Surviving World Travel Market – the world’s biggest and best travel meet-up
This year’s World Travel Market (WTM) isn’t long finished. After another successful visit meeting business colleagues and friends old and new, we thought we’d share our ideas about surviving World Travel Market, with tips on how to tackle the travel trade meet up to get the most out of it. We’ll also share our thoughts on themes and ideas that emerged for travel 2020.
Whatever your job in travel, World Travel Market is a must-do. It’s the biggest fixture in the UK travel year, and has been going strong and growing since 1980.
At that first event, 40 countries, 221 exhibitors and 9,000 trade visitors took part. Forty years later, WTM London is the stage for £2.8 billion in industry deals, around 5,000 exhibitors from 182 countries and regions and more than 51,000 participants.
The first WTM was opened by the Duke of Kent, who raised eyebrows by being photographed in a Native American headdress at the Oklahoma stand. The next day, his picture appeared in every national newspaper, which is considered to have been the making of World Travel Market. The power of press is recognised at WTM, with hundreds of travel media people attending, all eager to find the next big travel stories.
But with so many global travel trade attendees, all here to network and negotiate, how do you tackle World Travel Market effectively without collapsing after day one?
To follow are tips from two of our brilliant colleagues, International Account Director Fiona Morrison-Arnthal and Senior Account Manager Lucy Hatcher, both experienced travel trade show experts. Obviously, most people are there to sell their travel product, and as recruiters, we’re there to meet and gain clients. However, it’s all travel business, and the business approach is much the same whatever the aim of your visit. It’s an unbeatable chance to connect with travel people from all over the world, whatever your role in travel.
Travel expert tips and thoughts for WTM
How do you approach WTM?
Fiona: I believe in fail to prepare, prepare to fail. At such a huge event we can’t expect to succeed unless we plan and prepare. My strategy this year was to develop our hospitality technology recruitment sector. My aims were both to understand more about the sector, and to identify new business opportunities while meeting existing customers and candidates. I also caught up with candidates who have become new clients and we shared insights and potential opportunities.
Lucy: I prearranged meetings with prospective and existing clients. I also go to stands where we might know people or to see people who may not have responded to our initial meeting approach – just to say hi and swap business cards. This isn’t a hard sell; it’s meeting up and finding out more about what people do and what their needs are. If they have time to discuss our proposition and give us an idea of what type of global travel roles they recruit for that’s great.
Why go to WTM?
Fiona: It’s always worth going because face-to-face meetings are essential to building your brand and to making a long connection. I am a true believer in the power of communication and I always think about the percentage of effectiveness in the 3 V’s of communication:
1. Verbal – Words, Content: 7%
2. Vocal – Tone, Pitch, Intonation: 38%
3. Visual – Body Language, Facial Expression, Gestures: 55%.
With visual communication having 55% believability, no wonder these face to face meetings are so important.
Lucy: I go to cement relationships with existing clients and to make introductions face to face with possible new clients. We have an informal chat, swap business cards, and can then follow up with interested clients after the event. It’s also a chance to see what the travel industry is up to as a whole.
What’s the best thing about World Travel Market?
Fiona: Networking; I love being introduced to and meeting new people and growing my network even further.
Lucy: I agree, WTM is an opportunity to put a face to a voice, to build a closer relationship with clients and get to know them in a more relaxed environment. Also, having been in the industry for years, just wandering around the show bumping into old colleagues is a lovely way to reconnect.
What’s the worst thing about WTM?
Fiona: People looking at their phones and bumping into you and barging past you. Everyone’s on a mission! And sore feet… After WTM you feel like you have been on a double marathon.
Lucy: In truth, it’s hard trying to engage people about travel recruitment when their primary focus is selling travel product. But… we’re not there for a hard sell; it’s just the perfect environment to connect with a lot of people in the travel and hospitality industry.
What would you change about WTM if you could?
Fiona: WTM works so I wouldn’t change it at all – I think they have the concept right.
Lucy: I don’t think I’d change anything either, it works really well. It’s easy to find people and their stands. Maybe we could do with some more meeting areas, but there are enough hotels around to settle down for prearranged meetings.
What new themes did WTM show in the travel and hospitality industry for 2020 and beyond?
Fiona: Hospitality technology is bigger than ever and bed bank wholesalers smaller. We have seen a lot of mergers in the last few years, which have contributed to this, but hospitality technology is hugely on the rise. This is an exciting new area of recruitment for me.
Immersive experiential travel experiences are growing exponentially, as this recent blog by Progressive Travel Recruitment director Tony Macdonald illustrates. People want to feel like they’re part of the destination, and see and experience the place as locals do. There were a huge number of regional costumes on display this year, plus local-food cooking shows, dancers and other authentic elements of each destination, all indicative that experiential is very much on the rise.
Lucy: I’d say that the traditional holiday of 14 nights flopped on a beach in Spain is not what most people are looking for these days. People now want to immerse themselves into the culture of a destination and are also very aware of their eco footprint. Adventure travel remains a growing market. Also, many companies have their finger on the pulse of new technologies, which is an exciting growth trend.
WTM – also a force for good
World Travel Market is also good at encouraging joined-up global thinking about travel issues that need attention, such as environmental awareness and charitable causes. In 1998 water-aid charity Just A Drop was launched by the WTM director. The charity raises funds for wells, bore holes and health programmes worldwide. World Responsible Tourism Day was also launched here in 2004, promoting eco-friendly tourism, a vital issue for all travel businesses in 2019 and beyond.
It’s also a great show, and the changes over the years track changing attitudes in travel. It’s moved on from when live animals were considered acceptable; a parrot, an armadillo, an even an elephant adorned previous stands. Today, the prevention of mistreatment of animals in tourism is more likely to be the subject of conversation. The very first WTM at Earl’s Court (the show is now at ExCel) saw the Boat Show’s pool used as a Venice canal, complete with gondola. Most stands are less flashy than this today, but you still get a good flavour of the world and its traditions simply by wandering the floor.