RECORD numbers flooded into World Travel Market (WTM) this year.
The opening day attendance at London Docklands ExCeL on November 8 was the highest in its 25-year history.
The figure of 26,122 was made up of government ministers, Meridian Club members, exhibitor personnel and industry association leaders from 194 countries. In the first three days of the world’s leading business-to-business travel and tourism event, there was a total of 42,289 attendees – which is up two per cent on the equivalent period in 2003. Meridian Club members, who are international buyers with purchasing authority, numbered 12,323. Overseas trade visitors jumped by 11 per cent year on year by the third day.
The record attendance is matched by the size of the exhibition, which is the biggest ever. It has increased nearly five per cent on last year and there are more than 5,000 exhibitors from over 190 countries.
“I am delighted that WTM has marked its silver anniversary with a truly outstanding event exceeding all records in terms of exhibitors, visitors and business conducted,” said Fiona Jeffery, group exhibition director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of WTM. “This is a reflection of the recovery within the industry after three very difficult years after 9/11.”
Recent feedback from exhibitors indicates that the probable reason for the expansion is that virtually all markets are reporting a significant increase in business. “There is a real sense of optimism among exhibitors this year,” added Jeffery.
That optimism is backed by numbers: during the first six months of the year European markets have been on the upward swing. Spain ended the year to May with a 3.8 per cent increase over the same period last year and Germany marked a 10 per cent rise in arrivals for the first quarter of 2004 and 3 per cent in tourism receipts until April. France’s overnight stays in hotels and similar establishments during the first five months grew by 1.4 per cent over last year’s decrease of 7 per cent in the same period. The upsurge in Europe is also matched in the UK. VisitBritain reports that 12.5 million visitors travelled to the UK in the first half of this year, a rise of 13 per cent on last year and the ‘best-ever’ January to June period.
Even the US is showing a small increase in inbound traffic and long-haul travel generally appears to be on target to get back to pre-9/11 levels.
The event was inaugurated by 1500m runner and Olympic double gold medalist Sebastian Coe, currently leading London’s 2012 Olympic bid. Speaking at the WTM, Coe said sport and tourism are a natural mix. “At the beginning of 2004, VisitLondon announced that London was due to increase its market share of global tourism for the first time in nearly a decade. The Australians have long since seen no division in strategic thinking between their two activities. Their sports minister also has the portfolio for tourism. After the Barcelona Olympic Games, the city became a popular location for weekend breaks, (and is) now the fourth most popular in Europe.
The Sydney Games raised record levels of revenue, some 1.5 billion pounds. And between 2000 and 2002 Australia booked nearly two billion dollars of extra tourism that simply would not have been there if had not been for the Games.”
Coe cited international sporting venues that are well known all over the world, such as Wimbledon and Wembely, calling sport – and by extension tourism – “a vital bridgehead into urban regeneration.”
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