actually a convoy of two buses and eight London liveried taxis covered with Visit Malaysia 2020 branding, and they’ll be offering coffee, pastries and entertainment from the West entrance to the centre, plus the chance to win a ‘golden ticket’ to the country.

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Get an ayurvedic massage

Malaysia isn’t the only stand going all out on the wellness; Sri Lanka (AS200) – which has been announced as this year’s WTM Premier Partner – will be offering its own treatments in the form of Ayurvedic massages with local therapists. There’ll also be dance performances throughout the show, plus a tea booth where you’ll be able to pick up a complimentary cuppa, straight from the country’s tea plantations.

Try your hand at Batik

Over on the Indonesia stand (AS1000) there’s plenty more going on, with a schedule of entertainment taking place across the three days – including carnival performances (10am-12pm), traditional dances (5-6pm), and a sasando performance using the soothing sounds of this traditional, harp-like instrument. There’ll also be a photo booth, coffee corner, henna tattooist and various goodie bag giveaways – but the highlight for creative types is the batik stand, where visitors will have the chance to try this wax-dyeing craft with a local expert.

Watch local weavers and cooking demos

There’s more in the way of arts and crafts at the Philippines stand (AS900), where local weavers will sit crafting while live performers, including a professional singer and violinist, get the party going. A Filipino chef will be cooking up local delicacies at 11am and 3pm each day, while local baristas will whip up fresh coffees for those in need of a little mid-afternoon pick-me-up from 10am-3pm. If cocktails are more your thing, drop by at 5pm and watch the bartender mixing up exotic, colourful Don Papa Rum concoctions with flair.

Catch a Taiwanese dance show

Head to the Taiwan stand (AS750) at 4pm on Monday for an explosive dance performance accompanied by Taiwanese snacks and tipples. While you’re there, snap a selfie with the tourist board’s iconic Oh! Bear, a huge cuddly mascot and WTM regular, and learn more about the latest news – including its decision to legalise same-sex marriage in May this year, making it the first country in Asia to do so. There are also two tickets to the island up for grabs.


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Best of the rest

The Maldives (AS140) will be transporting visitors to white-sand shores and swaying palms via a virtual reality headset, with live Maldivian music and traditional snacks adding to the atmosphere. Cross your fingers and you might just win a holiday to see it yourself.

Sake, tea and sweets will be on offer on the Japan booth (AS800), where you’ll be able to watch original footage from Tom Daley’s adventures in the country.

Head to the Kyoto Traveler’s Inn stand in the same booth to try on a kimono, then post a selfie tagging #KimonoKyoto and @kyototravelersinn on Instagram, or facebook.com/Kyoto.travellersinn, to be in with a chance of winning a three-night stay.


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US & Canada

Meet West Ham United players

Football fans unite: West Ham players will be gracing the Experience Kissimmee stand (NA330-1) on Tuesday with a highly anticipated meet-and-greet marking the tourist board’s extended three-year deal as Official Destination Partner for the team. Cameras and selfie poses at the ready – this is a good’un.

Say hello to presenter Jeff Brazier

There’s more in the way of celebrity prowess at the Vegas booth (NA150), where presenter and reality TV star Jeff Brazier will be on stand at 11am on Monday to talk about the Entertainment Capital of the World while dishing out alcoholic ice pops (as you do). Meanwhile on Wednesday there’ll be a flashing sign giveaway, so pop by to pick up one of these iconic souvenirs and learn more about upcoming plans for the city.

Take part in a golf putting competition

Fancy yourself as a golfing pro? Head over to the Great Lakes USA stand (NA260) at 2pm on Tuesday to take part in an interactive putting challenge and be in with a chance of winning a road trip kit complete with sat nav, portable charger and more. It’s in celebration of the Ryder Cup 2020, being held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin next September, so stay on to learn how to use this sporting hook to sell the destination to the wannabe Rory McIlroys of the world.

Raise a glass with Washington State

Craft beers and fine wines from the Walla Walla and Washington State vineyards are the order of the day over on the Seattle stand (NA140-2), which will be hosting a drinks reception on Tuesday from 4-6pm. Trade and media will have the chance to meet representatives from the region, who’ll be able to provide insight into new hotels, itineraries and other experiences in Washington State and beyond.

Bag a bottle of Tennessee whiskey

For more tipples, wander over to the Shop*Dine*Play*USA stand (NA140-3D) at 3.30pm on Wednesday and enter a prize draw to win a bottle of Tennessee whiskey. Exhibitors will be talking about the new Fifth + Broadway in downtown Nashville – a sprawling collection of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues set to open in 2020, which will boast the world’s only National Museum of African American Music. CDs celebrating African American singers, from Ella Fitzgerald to Nat King Cole, are up for grabs to promote the attraction.

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Win VIP tickets to a Little Mix concert

If you’re still on the hunt for a prize look no further than the Orlando stand (NA250), where you’ll be in with a chance of winning VIP tickets to a Little Mix concert if you take part in the on-stand Orlando Virtual Tour experience – an interactive, 360-degree tour round Orlando’s hotspots that’ll have you ziplining over alligators, riding the state’s tallest rollercoaster, standing in front of Cinderella Castle and plenty more. You’ll also be able to learn more about Visit Orlando’s new agent-focused app and meet Mayor of Orlando and Orange County Jerry L Demings, who’ll be attending for the first time.


Best of the rest

The Brand USA pavilion (NA100) will be hosting its annual networking drinks from 4-6pm on Tuesday with destination partners from across the states, while celebrating its big-screen film, Into America’s Wild, launching next year.

Destination Canada (NA400) will be bringing together representatives from its various provinces at a drinks reception from 5-6pm on Monday and Tuesday.

West Virginia (NA450) will be making its WTM debut as the tourist board seeks to invest more in the UK market, so stop by to hear more about the adventures available in this outdoorsy mountain state.


Caribbean

Meet legendary cricketer Sir Viv Richards

The Caribbean stands never fail to impress with their vibrant performances, culinary experiences and special guest appearances, and this year Antigua and Barbuda (CA245) will be going all out with iconic cricketer Sir Viv Richards – regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time – on stand throughout all three days. As a tourism ambassador he’ll be providing insight into the latest news – including plans to open more than 2,000 hotel rooms by 2021 with new Rosewood, Marriott Autograph Collection and Waldorf Astoria resorts – as well as talking about his sporting experiences. While you’re there, post a photo in front of the flower wall tagging @antiguabarbuda on Twitter to be in with a chance of winning a goodie bag, and pop by at 12pm, 3pm or 4pm to find out if you’ve won.

Dance to a live tuk band

There’s more in the form of cricketing heroes on the Barbados stand (CA220), where Sir Gary Sobers – knighted for his services to the sport – and Desmond Haynes will be gracing the floor from 10.30am-12.30pm on Monday and 2-4pm Tuesday. If you’re more interested in music, pop by at 5.30pm instead to see a live tuk band – featuring drums, a triangle and a penny flute – accompanied by Mother Sally, a masked character who’ll be dancing along in traditional Bajan style. If that’s not enough you’ll also be able to check out live cooking demonstrations from 2.30-3.30pm every day, fuelling up on local delicacies freshly prepared by chef Creig Greenidge.

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Say hi to an outlandish carnival character

Nothing brightens up the ExCel like a grimacing giant bedecked in bright red feathers – which is exactly what you’ll find on the Dominican Republic stand (CA300). The costumed character will be around all day every day in celebration of the island’s age-old, annual February Carnival. While there, chat to a member of staff to be in with a chance of winning a place on a 2020 fam trip and learn about British Airways’ increased frequency of flights to the island this winter; then pick up a Dominican-themed gift (available on a first-come, first-served basis).

Indulge in Tobagoian chocolate

In need of a sugar fix? Drop by Tobago (CA250) to sample the island’s rich, award-winning chocolate, available throughout the show. Agents who’ve participated in the Tobago 101 specialist online training will also be able to pick up a goody bag from 11am-1pm and 3-4.30pm on Wednesday, and at 5pm on Monday entertainers in national dress will be bringing a dose of tropical flair to get the crowd boogying on down, Tobago-style.

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Best of the rest

If Tobago doesn’t satisfy on the cocoa front, Grenada (CA270) will be holding a business card drop for agents with chocolate from the island up for grabs.

Fancy a quick Caribbean getaway? Unico 20˚87˚, Nobu Hotel Los Cabos and Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos (CA300) are offering three-night stays for lucky winners who throw in their business card.

The Bahamas (CA150) will be promoting its online Baham’Ac training programme; complete it and you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a place on a 2020 fam trip.


Europe

Go gin-tasting

We all love a cheeky G&T, and after a long hard day you might just be craving one. Fear not; the Wales booth (UK100) will be hosting a tasting session at 4.30pm on Monday with produce from the Penderyn and Aber Falls distilleries – from orange marmalade gin to coffee and dark chocolate liqueur – alongside local wines, craft beers, cheeses and freshly made Welsh cakes hot off the griddle.

Take part in a project with a Russian artist

For something a little different head over to the Moscow stand (EU1950), where you’ll be able to get involved in an art project by adding stickers to an on-stand composition – in the company of renowned Moscow artist Maxim Goshko-Dankov, who’ll be offering insight into the city’s creative scene. Also on the stand you’ll find a VR experience supplied by Moscow’s Tretyakov gallery, taking you to paint in iconic Russian artists’ studios, and a selection of Russian treats alongside berry and herbal bitters served in a daily happy hour (5-6.45pm Monday and Tuesday, 4.30-6pm Wednesday).

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Glean cooking tips from Israeli chef Eran Tibi

Cooking demos, wine tasting, a smoothie stand and pub area are among the treats you’ll find on the Israel booth (EU1550), but the highlight is the opportunity to meet Eran Tibi, head chef and co-founder at London’s Bala Baya restaurant. He’ll be on stand Monday and Tuesday from 12-1pm and 2-3pm to talk about his favourite restaurants, dishes, regions and food experiences across the country, so stop by to pick up some insider tips, then stay on for wine tasting (1-2pm Monday and Tuesday).

Indulge in Croatian wine and cheese

There’s more where that came from over at the Croatia booth (EU1200), with a wine and cheese meet-up from 5-7pm on Monday, designed to showcase the country’s offering to the trade. Twelve wines from across the country will be on offer for sampling, with a virtual reality experience on stand showing the best of this diverse, rapidly growing destination.

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Ride horses in Iceland 

Iceland (EU1828) will be offering its own virtual reality experience from 1-3pm on Wednesday, immersing agents in lesser-known attractions such as the ‘horse corral’ – a weekend fiesta where famous breeders from across the country gather their horses. Exhibitors will be promoting under-the-radar spots such as the new Arctic Coast Way, a 560-mile route opened this year in the north, and the just-opened Torfhus Retreat in the southwest, where rooms are designed like Viking Turfhouses.

Win one of 40 prizes to mark WTM’s 40th anniversary

The Poland booth (EU1500) will be hosting a prize-giving extravaganza from 3-5pm on Tuesday, with 40 prizes on offer to celebrate 40 years of WTM. Weekend city breaks, flights, hampers, china sets and plenty more will be up for grabs in this one-of-a-kind raffle, with authentic Polish food, wine and vodka on hand to wash it all down with.


Best of the rest

Stop by the West entrance on Monday to see a large-scale inflatable sculpture exclusively designed for WTM by Lithuanian artist Egle Žvirblytė, and pick up a souvenir postcard of it on the Lithuania stand (EU1785).

French theme park Parc Asterix (EU300) will be hosting drinks and canapes at 4.30pm on Tuesday, so drop by to snap a selfie with Asterix himself while learning more about the park’s new hotel, opening in 2020.

Big Bus Tours (TA220) will be hosting champagne hour from 2-3pm on Tuesday as it celebrates its expansion and growing B2B platform.

The Slovenia stand (EU1800) is promising an ‘immersive experience’ designed to get visitors up close with brown bears, bees and other animals that roam its scenic landscapes – check it out on stand.


Latin America

Be inspired by renowned activist and explorer Celine Cousteau

Environmentalist, activist, explorer, film-maker – there’s very little Céline Cousteau hasn’t turned her hand to, and if you drop by the Americas Inspiration Zone (LA570) on Monday from 2-2.45pm you’ll be able to hear from her first-hand. An ambassador for the TreadRight Foundation (a not-for-profit organisation created by The Travel Corporation), she’ll be giving a speech on stage about how travel can help transform communities for the better, while providing a fascinating glimpse into her own adventures – which include everything from meeting Amazonian tribes to delivering an empowering talk at the UN.

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Experience a slice of Brazilian carnival

If there’s anywhere that knows how to throw a fiesta it’s Brazil (LA250), and this year’s booth will be every bit as colourful, sparkly and feather-bedecked as you’d expect from the home of Mardi Gras. Cultural performances are planned for 5pm Monday and Wednesday and 4.30pm Tuesday with lambada, samba and other regional music getting toes tapping, while daily caipirinha tastings will be on hand from 5pm to add to the authenticity.

Sip a pisco sour

It’s not the only beverage you’ll find in the vicinity – Peru (LA300) will be hosting its annual Pisco Sour Hour with cocktails and canapes every day from 12-1pm and 5-6pm, starting with a live cooking demonstration. Wander over to hear more about the key product areas for next year – from responsible tourism to archaeological offerings – while sampling the flavours of this renowned foodie hotspot in the company of key industry figures.


Best of the rest

Cata (the Central America Tourism Agency, LA440) will be holding a cocktail hour from 4-5pm, with an awards ceremony for the trade and media.

Chile (LA500) will be hosting on-stand wine tasting every day from 12.30-1.30pm and 3.30-4.30pm, with Chilean snacks on hand at the lunchtime session.

Nicaragua (LA145) will be giving away award-winning, home-grown chocolate and rum to sample, while Guyana (CA122) will have a meet and greet from 3-4pm with authentic Guyanese specialities

Costa Rica (LA200) will be satisfying caffeine cravings, with authentic coffee from the country available all day, every day.


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Middle East and Africa

Meet a former Masterchef star

South Africa (AF500) will be the heart and soul of the Africa region with a host of shenanigans to get involved with, from trying your hand at street art on an interactive graffiti wall, to snapping pictures of the stand’s 6-metre-tall baobab tree installation and indulging in local wines every evening at 5pm. But the highlight has to be sampling South African dishes cooked fresh by Abigail Mbalo – a former MasterChef South Africa contestant and founder of township restaurant 4Roomed eKasi Culture. She’ll be here on Monday and Tuesday to talk about her experiences as a South African Tourism ambassador and serve up fresh bunny chow, alongside Johannesburg guide and Soweto local Charles Ncube, who’ll be offering insider tips on the city he grew up in.

Try your hand at calligraphy 

Over in the Middle East area there’ll be plenty to keep you occupied – not least calligraphy demonstrations at the Qatar stand (ME100), where an expert will be giving a glimpse into this traditional, intricate art form. There’ll be architectural models of the World Cup 2022 stadiums on the stand, as well as mini versions of the National Museum – a new, immersive complex that opened in Doha in March and has since been named among the World’s Greatest Places by Time Magazine. Stop by for an open lunch from 12.30-2pm Tuesday for networking over traditional Qatari delicacies.

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Ride a racing simulator

Formula One host Bahrain (ME550) is inviting visitors to hop in a specially adapted car and race around a virtual track to simulate the Bahrain International Circuit – where Lewis Hamilton got his victory this March. The contestant with the fastest lap each day will win a trip to Bahrain for two, including flights, accommodation and tickets to the country’s Grand Prix in March 2020, so embrace your need for speed and get in it to win it.

Win a trip to Dubai Parks and Resorts

Dubai (ME300) will have plenty of news about what’s coming up next year, and why not stop by to see Dubai Parks and Resorts while you’re there? The theme park is offering the chance to win a two-night stay with tickets to the parks, plus you’ll also be able to glean details of its eight new rides, Legoland Hotel (opening next year), and hear more about the parks’ new agent training and rewards programme.

Fuel up on Emirati delicacies and coffee

Know much about pint-sized emirate Sharjah? Possibly not – in which case it’s well worth popping by the destination’s stand (ME400) from 3-4pm on Tuesday to learn more around its key product news – 2020 themes include eco-tourism, culture and adventure – while indulging in traditional Emirati delicacies and coffee. As a further sweetener, the stand will be hosting a number of prize giveaways during the session, so try your chances and you might just find yourself on a flight out there.


Best of the rest

Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island promotional arm ‘Experience Hub’ (ME200/201/205) will be giving agents the chance to win a trip to Abu Dhabi if they complete the ‘Yas Expert’ online training.

Azerbaijan (EU1520) will be providing local wine, dried fruits and national sweets, along with a virtual reality experience designed to transport visitors to the destination.

Hotel development company Orascom (ME445) will be celebrating its 30th anniversary with free-flowing wine, canapes and a DJ from 5-7pm.

On the Tunisia stand (AF259) you’ll be able to see local craftspeople producing colourful mosaics while snacking on Tunisian pastries.