World Travel Market is one of the highlights of the travel year for both suppliers and travel professionals around the world. Few North American travel agents attend, viewing the event as primarily for suppliers. However, each visit to WTM I have found to be both inspiring and invigorating, both as a travel agent and as media. Every agent that visits is amazed by the energy and the spectacle of seeing literally acres of suppliers all eager to do business. WTM’s new Exhibition Director Simon Press explains the event, his plans for the future, and why World Travel Market remains top of its field.
TRO: You were appointed World Travel Market Exhibition Director in January this year, tell us about your background?
SP: I have worked in the exhibitions industry for a number of years for some of the biggest exhibition companies. During that time I’ve managed awards, conferences and buyers clubs, so understand the importance of delivering high quality buyers to exhibitors.
I joined Reed Travel Exhibitions in 2007 taking up the position of Exhibition Director on Arabian Travel Market before joining WTM in 2008 as Head of Sales, which gave me a valuable insight into the premier global event for the travel industry before taking up my current position of Exhibition Director at the start of 2010.
TRO: What plans do you have for WTM 2010 and beyond?
SP: I take over the reigns of World Travel Market at a very exciting time for the event, having just celebrated it 30th anniversary at WTM 2009. WTM 2010 will be the biggest World Travel Market ever due to the completion of the £165 million expansion of host venue ExCeL.
TRO: How will the expansion of ExCeL benefit World Travel Market?
SP: WTM 2010 will see the exhibition floor become the hub of the event, with an improved floor plan, including many new regional layout and features on the show floor. The UK & Ireland section and a complete Europe and the Mediterranean area will now sit next to each other running across the North Halls (running from N1 to N8). North Africa completes the North Halls with The Americas, Asia & Australasia, Middle East, Global Village and Travel Technology situated in the South Halls.
I am also pleased that we can move the Meridian Club onto the exhibition floor itself, as we plan to have a Meridian Club lounge within the North and South halls. It is important for all exhibitors that the senior buyers at the event will be on the exhibition floor for the duration of WTM.
The additional space will be used to meet the needs of new and potential exhibitors. We can also introduce new ‘regions’, for example, we will have a Sports Pavilion this year to reflect the interest in this field. Previously, we haven’t had the room to showcase new sectors in such a way.
Furthermore, traffic flow will be improved by the state-of-the-art new eastern entrance which leads out to Prince Regent Dockland Light Railway station
TRO: WTM is the travel industry’s premier global event for getting business done. Are you doing anything new this year to stay ahead of the competition?
SP: Last year we ran Exhibitor and Meridian Club Speed Networking for the first time and following its success it will be expanded this year. The principle of speed networking is to provide a hard and fast way for buyers and suppliers to meet up and then allow them to continue their negotiations throughout the rest of the event. This year we are introducing a dedicated UK and Ireland Speed Networking session for the first time, rather than have buyers from this region working within Europe. Also for the first time there will be a dedicated area for travel technology, which is the fastest growing section of World Travel Market. Last year’s speed networking played a pivotal role in WTM 2009 generating £1,139 million of travel industry deals and I’m confident the expanded speed networking will see WTM 2010 be the catalyst for a greater number of industry contracts signed.
TRO: The WTM 2010 marketing reads: ‘WTM: Means Business’, does this demonstrate a focus on business deals as opposed to networking?
SP: There is a social side to conducting business, and networking is a part of the exhibition experience. It is good for us if there is a friendly atmosphere in the halls, but most exhibitors are here for business rather than personal reasons. Return on investment is key for exhibitors, so the focus for WTM 2010 is facilitating business between senior buyers and exhibitors. Many marketing experts state exhibitions are among the most effective channels in terms of ROI, and it’s my objective to establish WTM as the key industry exhibition for negotiating and concluding business deals.
TRO: What makes for a successful World Travel Market?
SP: It all comes back to the amount of business conducted at the event and the satisfaction of the stakeholders (exhibitors, visitors, Meridian Club members and international media). WTM 2009 was a great success with £1,139 million of contracts negotiated, exhibitor and visitor satisfaction rate both 90% or above and a 12% increase in number in international media compared to 2008. It’s also important WTM keeps all its stakeholders updated with the latest research, data, trends and development through its conference, seminar and events programme.
I also believe WTM’s diversity is important. WTM is a melting pot for the global travel and tourism industry, so we want to have as many regions and sectors represented. But ultimately it is about making sure that the exhibitors and visitors get what they want out of the event.
Travel agents can learn more about World Travel Market at their website at http://www.wtmlondon.com/