LONDON -- It was
the World Travel Markets biggest show yet, with 5,194 exhibitors
and almost 50,000 participants conducting an estimated,
head-spinning, $57 billion worth of business.
But to be present
at the World Travel Market Nov. 14 to 17 at ExCel London is to see
those numbers play out as frenetic energy that for four days
transformed the colossal exhibition hall into a wild travel
industry amusement park.
WTM is a
microcosm of the global travel industry, an intense half-week of
energetic networking. Nearly every destination and industry sector
is represented, with each exhibitor transforming a precious plot of
real estate on the trade show floor into a distinct cultural
reality packaged to sell.
competition for attention is stiff. Over 25 years, the show has
become increasingly sophisticated.
Along the endless
labyrinth of corridors, each exhibition assaults your senses. The
exhibitors use every imaginable lure: brilliantly colored
constructions of furniture, plants, posters, video screens,
recorded music, hors doeuvres, wine, beer, exotic mixed drinks,
musicians and dancers.
Following up on a
report that Star Cruises was planning to put a ship in Malta, I
found my way to the Malta section of the Western Europe and
Mediterranean region of the floor. But there I was told Star
Cruises booth was in the Singapore domain.
En route to the
Asia/Pacific section, I became so distracted by things that caught
my eye or ear, or left my mouth watering, that I barely made it to
attracted a crowd with their traditional Dawa drink, (Swahili for
medicine), consisting of vodka, ice, a lime slice and honey. If the
medicine didnt cure your ills, you walked away having tasted a
piece of East African culture.
At the Seychelles
exhibit, wine and hors doeuvres were served while a trio -- red
tortoise-shell accordion, tall wooden conga and nylon-string guitar
-- performed songs suggestive of country, calypso and
A crowd gathered
in rapt attention around an elaborate two-story Trinidad and Tobago
exhibit where colorfully plumed, scantily clad dancers kicked their
legs in lively Carnival celebrations.
The China booth
was an extravagantly colorful construction of elaborate
architecture, while the Japanese area, also brightly colored,
embodied a clean, modern and minimalist design.
Though the WTM is
still not as big as the ITB in Berlin, it is beyond the capacities
of an individual to assimilate except on the most superficial
level. Given the number of exhibits, one would have to see 1,250
exhibits per day to get a feel for the whole.
Even so, said Bob
Whitley, president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, The
amount of business conducted here is phenomenal. You can walk
around and make contacts and negotiations with all the companies
you do business with and save a lot of time and money traveling.
Its a total business environment, in addition to the beauty of the
Suppliers set up
smaller meeting booths within the destination sections where their
products were most relevant.
I finally found
the Star booth in the Singapore section and was fortunate enough to
slip in between scheduled appointments. And just as Whitley had
said, it was very efficient. I could meet with three company
representatives in 20 minutes and conduct a triple interview that
would have been much harder under other circumstances.
In the end, I was
left wondering why we cant have a World Travel Market all
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].