The third day of WTM London saw another packed schedule of press briefings, meetings and networking as the show drew to a successful close.
Among the highlights was a deep dive into how PR and marketing can help the tourism industry bounce back as the world re-opens; while the Global Stage hosted tourism leaders from
the Asia-Pacific region and there was an interesting debate among UK retail bosses about how the pandemic is changing consumer behaviour.
On the Travel Forward Stage, speakers discussed the future of travel marketing, while elsewhere, issues including data breaches, payments and currencies were all discussed.
Next is the WTM & TF Virtual. The virtual show will take place next week, on 8-9 November and will be running from 07:00-22:00 GMT to allow travel and tourism visitors to access at different times zones across the globe.
Revive and Thrive: Tourism PR in a Post-Pandemic World
Travel PR and marketing firms should celebrate and raise awareness of the tourism sector’s achievements in sustainability.
That was the message from PR experts and tourist boards at the WTM London debate entitled Revive and Thrive: Tourism PR in a Post-Pandemic World
Jules Ugo, Chief Executive at Lotus, said: “We need to champion what this sector does well.
“We do so much regenerative tourism and grassroots, community-led initiatives, especially in destinations dependent on tourism.”
She gave examples of projects such as rewilding schemes in the Apennines of Italy and traditional farming in Scotland.
“It is our job to make sure consumers are aware that these initiatives, schemes and businesses exist.”
Sarah Long, Senior Partner at Finn Partners, highlighted the example of Intrepid Travel, which has now introduced 50 tours that use land transport as an alternative to flying.
She warned that PRs should “not put a spin on sustainability” saying their work should be “honest and modest”.
Sofia Panayiotaki, Chief Executive at PRM Global Ltd, told delegates that the PR and marketing of tourism needs to go “beyond sustainability” to talk about “transformative travel”.
“This is when you go to a destination and you make the destination and yourself better,” she said.
“Needs and desires are changing – Gen Z is looking for guaranteed sustainability, guaranteed transformative travel.
Caroline Moultrie, Managing Director, MMGY Hills Balfour, cited how the agency worked with one of its clients, New York City, and The Climate Group and Climate Week NYC, to highlight the destination’s green credentials.
Alka Winter, Destination Marketing & Communications Vice President at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said the emirate is working with benchmarking group EarthCheck and was the first city to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Safe Travels Stamp, designed to address Covid-19 issues.
She has been visiting cities across the UK in the run-up to WTM London to speak to journalists in the region about how the destination is open for tourism.
Tracy Halliwell MBE, Director of Tourism, Conventions and Major Events, at London & Partners, commented: “We are looking at how we can get our visitors and meeting planners to be more environmental, such as using green, electric vehicles – we share best practice with our audience.”
Tine Murn, CEO and Founder at Mindbrand UK, travelled to WTM London from his home in Slovenia by train.
He said travel had been growing too fast before the pandemic and not thinking about the consequences – now the industry is talking more about sustainability and encouraging people
to stay longer and be more involved in local communities.
Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson at Sri Lanka Tourism, also said holidaymakers are more likely now to want to be more involved in the community and take part in activities such as visiting a paddy field.
Molly Castano, Public Relations Manager at Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, told delegates how the city was recycling water and food waste; developing solar energy; certifying hotels’ green credentials; and donating unwanted carpets to charity.
PATA looks to the future
Asia-Pacific is the “sleeping giant” that will be waking up soon and ready to welcome post-pandemic travellers, delegates heard.
The statement came from Liz Ortiguera, CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), during an insightful session East Meets West: Restarting Travel and the Lessons Learned Along the Way.
Speaker Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism, explained the destination’s “immediate action” at the start of the pandemic meant it is in a better position than many to re-open to tourism.
She said: “We took immediate action. After Sri Lanka’s first Covid death, in March 2020, we set up a Covid taskforce and tourism was part of that.”
Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to have World Travel and Tourism accreditation for achieving safe travel and tourism standards.
She added Sri Lanka and surrounding regions are “quite used” to dealing with diseases, such as polio and dengue fever. “I think in Europe and the Western world, it is more difficult perhaps [to react to Covid]”
Dr Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism for the Republic of Maldives, admitted the destination “panicked” at the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, but it has bounced back. The destination hit its target of one million visitors for 2021 in October and has now revised its full-year target to 1.5 million visitors.
He said he wanted to “thank travel trade partners and everyone who contributed” to the Maldives’ success if re-opening to the world.
Retail experts reveal consumer trends
Travel agents are picking up business from consumers who have had their fingers burnt when their DIY bookings ran into problems during Covid-19.
Julie Pinkney, Retail Director of the Travel Network Group, a UK agency consortium, said the company is seeing a return among ex-customers as well as brand-new clients who previously booked direct.
“Last year, there was so much chopping and changing, so much confusion. It was so complex to navigate,” she said, during a session Who Will be the Winners in Travel Retail?
“We’re seeing an increase in high-end holidays and long-haul travel,” adding that booking volumes for socially-distanced and multigenerational holidays are on the up.
“Package bucket and spade holidays took longer to come back but are resurging now,” she added.
Jim Eastwood, Global Sales Director at Travel Counsellors, said “instant travel” is a major trend, adding that people want to know: “Can I go now, can I go safely, can I go quickly? Can
I get back before anything changes?”
He said: “People are going for private transfers, extra legroom, and opting for a villa instead of staying in resort.”
Meanwhile, Gecko Digital Founder and CEO James South said he has identified “much more of a trend towards socially distanced holidays, short lead-in times, and longer holidays. People are much more choosey,” he said.
Travel marketing sessions on Travel Forward stage
“The future of travel marketing has everything to do with being more human.”
That was the advice of entrepreneur and marketing expert Marcus Murphy, Chief Executive of The Five Percent, and panellists at the ‘future of travel marketing’ sessions on day three.
“There is a new reality; the future is incredibly human,” he said.
Martin Johnson, Co-founder and Director at Latin Routes and Polar Routes, said: “The biggest thing we did [during the pandemic] was to ask our database what they wanted to hear from us – it was stories, bringing Latin America home to them with stories of previous travellers and personalities.”
Jamie Lee-Abtar, Founder of 2219 Media, said the sector is entering “the third age of travel” as “more conscious travellers” want more sustainability from their brands.
She said behavioural science can help marketeers understand how consumers make their decisions.
Florian Valmy Devillers, Business Development Manager at McKenzie Gayle Limited, worked with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s UK & Europe chapter during the pandemic.
He said weekly Zoom calls with the 65 members helped to develop a sense of community among the “Caribbean family” who represent more than 30 different destinations.
“We could turn insights into actions,” he said.
Re Perez, CEO and Founder of Branding for the People, urged the delegates to “pay attention to the degree of experiences for your customers”.
“People want to travel and experience things they have never experienced before…and remind us of our collective purpose and humanity.”
Oliver Billson, Founder of Oliver Billson Marketing, warned the audience that the recent iOS 15 Apple update had a “detrimental effect on the effectiveness of email marketing”, as it can block the tracking of emails.
He shared tips with the delegates about a host of online tools to improve email marketing campaigns, content planning and online advertising.