Despite the economic gloom that is settling in to Europe and the US, the Asia Luxury Travel Market returns to Shanghai in June for its second year double the size of last year’s event.
Optimism about the massive growth of the luxury industry in Asia and a uniquely successful business model are the reason, show event director Jay Martens told TTN.
ALTM returns to Shanghai this year and is almost twice the size. Why?
As a business model, ALTM offers something completely unique to the luxury travel market which delivers great results for both exhibitors and buyers alike. It’s about creating a platform for the luxury travel industry which sets it apart from the rest of the mass market travel industry. Our formula is simple. We bring together only the top players in the luxury industry, not wannabes or timewasters. You are only allowed to exhibit if you are really a luxury travel product, and you will only be invited to attend as a buyer if you are dealing with the luxury end of the market.
Doesn’t that limit your growth potential?
Up to a point, but a show like this works best when it is growing, so that everyone who aspires to be part of the luxury travel industry wants to attend, but only those who qualify are allowed in. We often compare ourselves to an exclusive club where you have to be on the VIP list to be admitted. If you aspire to be part of the club, the fact that not everyone is allowed in is part of the allure, and part of the reason why it continues to work.
But the majority of wealthy travellers in the world are still from the US and Europe aren’t they?
Yes they are right now, but that is changing fast, and the prospect of further exponential growth from this region is huge. That is the background against which the show is so successful of course, because everyone wants a share of the huge luxury market that is going to come soon from this region.
In China for instance although the number of consumers of luxury travel is still relatively small, the pace of growth is fast. In the luxury brands sector, growth has already been tremendous. It’s much the same as what has happened in the past few years with the Russian outbound travel market, only the potential is even greater. With India it’s the same.
Does a trade show really have a role in something as glamorous as luxury travel?
Absolutely. The International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) the sister event in Cannes, had and still has a strong role to play over the past few years in actually shaping the way the luxury travel industry has developed. It became a catalyst for bringing all kinds of luxury travel specialists out of the woodwork by giving them a forum where they could easily meet and interact. That is happening here in Asia too, and I predict we will see the emergence of many more specialist players in the luxury travel industry in Asia too now that ALTM gives them the opportunity to thrive.
Many hotel operators and travel brands appear to be expanding in Asia, why do you think is this?
The explosion in the luxury hotel sector in Asia Pacific is unmatched worldwide as leading hotel operators recognise the region as a great investment, with a much stronger projected return on investment than in more developed markets. Companies and brands that started life in Europe, the US or the Middle East, such as St. Regis and Jumeirah are now expanding in Asia, partly because so many people from developed markets want to go to those places but also because of Asia’s own growing economy and increasingly wealthy inhabitants.
There is a huge pool of new outbound travellers in Asia too. Outbound travel from Asia is forecast to grow at 7 per cent per year until 2010 and in China alone visitor departures are expected to reach 43 million in 2008 and rise to at least 100 million by 2020 according to the World Trade Organisation. It is these travellers that growing brands like Mandarin Oriental, Six Senses and Amanresorts are starting to target. Inter regional travel is the next big boom.
What do businesses that attend the show expect to get out of it and is ALTM meeting this expectation?
ALTM provides the best forum for companies to gain an in depth understanding of the region and meet with the buyers who can ensure they are introduced to the right customers. The ability to reach these customers will ultimately determine success or failure and ALTM provides this opportunity all under one roof.
The results of a poll conducted by last year’s attendees showed that more that 90 per cent were satisfied with the results that ALTM generated for them.
But above all we realise that the luxury travel industry is something glamorous, fun and enriching, and we ensure that our event is too. It’s not about rows of horrible little identical trade stands and random conversations - it’s about doing real business in a structured pre-arranged way, in an elegant environment.
And it’s about having fun. Our parties are a highlight of the event, and when people know that they are going to work hard and play hard in a fun vibrant city and catch up with all their friends and contacts in the industry at the same time - and do some serious business – then that’s a quite compelling proposition.