From discussing responsible tourism and overtourism to looking at all things digital, WTM London played a key role in updating the knowledge quotient of its visitors
True to its promise of building the knowledge capacity of the travel industry, WTM London 2017 delivered an array of informative content packed sessions, with representation from all segments, government bodies, individual bloggers, travel consultants, hotel industry experts and tourism boards. For attendees of these sessions, it meant that insights from across the globe touching on topics and themes most relevant to the business of the day were dissected, discussed and understood with a lot more clarity than before the event. We, in the industry, continue to be empowered by the robust content and interactive learning experiences of WTM London and wish for more, come 2018.
Responsible tourism was the key theme for the final day, with World Responsible Tourism Day – the largest day of responsible tourism in the world – taking place. As the leading global event for the travel industry, WTM London has championed the cause of responsible tourism and the annual WTM Responsible Tourism Awards celebrated the best of travel across six categories.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana won the best in carbon reduction category; Grootbos in South Africa was the best for accommodation, Sapa O’Chau, a female ethnic minority-owned enterprise in Vietnam scooped the best community initiative award, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana won the best communication award, the prize for best poverty reduction initiative went to Indian walking holidays and local accommodations provider Village Ways while South Africa’s Transfrontier Parks Destinations was name the best tour operator.
Overtourism remains a major concern in the context of sustainability and was discussed for the headline Responsible Tourism event. Adama Bah from International Centre for Responsible Tourism West Africa suggested part of the problem is that “governments still think in terms of numbers and not in terms of benefit for communities.”
In an afternoon session which looked at accessible travel, Ade Adepitan MBE, a paralympian and TV presenter, noted that while people with disabilities find it difficult to travel, improvements are being made, citing the example of the Colosseum in Rome which has installed a lift which lets people in wheelchairs experience the 2,000-year-old attraction.
The Digital Influencers Speed Networking session provided the chance for suppliers to talk to a stellar line-up of 120 global bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers. As more people take inspiration from the growing number of digital channels, the importance of influencers in the marketing mix continues to climb.
The session was sponsored by Whalar, a platform which connects brands with content creators. Its co-founder James Street said, “Travel is a big space in the influencer landscape – and it does not look like advertising. When influencers are holding a product, it looks like an advert, but if they sat on a beach in Mauritius, it doesn’t.”
Carole Rosenblat of Drop Me Anywhere, which specialises in solo female and spontaneous travel, said, “It has been useful and very valuable today. I have met people from Tenerife, Naples, boutique hotels and other influencers – one that I met at WTM last year is now sharing an Airbnb place with me for this year’s WTM.”
PR expert Debbie Hindle, managing director at Four Travel, noted in another session that the influencer/blogging industry “has expanded massively…and while there is still a lot of professionalism to come, there is a huge amount of creativity and passion.”
The Travel Tech Theatre hosted a full day of standing-room only sessions. Highlights included tnooz, Amadeus and SITA discussing blockchain, Hotelbeds and Accor looking at the future of hotel distribution technology and Julia Lo Bue-Said from Advantage Travel Centres explaining how travel agents are using tech to not only remain relevant but also to grow their business.
The Inspire theatre continued to inspire, with BBC journalist Ros Atkens presenting BBC World research into so-called “affluent millennials” and how brands can tap into this group’s propensity to travel by offering unique experiences which are “Instagrammable”.
The event concluded with WTM Festivals, allowing visitors to end their time at this year’s event experiencing the culture, hospitality and cuisine of the Caribbean, Tokyo, Indonesia, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Ghana, Senegal and Brazil.
A fantastic takeaway from the event was the research document titled “100 city Destinations Ranking WTM London Edition” that was launched by Euromonitor International. The report delves into trends shaping travel and tourism habits in the top hundred most visited cities of the world. A handy tool for understanding tourism dynamics of standalone cities better, but also a great compass for connecting and planning travel itineraries based on emerging patterns that connect cities.
According to the report, Hong Kong was the most visited city in the world, benefiting from its strategic location and relationship with China, followed by Bangkok, which has overtaken London in 2015. Asian cities dominate the global destination rankings thanks to the inexorable rise of Chinese outbound tourism. In 2010, 34 cities from Asia Pacific were present in Euromonitor International’s ranking. This jumped to 41 cities in 2017 and is expected to grow to 47 cities in 2025. Asia Pacific is the standout region that has driven change in the travel landscape and is expected to continue doing so in the coming decade with Singapore overtaking London as the third most visited city in the world by 2025 making the podium fully Asian.
On the other hand, performance of European cities has been hampered by several events in recent years, including the Eurozone and migrants’ crisis, as well as Brexit and terrorist attacks. Despite the uncertainty, some European destinations, in particular Greece, Italy and Spain have profited from unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), as they offer a similar climate to countries affected by unrest such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia.
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