Fresh ideas, new opportunities

WTM London 2018 returns for its 38th chapter at Excel London from November 5 to 7 this year. The show expects some 50,000 delegates from 182 countries and regions, who will conduct even more business than last year’s record £3.1 billion, says Simon Press

Some 40 countries, 221 exhibitors and 9,000 trade visitors took part in the first ever WTM at London Olympia in 1980. Two moves (Earls Court in 1992 and ExCeL in 2002) and 38 years later, now WTM London facilitates £3.1 billion ($ 4.079 billion) in industry deals and has more than 5,000 exhibitors from 182 countries and regions and more than 51,000 participants.

The 38th edition of WTM London 2018 takes place between November 5 and 7 at ExCel London and is full of new ideas and business opportunities.

We speak to WTM London senior director Simon Press for more.


Tell us about your newly launched, co-located event Travel Forward. Why was it necessary?

Travel Forward is a three-day travel technology show in London and an exciting new event in the WTM portfolio. The new technology-focused event co-located with WTM London, will take place between November 5 to 7 at ExCeL London.

Over 5,000 travel executives and 250+ innovative solution providers will attend for three days of cutting-edge insights, open debate and unrivalled networking opportunities.

The combination of a two-day conference, interactive exhibition and startup showcase makes Travel Forward unique. Attendees have the opportunity to tailor make the event experience to their interests and requirements, whether it is listening to insightful case studies from industry peers, participating in round-table debates or meeting the latest innovative solution providers.

Travel Forward is replacing The Travel Tech Show @ WTM, which launched in 2013 as a show within a show. The Travel Tech Show has grown during this time, reflecting not only its success in attracting buyers, suppliers and visitors but also technology’s increasingly prevalent role across the travel industry. Launching Travel Forward as a standalone event illustrates the commitment Reed Travel Exhibition has to technology and allows for further expansion in the future.

Regarding content, payments, digital marketing, consumer insights and needs, connectivity and big data, and advances in AR, VR, AI, robotics and machine learning will feature as prominently as established travel technology topics such as booking engines, revenue, yield and property management systems and end-user tech.

There is also a dedicated product theatre, exclusively available to Travel Forward exhibitors to host product demos. The intention is to cap the number of exhibitors to 250 to align suppliers and buyers more effectively and to manage the ratio of suppliers to buyers for the pre-scheduled meetings at one-to-one.

Other features befitting Travel Forward’s status as a standalone event is a dedicated Buyers’ Lounge.


WTM London is experiencing a surge in tours and activities exhibitors? Who do these exhibitors want to reach out to?

Yes, this year we have created an area dedicated to exhibitors in the tours and activities sector, as WTM London recognises the market’s huge potential and rapid growth.

Major names in the sector such as Merlin Entertainments, City Sightseeing and Leisure Pass Group have signed up for the new zone, along with regional specialists.

For instance, iVenture Card, which is also exhibiting at the new area, will promote its city attraction passes to a global audience as attraction passes are popular with many in the trade, including online travel agents, traditional travel agents, airlines, loyalty programmes and other closed-user groups.

Most of these exhibitors we are looking to expand partnerships with travel service merchants worldwide. The tours and activities sector is growing faster than other parts of the travel industry as more firms realise its potential, and technology is making it easier for consumers to book more experiences.

There’s so much diversity on offer, but that means it can be a fragmented market – so it’s important for WTM London to create this new zone to highlight the sector’s range and help develop the technology and networks to overcome these hurdles.

Travellers are seeking out new experiences, tours, top destinations and cultural attractions, so we know visitors to WTM London will warmly welcome this focus on tours and activities.


What else is new at WTM London this year?

So much is new for WTM London 2018 and “Ideas Arrive Here” is the theme for the 38th edition of the show.

There will be a dedicated focus on the geographic regions of the exhibition floor with the Inspiration Zone added to each region. These zones will host dedicated regional content and events.

The inaugural International Travel & Tourism Awards will also take place on the evening of November 6 at the iconic Tobacco Dock venue. The awards will recognise and reward excellence and best practice in 13 categories.

A new technology event will also be co-located with WTM London at ExCeL. Travel Forward will inspire the travel and hospitality industry with the next generation of technology. It will include a two-day, paid-for conference programme. WTM London badges will gain entrance Travel Forward, as Travel Forward badges will be allowed in WTM London.

Furthermore, the new WTM Agency Pavilion will offer dedicated exhibition space for marketing, representation, PR, media and social media agencies to promote their services to the industry. The Pavilion will be conveniently located at the entrance of the WTM International Media Centre.


Comment on the number and nature of exhibitors this year – any different from last year?

There will be up to 5,000 exhibitors from 182 countries taking part in WTM London 2018, with many new exhibitors taking part for the first time.

For instance, Djibouti is for the first time exhibiting at WTM London and is listed as one of the least visited countries in the world according to The Telegraph Travel Destinations.

WTM aims to bring this small country to the top list of destinations in Africa. Established exhibitors with large stands at the event will include Italy, India and Greece.


How many visitors are expected this year?

With all the new initiatives, taking place at WTM London 2018, it is anticipated that the 50,000 delegates from 182 countries and regions will conduct even more business than last year’s record £3.1 billion.


Can you name some exhibitors from the Middle East region?

We have more than 300 exhibitors from the Middle East region at WTM London 2018.

This year, key exhibitors at WTM London from the Middle East include: Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Ajman Tourism Development Department, Oman Ministry of Tourism and Jordan Tourism Board. Other exhibitors include Saudia Airline, QE2 Shipping LLC and Al-Muhaidb Group of Hotel Apartments & Grand Plaza Hotels.


What trends/demands are you noticing in travel and tourism this year?

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a tremendous increase in travel. Not only has travel become more affordable but also travellers place more value on experiences.

We have seen a massive increase in international arrivals to the Middle East according to the UNWTO travel Barometer, and the region has even surpassed travellers arriving in Europe and South America in 2017.

The Middle East is the fastest-growing travel region in the world and travel companies are taking note. We’ve seen an increase in hotel openings in Egypt, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and new routes to the Middle East such as direct flights from Europe to Jordan.

Another trend which was also highlighted at WTM London 2017, is over-tourism. This year a couple of sessions will highlight this issue. Barcelona, for instance, has led the way in addressing the challenges of over-tourism and Barcelona City Council, Turisme de Barcelona and Diputació de Barcelona will take the stage on Monday November 6th to explain “What can we learn from Barcelona?”.

Another trend is how the adventure is changing according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). Risky adrenaline activities are favoured 45 per cent less than "experiencing a new culture" in the definition of adventure travel.

Winter is becoming the peak season for travellers and countries such as Greece and Croatia are  encouraging visitors to pair a city break with a day or two’s skiing. Few realise that the countries have many ski resorts within easy travelling distance.

The growing number of flight options also means Greece is expanding its tourism at the ‘shoulder’ months at the beginning and end of the summer season with a new range of soft adventure options.


Where do you see travel agents fitting in the modern mix of travel?

The travel industry has seen some of the most profound changes in modern business, and companies such as Airbnb, Skyscanner and Uber have shown how consumers are empowered to get what they want when they want it.

Today travellers book their trips alone and travel companies, especially travel agents, must be able to follow this change being ahead of the technology.

Travel agents service remain in need, despite the DIY service done by consumers. Travel agents also leverage their existing personal relationships with suppliers, like hotels and airlines, to deliver a personalised package which usually can’t be provided online.

Today, travel agents know that to compete with the digitalisation of consumer travel, they need to evolve the technology they use.