Nov 15 2010

The world really has got smaller……and if you were amongst the 50,000 or so people per day who attended the annual World Travel Market at London’s ExCeL Centre last week, the whole world was squeezed into around 90,000m².With display stands and exhibits peddling the wares of hundreds of destinations from all four corners of the globe, it was but a short hop from the foot of Table Mountain, to the streets of Berlin, to the beaches of Bali.  If only it was actually possible to travel so easily around the world without the hassles of 20-hour flights and multiple stop-overs – well, I guess a lot of us would be out of a job.

Having taken a severe bashing thanks to the global economic crisis, players in the travel industry really needed to pull out all the stops to lure consumers and capture their collective imaginations, and from Nepal’s offering to meet the world’s shortest man, to the Moulin Rouge-inspired burlesque girls manning the Parisian stand, they did just that.  But the premier event in the global travel industry’s calendar offers more than just the chance to ogle scantily-clad French girls and shake the hand of a Guinness World Record holder; it is an invaluable networking opportunity for all of us involved in this business of travel and tourism, and for my colleague and I, it was definitely a worthwhile exercise.  Nowhere else can you enjoy a coffee with an overly talkative German Christmas Market expert, closely followed by a beer or four at the Belgian Tourism Office’s stand, and finishing off over in Amsterdam, whose sprawling display-come-night-club had alcohol flowing and only the best cheesy Europop beats blaring from their speakers by 4:30pm. 

Of course, in between all of this there are the meetings with potential suppliers and tourism boards which really are the reason that so many thousands of people attend (although one woman did admit that for her, it was just one big social event), and to actually meet these people face-to-face, rather than via the impersonal yet inevitable medium of email really is invaluable.  Not so vital is the abundance of flyers, brochures, business cards and even a tiny t-shirt from the Ljubljana stand (which I was informed was for a teddy or a doll, but apparently I will get a full-sized one for myself when I visit Ljubljana – now there’s a reason to visit).

The refreshments (well, beer) were well deserved though after the trauma of getting to and from the venue – since when did it take longer to travel from Paddington to Royal London Docks than Manchester to Euston?  There may have been increased DLR services to the centre, but when you face delays on the underground,all the trains are breaking down, it’s pouring with rain, and you’re wearing stupidly high heeled boots, getting to the ExCeL Centre is definitely not stress-free.  I’m not sure I did anything to help the North-South divide when I loudly exclaimed in the taxi that “London’s transport systems leave a lot to be desired.”  In my defence, I was cold, wet, and fed up of public transport breaking down by this time. Thank god the journey home was much easier – I even managed to bag a seat!

All in all, the WTM is a valuable and worthwhile experience and definitely greatly useful for forging contacts and working relationships.  But, if Travel is Learning, the biggest lesson I’m taking away with me is this: next year, wear flat shoes!

BeOutgoing will take you wherever in the world you want to go!

Jen Bryan

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