World Travel Market London – the leading global event for the travel industry – has seen a busy first day of business deals and networking.
Simon Press, World Travel Market London Senior Director, said: “We have had a fantastic start.
“We had 211 buyers meeting a host of exhibitors for the speed networking session before the event opened this morning, and we have had good feedback from the exhibition floor.
“We expect there will be 1.1 million on-stand meetings this week, generating £2.5 billion in business deals.”
Industry bosses gathered to hear the BBC’s Stephen Sackur interview former Manchester United CEO David Gill at theWorld Travel Leaders lunch, and leading analysts discussed the latest travel trends at the WTM Forecast Forum.
Gill said one of the rare times that he pulled rank on United’s long-serving manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was over US rock star Bruce Springsteen.
“Sir Alex was never happy about Old Trafford being used for concerts because he was worried about the pitch but Springsteen was planning to tour the UK. I was a big fan so I was determined to get him to play at Old Trafford, and he did,” said Gill.
The event also welcomed senior executives and tourism representatives from key destinations such as Greece, Egypt and Mexico, to share news about growth in visitor numbers and plans for further expansion in 2016.
• The speed networking session kicked off WTM London and drew large crowds of buyers and sellers, keen to make useful contacts to follow up during the course of the four-day event.
David Thomas, Head of Travel and Events at SuperBreak Mini Holidays, said: “It’s a great way to start the show. It’s surprising the number of great leads that you can get within half an hour on a Monday morning.
“My first contact this morning has already made the hour here worthwhile.”
Dany Duncan, Director at Elemental UK, added: “It’s exceptional. I made three really good contacts last year and subsequently now have put in over £200,000 worth of business just through doing the speed networking session.”
• The WTM Forecast Forum heard expert panellists discuss the findings of the World Travel Market 2015 Industry Report.
The experts said that China’s economic slowdown is unlikely to adversely affect the country’s burgeoning tourism trade.
“Those with money will continue to travel,” said John Strickland, Owner of JLS Consulting.
UKinbound’s Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells, added: “250 million new people are expected to join China’s middle classes in the next few years; we’re nowhere near hitting our peak.”
Wells also commented on the recent Rugby World Cup in England, and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, both of which she hopes will drive inbound tourism numbers in 2016.
Euromonitor International head of travel and tourism research Caroline Bremner welcomed the introduction of two-year multi-entry visas for Chinese tourists entering the UK and said that countries needed to work together to boost long-haul inbound traffic.
Greece was also debated, and Euromonitor’s Head of Travel and Tourism Research, Caroline Bremner, said Europe’s politicians need to work together to help the country deal with the refugee crisis.
• Greece’s resilience was further debated at the Greek National Tourism Organisation networking event.
Greece’s tourism industry expects 2015 to be another record year for arrivals and revenue, despite the country’s well publicised problems with the economy and refugees.
Elena Kountoura, Greece’s Alternate Minister for Tourism, said the country expects to reach 26 million arrivals and €14.5 billion in revenue, beating the records set in 2014.
Operators to Greece, such as Sunvil and TUI, said they had seen a slight impact on bookings due to concerns about the Greek economy but no great rush of cancellations.
Alexandros Vassilkos, President of the Athens Hotel Association, even suggested that the crisis had helped to bring the public and private sectors together, to build partnerships and develop new campaigns and products to woo tourists.
• A leading Egyptologist told WTM London delegates about the possible discovery of a new tomb, leading off the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.
Professor Nicholas Reeves believes the secret tomb could be that of the famous Egyptian queen Nefertiti and, if further investigations prove his theory, such a discovery could rival the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. It would also provide a boost to Egypt’s recovering tourism industry.
Currently 10 million tourists visit Egypt annually, generating US$10 billion in tourism receipts. By 2020, the country plans to double the number of tourists and triple the amount of income generated.
Egypt also launched a new global marketing campaign at WTM London.
His Excellency Nasser Kamel, Ambassador of Egypt in the UK, said: “When you wake up on Monday you will see taxis, buses and boards all carrying the ‘This Is Egypt’ message.”
• Mexico, WTM’s Official Premier Partner, was celebrating the culmination of a year-long series of cultural events marking the country’s dual year with the UK.
Rodolfo López Negrete Coppel, Director General of the Mexico Tourism Board, said the partnership with WTM London was a key part of its strategy to promote culture, science, the arts and tourism.
Tourism in Mexico has grown over the past three years, and it expects further positive exposure thanks to the hosting of the recent Grand Prix and tonight’s Americas premiere for the Spectre James Bond film, which uses locations in Mexico City.