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NO CANADA, NO PROBLEM: ‘So much optimism’ at World Travel Market

Optimism reigned in London at World Travel Market last week as the global travel trade convened to celebrate a return to travel after three pandemic-plagued years – and to chart its future.

After all, as author and TV traveller Levison Wood – dubbed “Britain’s best-loved adventurer” – told delegates in a keynote address, travel is more than seeing new sights; rather it’s a means to sustainability and giving back, a bridge to peace, and to seeing the best in other people.

Still, Wood’s noble sentiment was overshadowed by delegates simply enthused to be back at work again and doing what they did – without restrictions – before travel was halted.

Business experts, industry leaders, and other key tourism movers and shakers from across the world were on all hand – though Destination Canada and Brand USA were notably absent, the former planning its own Showcase at Canada House in London this week. (Visit Florida, Orlando and Las Vegas led a much smaller US pavilion than usual).

The show at the ExCel Centre – now a long-time venue of the annual event – kicked off with key travel trends on Monday, where sustainability was a major theme, and the keynote for Wood, who shared anecdotes from his unique trekking travels to a delighted audience. The Responsible Tourism Awards saw businesses receive accolades for their commitment to people, sustainability and eco credentials.

On Tuesday, tourism ministers and dignitaries from across the globe came together for the Ministers’ Summit, while people queued round the block to be entertained by entrepreneur Steven Bartlett, the youngest-ever investor on Dragons’ Den and host of The Diary of a CEO podcast, as he shared the secrets to his success on the Future Stage.

Inclusion was a key theme of Day Three, on Wednesday, when equality, diversion and inclusion was seen as a positive way to address the post-pandemic recruitment crisis and market to a wider client base. Sustainability sessions saw a call for an industry-wide single certification system to avoid ‘greenwashing.’

On the Technology Stage, the packed program of tech sessions covered everything from personalization and big data to blockchain, the real prospects of space travel, and the talent crisis that’s currently affecting the sector.

Middle Eastern destinations and suppliers, including premier partner Saudi Arabia, led more than 3,000 exhibitors on the trade show floor with typically elaborate and opulent displays, while destinations from Trinidad and Tobago to Uganda and Iran sent first-time or returning exhibitors.

However, it was the jammed aisles of ExCel – nearly 36,000 attendees, double last year, walked through the door – where masks were as rare as the sun during a rainy week in London, that truly marked a return to the vibrant “good old days” of WTM – 2019 and before.

Goway Travel Sr. VP Craig Canvin described last year’s hybrid WTM (virtual and in-person) as much smaller and subdued, with delegates in a “much more exploratory mood.”

By comparison, this year’s bustling event was a welcome opportunity to make up for lost time and to reconnect – in person – with current and prospective business partners after so long apart.

Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director, WTM London, said: “Attendance at this year’s World Travel Market was fantastic! WTM London is a microcosm of the travel sector – where participation mirrors industry sentiment – it’s encouraging to see this level of engagement as tourism reaches towards full recovery, and of course demonstrates the importance of face-to-face events.”

Such was the importance of being able to reconnect with its partners, representing more than 110 countries around the world, that Goway sent four senior execs to the show.

“WTM is an extremely important show, and this was more about the excitement of the return to travel – and what’s to come!” Canvin told Travel Industry Today.

And, chimed in Goway Groups Only VP Shirley Rourke, “It was great to see so much optimism!”

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First published at Travel Industry Today

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