Everyone wants to have the world at their feet, and for a few days next week, it’s actually possible. Well, not literally, but step into the cavernous hall of London’s ExCeL centre, home of World Travel Market 2015, and it will certainly feel that way.
From Las Vegas showgirls and the colourful carnival dancers of the Caribbean, to spicy South African bunny chow and Taiwanese tea ceremonies, this is an elaborate four-day event celebrating the very best each destination has to offer. There’s a serious side to all this pageantry though, with exhibitors keen to update the trade on their latest news and talk about ways to work together over the coming year.
With so much to see, it’s hard to know where to start, and those feet will start to protest if you wander around aimlessly. Here, we pick out a few of the more exciting highlights from some exhibitor stands to help you make the most of your time at World Travel Market.
UK, Ireland and Europe
Get ready for some serious craic with Tourism Ireland (UKI400), in a networking session (Monday, 6.30pm) for agents and industry professionals to find out why the island of Ireland has seen a 12% jump in visitors this year, plus plans for next year’s Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016, and Ireland’s Ancient East, an initiative highlighting Celtic sites which pre-date the pyramids.
The champagne will be flowing for Big Bus Tours (UKI301) as well, as the company gets ready for its silver jubilee, celebrating 25 years since its first hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour around London. Go along to trade receptions on Monday and Tuesday afternoons (times to be confirmed) to find out more about 2016 promotions and new Chicago and Paris routes.
Agents can raise a glass to another anniversary over in the European area – this time a 70th birthday for airline TAP Portugal (EU1010), which hosts wine-tasting and networking on-stand (Tuesday, 4.30-5.30pm), with a chance to win pairs of tickets to Lisbon and Porto, its two main UK routes.
There’s no need to wait to toast the Catalonia Tourist Board (EU1800); these Spanish delegates will have a bar with regional wines and beers throughout the show, having been named European gastronomy region for 2016, and will be giving a presentation on accessible holidays to Catalonia (Tuesday, 3pm).
Food and drink will also be central to the Basque Country Tourist Board’s trade and press reception (EU1940, Tuesday 11.30am-12.30pm, Platinum Suite 5), while at the same time over on the Balearic Islands Tourist Board (EU1550) stand, visitors can try to catch a glimpse of Sir Bradley Wiggins in an invitation-only presentation on sports tourism to the islands.
There are plenty of chances for agents to win big with the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EU1200 & 1270) if they have completed its online training. Send course certificates by October 30 to email@example.com and you could be invited to an on-stand prize draw on Wednesday, with a Kindle, a goody bag of Greek wine and even a short break for two to Crete, with BA flights and accommodation from Aldemar Hotels, up for grabs.
Neighbouring Cyprus Tourism Organisation (EU1300) will also be offering a taste of Cypriot wine, pastries and desserts on its new-look stand, with a side order of exciting news about a 16% jump in UK visitors this year. Likewise, the Israel Government Tourist Office (EU850) will offer the next best thing to actually being there with on-stand cooking demonstrations by Tomer Amedi, head chef at super-cool Israeli restaurant The Palomar in London’s West End (Monday and Tuesday, 12pm and 2pm), and stick around for happy hour from 2.30-4pm for Israeli wine and nibbles courtesy of the Hummus Brothers.
Work off a few of those calories while perfecting your swing with the golf simulator at the Polish National Tourist Office (EU650) stand next (though there’s plenty to keep arty types interested too as Wroclaw gears up to become European Capital of Culture 2016), and then head along to Balkan Holidays (EU935) for a preview of its new agent training video filmed on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast.
US & Canada
The US has come on leaps and bounds in its relationship with the trade over recent years, and Brand USA (NA350F) is looking to capitalise on that new-found enthusiasm with several new badges available through its agent training programme, and entry details for its 2016 Brand USA MegaFam to be revealed at the stand on Thursday.
There will be plenty of excitement around the centenary of the National Park Service coming up on August 25, with a 3D documentary narrated by Robert Redford released on Imax screens in February; and documentary Billy Connolly’s Tracks Across America, a three-part series in which the comedian travels across the US by rail, to be broadcast in spring.
If you happen to be passing the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (NA250) stand at 11am on Monday, you could get in on WTM’s largest-ever selfie, led by Jamie Laing of Made in Chelsea fame, who recently visited Las Vegas for a special episode. That’s not the only excitement in the entertainment capital next year, with MGM Resorts International and AEG opening The Park, a new green area just off the Strip, plus headline residencies in Planet Hollywood for Jennifer Lopez and Lionel Richie.
Missouri Division of Tourism (NA350L) will be making an appearance at WTM for the first time in seven years, promoting the new National Blues Museum which opens in St Louis early next year. But it’s less about the blues and more about the greens for the Great Lakes USA (NA350H), which is celebrating the return of the Ryder Cup to Hazeltine, Minnesota, by giving away a golf bag to one lucky agent who visits the stand.
Over in the Colorado Tourism Office (NA350D) corner, the team will be peddling Colorado’s aim to become the most cycle-friendly state in the US – it has more than 5,000 miles of bike trails – with a mountain bike to be won. Between its potential as a cycling hotspot, a new Westin hotel set to open at Denver International airport in November, and a new commuter rail service connecting the airport to downtown Denver set to open next spring, there should be plenty to talk about.
Sharing the same stand, the Utah Office of Tourism (NA350D) will be on hand to give tired attendees a boost with a bar to build their own trail mix – the combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit that powers visitors through the hiking and biking trails in Utah’s national and state parks should give a much-needed lift to those powering their way around WTM, and plenty of energy to hear about the first Utah ski resort to open in decades and the new Heathrow-Salt Lake City flight set to start on May 2.
Ski fans should also make a beeline for Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb (NA200), marking 50 years as a ski destination with a host of activities on the mountain, and a new cultural focus in the village with the opening of the Audain Art Museum next month.
Also on the same stand, Ontario Tourism will be capitalising on its two-year partnership with bushcraft expert and TV presenter Ray Mears, promoting adventure tourism to the region with a consumer competition to come in 2016.
Caribbean & Latin America
The Caribbean stands are always awash with the colours of an island carnival. The Dominican Republic Tourist Board (CA300) is bringing its masked carnival character to pose for selfies with agents. The most inventive photo will win a place on a 2016 fam trip, but enter the on-stand prize draw or complete the Dominican Republic’s online training course for extra chances to win a fam spot, and drop in to the trade receptions (Monday and Tuesday, 2.30-4pm) for a Brugal santo libre cocktail and a chat with the team.
One of those cocktails might help visitors to the Trinidad & Tobago (CA240) stand lose their inhibitions to have a go at its Xbox game. Volunteers choose to be either a native hummingbird or scarlet ibis – highlighting the country’s birdwatching opportunities – then flap their arms as quickly as possible to ‘fly’ between the twin islands. Those who don’t fancy the game can still hear about the islands’ new eco-trail network and travel app Wanderscape, designed by two Trinidadian entrepreneurs to guide tourists towards local activities, which goes live during WTM.
Of course, the pinnacle of excitement is always Wednesday, when the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CA135) holds its training day and treasure hunt. Starting at 10am, it introduces agents, homeworkers and tour operator reservation staff to delegates from across the region, followed by the annual street party which takes advantage of Wednesday’s extended opening hours by starting at 6pm. There will be Caribbean food, steel drums, calypso beats and a party atmosphere, all courtesy of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.
Agents who visit The Islands of the Bahamas (CA150) stand during the treasure hunt will be in with a shot at a fam trip spot next year, while those stopping by Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (CA250) at 5pm will see a performance from carnival and soca dancers celebrating the 60th anniversary of carnival next year. That’s on top of a visit from cricketing legend Sir Vivian Richards to promote a pro-celebrity cricket tour in October.
The fun doesn’t stop there either: Elite Island Resorts will be on the Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia (CA101) and Barbados (CA220) stands, where it has properties, and is offering agents one free night for each stand they visit on Thursday. Top this up by earning extra nights on every Elite Island booking, and you could stay up to a week for free.
Latin America is home to just as much colour and character as its neighbour, with fun-packed stands such as PromPeru (LA400), which is serving fresh pisco sour cocktails from 12-1pm each day to celebrate the start of British Airways flights from Gatwick to Lima in spring.
Chile (LA500) is also working to its strengths with wine tastings on-stand each day, showing off the country’s renowned wine regions, while Metropolitan Touring (LA601) is highlighting its big news – the launch of Galapagos ship Santa Cruz II and new-look Finch Bay Eco Hotel on Santa Cruz Island – with £100 vouchers for some of London’s trendiest restaurants. There will be a business card draw on-stand to visit Argentine grill Santa Maria del Sur on Monday, to try Peru’s national dish at Martin Morales’ Ceviche restaurants on Tuesday, or to get the taste of Ecuador with Andean eatery Tostado on Wednesday.
Asia & Australasia
Fancy winning a stay at one of the Maldives’ hottest new hotels? Thai hotel chain Onyx Hospitality Group (AS348) is celebrating the opening of its Amari Havodda Maldives on February 1 by giving away a four-night stay to one lucky agent. Just take a selfie with the inflatable flip-flops on-stand and post it using hashtag #AmariMaldivesCountdown on Wednesday or Thursday – the more creative you get, the better your chance of winning.
While you’re there, ask the team about the extension of Amari Samui, reopening April 1, Onyx’s first Vietnam property Ozo Hoi An, and first Indonesian hotel Amari Pecatu Bali, opening in late 2016 and 2017 respectively.
A change of leadership at the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (AS130) means there will be a two-year moratorium on new hotels, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of news to catch up on – preferably over a drink at the trade reception (Monday, 4-5pm), where agents can get updates on Shangri-La taking over Le Touessrok, the island’s first all-suite four-star hotel Ravenala Attitude, and new luxury villas at Four Seasons Resort Mauritius.
Any avid monarchists can catch a glimpse of a princess – not Charlotte, but Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Mahidol of the Thai royal family – at the Thai Airways (AS330, Monday, 3pm) booth. Don’t forget to drop a card into the draw for a pair of economy tickets to Thailand, and return on Tuesday at 4pm to find out if you’ve won.
While Thai food is a favourite with many Brits, Korean cuisine is only just becoming better known, with growing media coverage of its health benefits – especially spicy cabbage dish kimchi – raising its profile. Find out what all the fuss is about at the Korea Tourism Organization (AS550) stand, where the Korean Food Foundation will be giving out food samples, and offering a peek at plans for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
There will also be plenty of Taiwanese treats at the Taiwan Tourism Bureau happy hour (AS450, Monday, 4-6pm), with celebrity chef Ching He-Huang sharing her tips, photo opportunities with cuddly ‘ambassador’ Oh! Bear, and a chance to win flights to Taipei with Eva Air. There will also be Taiwanese tea-drinking ceremonies at 11.30am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, followed by bespoke agent training; to sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be some fun photo opportunities with the Japan National Tourism Organization (AS370) too, which will have a traditional kabuki actor in full costume on Monday and Tuesday, plus a host of gifts to be won – including high-quality sake and faceless sarubobo dolls – from different regions of Gifu Prefecture, which is exhibiting for the first time. Now is the time to go, as tourism to Japan is booming – UK visits were up 20% in the first half of this year – and there are a host of luxury hotels opening plus a new bullet train connecting northern island Hokkaido to Tokyo in just over four hours. Take the Japan training course and you could win a set of Mount Fuji sake cups.
And don’t forget the rest of Australasia. The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (AS255) has a drinks and networking event (Monday, 4.30-5.30pm), while stand partner Tahiti Tourisme is giving away pens and soap.
Tips for surviving WTM
- Dress smartly, but wear comfortable shoes – the ExCeL centre might be dwarfed by Germany’s ITB, but it’s still huge so best to avoid uncomfortable footwear.
- Schedule some appointments in advance, but don’t leave yourself without any free time – it’s important to structure your day but still allow time for impromptu meetings.
- Bring plenty of business cards, and follow up every meeting with an email when you get back to work.
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