LONDON -- Despite a gloomy global economy, terrorism fears and
instability in Iraq, organizers of the annual World Travel Market
here expect the trade show to be about 5% larger this year,
continuing a recovery trend that began with 12% growth in
attendance last year.
A record 190 participating countries will join more than 5,000
other exhibitors -- including more than 100 new companies or
organizations -- at the show, to be held Nov. 10 to 13 at the Excel
center in London's developing Docklands district.
Four countries -- Abu Dhabi, Albania, Belarus and Vietnam -- are
attending for the first time.
Fiona Jeffery, group exhibition director, attributed some of the
growth to a program of cost-cutting incentives for exhibitors,
including a three-year price freeze, a 10% "early-bird" discount on
stand supplies, new air fare savings, and a wider selection of
nearby two- to four-star hotel accommodations.
However, despite debut appearances by Chicago and Illinois in
separate booths, overall participation by North American entities
is flat -- a stark contrast to 7% growth from Europe and 9% from
both Asia and Africa.
Jeffery said U.S. destinations and suppliers "still seem to be
feeling the impact of 9/11."
Budget cuts and a focus on domestic tourism have led some U.S.
exhibitors to reduce or eliminate their presence.
"But having said that, a strong European market has a lot of
North American destinations looking to come and regenerate
business" from the continent, Jeffery added.
Plenty of, and for, agents
Another transtatlantic bright spot is travel agent attendance,
particularly from the U.S., which remains steady even with ongoing
shrinkage in the retailer sector.
Some 4,500 international agents are expected to attend World
Travel Market; specific U.S. figures were not available, but
Jeffery described registration as "encouraging."
"It's true there are fewer agents ... these days, and it's
harder for those remaining to decide to leave their small
businesses for even a day at World Travel Market," she said.
"That's why we developed a program that's tailored to their needs
and is very purposeful."
This year will see the launch of a program of sales training
sessions for travel agents. Developed with major international
suppliers and operators, it was designed to "help retailers get the
most out of the event," said Jeffery.
The sessions, set for Nov. 13, will be run by 10 travel
companies, including Sandals, Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines;
pre-registration is available online at www.wtmlondon.com.
Organizers will also launch a new "Adventure Game" for agents
the same day, designed to test retailers' knowledge of the
fast-growing adventure-travel market. The top prize is a week-long
adventure holiday from the Austrian Tourist Office.
According to Jeffery, the World Tourism Organization has found
some 75% of adventure packages are booked directly with tour
operators, usually because consumers have discovered retailers know
little about this industry segment.
Another development of note at this year's World Travel Market
is a vastly increased U.K. and Ireland presence on the show floor,
evidenced by signs "branding" the entrance; a London pavilion; and
the debut of a Youth Pavilion organized with the British
Educational Travel Association.
"There's a stronger emphasis on the U.K. by World Travel Market
itself because as the host country, Britain needs to display a
presence as good as that of the many other countries," said
Jeffery. Also, London's mayor is now striving "to bring tourism
back to the city, using it as the key gateway to the rest of the
U.K.," she said.
To help acquaint show attendees with London, each of the
exhibitors and trade professionals at World Travel Market will
receive a London Pass, worth $45 and good for free entry to more
than 50 attractions. The London Pass will be available at the Visit
For more information, visit www.wtmlondon.com.
To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].