World Travel Market 2012 closes on a high

WTM 2012 reports another successful year with four per cent visitor increase

THE first three days of World Travel Market 2012, the leading global event for the travel industry, experienced an impressive visitor increase of four per cent. 38,735 visitors walked through the doors of ExCeL, London to attend WTM 2012, it was revealed in the early unaudited figures. This compares to 37,331 across the first three days of WTM 2011.

Wednesday, November 7 saw a phenomenal nine per cent visitor increase, compared to the equivalent day the previous year, taking the total visitor number 13,638.

The first day of WTM 2012 was a resounding success with exhibitor invitation visitors up five per cent on last year’s event to almost 8,000 (7,992) while Tuesday, November 6 more than 17,000 (17,105) visitors came to WTM, a one per cent increase on the second day of last year’s event.

Reed Travel exhibitions director World Travel Market Simon Press said: “I am delighted with the visitor attendance of WTM 2012 across the first three days. These figures demonstrate the power and importance of WTM to the industry and the role it plays in facilitating business for sector.

“WTM 2011 generated £1,653 million ($2,631 million) in industry deals, with this year’s event poised to facilitate even more business for our exhibitors.”

The final day of WTM 2012 saw the popular Speed Networking event take place, on the last day for the first time, which saw more than 100 buyers discuss post-WTM deals with exhibitors in the Meridian Club Lounge.

Raj Thakkar, meridian club manager, said extending the Speed Networking to the final morning had filled a gap in WTM’s schedule. “Exhibitors said to us they wanted more buyers on the Thursday, because like any trade show you get fewer buyers on the last day. At least 50 per cent of these buyers would not have turned up to WTM otherwise.”

Social media was also a big theme at this year’s event. A full session during WTM Social Travel heard that social media has not changed the basic rules of handling crisis situations and needed to be treated with equal importance as other communication channels.

Charlie Mayhew, founder and chief executive of Tusk Trust, and Fiona Jeffery, Chairman, World Travel Market, launched the WTM World Responsible Tourism Day (WRTD) 2012 with a plea for the travel industry to work closely with the conservation sector to ensure that endangered species and landscapes are preserved for future generations.

Jeffery noted that the industry needed to do more to help disabled travellers, but warned that carbon emissions are still the industry’s most important challenge.

The WRTD Hot Seat interview featured Wolfgang Neumann, executive vice president and COO of the Rezidor Hotel Group. Neumann spoke about his 327-strong hotel chain, which includes brands such as Radisson Blu, Park Inn by Radisson and Hotel Missoni and their commitment to reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent by 2016.

Another regular feature of the WTRD is the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. The overall winner this year was Reality Tours and Travel. The business, set up in 2005, offers city and village tours in Mumbai and beyond. The award is for their educational Dharavi Slum Tours.

The WTM Social Travel Market, which took place on day three saw a dedicated program of events around social media. One session which proved particularly popular was about video blogging. Intrepid Travel outlined how it teamed with Perennial Plate, a pair of professional bloggers, to promote food trips to Vietnam.

The Psychology of Social Media also attracted bumper crowd. Allister Frost, founder of Wild Orange Media, explained how Google has coined the phrase “the zero moment of truth” which is the point at which consumers turn to digital technology to learn about products from reviews, Twitter, Pinterest and other online sources.

Another key topic discussed during WTM 2012 has been the impact and legacy of London 2012. A session hosted by Ken Robinson, CBE, former chair of the Tourism Alliance and independent advisor to the tourism sector, said branding constraints were limiting what the tourism industry can do around major events, with the use of Olympics branding restricted to commercial  partners only.