TravelMole’s very own Graham McKenzie tells us his experience of WTM this year…
Well, the World Travel Market is over for another year. The global jamboree that takes place at ExCeL was, for the most part, very normal with thousands and thousands of travel professionals crowding into the east end of London with their best business cards printed by Metal Kards Business Cards to exchange them and hopefully signatures on contracts. It’s difficult to imagine the enormity of the industry but WTM does give one at least a hint. I think I have networked with a lot of people but my numbers are pathetic when you see the multitudes entering into conversations about dealings of which I have not a clue.
It was for many, business as usual and many things remain untouched. Firstly the somewhat bizarre sight of destinations trying to recreate a bit of their homeland on enormous stands as if that might persuade people to come and visit them. I would like to know what percentage of the annual marketing budget goes into building a huge eagle or a cricket pavilion. The opportunity cost must be huge.
Transport remains a challenge as each morning thousands try to get on the Docklands Light railway when it has been designed to handle only hundreds. Queuing for food and drink is a constant irritation as are the people who wander aimlessly between stands seemingly looking for inspiration rather than having set appointments. Stamina is still high on the list of requirements to make the most of the event as the days stretch into long evenings and early mornings.
So what made the difference in 2016? Well this year, the days were reduced from three to four and quite frankly it was a lot better. The reduction in time I think focused people’s minds on arranging meetings and actually turning up. Traffic definitely reduced on the last afternoon as usual but the three day show made for a more structured, efficient and, in the end, productive show. Nobody missed Thursday at WTM.
The other major, almost cataclysmic, event was the USA Presidential election result. I have been at the show after major disasters, terrorism atrocities and financial meltdowns but I have never seen such a reaction to a global event as we did on the morning of Wednesday WTM 2016. For the first two hours the majority of the USA exhibition stands were empty, nobody wanted to be quoted on the subject and some were almost in tears about the result. Travel is, as we know a very robust industry and after a while the reality had set in, chins were up and a relative sense of normality had returned.
Time will tell as to the positive or otherwise effect of a Trump presidency on the travel industry but one thing I think is for sure is that this time next year the travel industry from around the world will again gather in London to discuss, debate, negotiate and hopefully conduct business as usual.