Red carpets, champagne fountains, sunny walks along La Croisette, late nights on revolving dancefloors – and, of course, a lot of steps and meetings were all usually part of ILTM, but this year, things are going to look a lot different. April Hutchinson asks Alison Gilmore what to expect from the virtual ILTM World Tour
It’s obviously not been possible to put on any physical ILTM events this year because of the global circumstances, and the luxury sector would usually be gearing up for Cannes in December right about now. And right up until September, ILTM’s portfolio director, Alison Gilmore says she “was still really optimistic about delivering our ILTM Cannes event”.
“I was hanging on and hanging on, but it got to the point where we had to make a decision,” she says. “And honestly, that’s probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, to say ‘we’re not going to do it’. So we came up with the idea for the ILTM World Tour and pivoted very quickly to that.”
ILTM World Tour will operate in three online editions, starting in the Asia Pacific timezone running over 17-19 November, then moving to Europe, Middle East and Africa (23-25 November) and finally in North and South America (1-3 December).
“All the buyers get to have a virtual event in their time zone with exhibitors from around the world meeting with them,” Gilmore says, “it will be the same philosophy as usual – but for this year, buyers will have to get their own champagne!”
All buyers are pre-qualified, as they would usually be at any other ILTM event, and each of the three regional days will see buyers and suppliers take part in pre-arranged 15-minute meetings for four hours a day, meaning there is potential to have 42 appointments – with some breaks – on any leg of the tour. “It’s a bit of a military operation within three weeks,” Gilmore says.
She adds there are also opportunities to meet other people off-diary too. “It’s a really great platform that will send you recommendations; if you type in, ‘I’m interested in Africa’, it will find buyers recommendations for Africa and vice versa for the exhibitors looking for buyers. It’s going to be really good at bringing people together.”
She promises there will be a range of interesting content for people to watch when they wish to as well. “We’ve got some really good speakers, with interesting keynotes for the regions. We’re not forcing people to log on and sit there for 45 minutes and watch everything there and then, but you can watch it in the breaks that we provide, or on-demand when it suits.”
Also available to view on-demand will be a series of interviews with people from the industry. “We have some wellness content on there as well, with just a little sample of things people can do if they’re not already over all that!”
She adds ILTM decided to stay away from the idea of also having a “show floor” with lots of virtual exhibitor booths, preferring to focus on the meetings component.
“It really is all about those meetings. People still need to make contacts. This is about the future. This is looking forward and how we can help people to connect again so that when business does get back – and it will come back, it may take a while, but it will – let’s not lose those connections.
“There are many other things we could have added in, but everyone has been sat in front of computers all year, so we didn’t want to make people feel they had to spend more time than necessary; we don’t want people getting fatigued with it.”
Overall, Gilmore predicts the three weeks will end with about 1,200 exhibitors having seen 1,200 buyers via the one-to-one meetings, with a virtual event even providing more opportunities to meet people than usual, and without the need and cost of travel.
“Some people who perhaps might not be able to go to ILTM Asia because they don’t have the marketing and sales budget to do so, have said this is a good time to dip your toe in the water without having to spend on flights and F&B and everything else,” she says.
It also means some new buyers can sample the show. “We’re not having to spend the money to host and bring people to an event, so we can open it up a little bit more. We some new ones from the UK might be giving it a go. Some companies that we can only usually take one person from, we can probably now take two or three from.”
Gilmore also remains confident the luxury travel market will bounce back.
“We know we’re never going to get back to exactly the way it was before, but people are always going to travel, especially at the top end, as it’s the one part of the industry that’s really hardy and it will come back the quickest; you can’t stop some people traveling now, even during a pandemic,” she says. “Private islands, private jets, private yachts – the big ticket stuff is still bubbling away. You can’t get some of the top suites in the Maldives at the moment.”
Looking to next year, ILTM Arabia will technically be the first live event that could take place in 2021, slated for 17-18 May in Dubai during Arabian Travel Market.
Following that, the standalone events would be ILTM Asia Pacific in Singapore 31 May-3 June; ILTM North America in Riviera Maya 20-23 September; ILTM Latin America 26-29 October in Sao Paulo; ILTM China TBC October in Shanghai; and finally, ILTM Cannes, 6-9 December 2021.
“What’s going to happen going into next year, I don’t know. We have pushed a lot of events into the second half of next year and hopefully, we’ll give ourselves a really good run and a good chance of actually delivering an event in the second half of next year,” she says. “But in the meantime, we will still keep coming up with some different things to keep the community engaged, whether that’s a virtual event like this World Tour, or others.”
And she hopes Cannes will finish next year on more of a celebratory bang, as 2021 is the 20th anniversary of ILTM. “This  may not have counted as a normal year for our shows – but it counts when we’re looking at how long the event has been going! So yes – it will be 20 years of ILTM next year, so be prepared for the biggest party ever. We may need more than one revolving dancefloor, who knows!”
There is still time for UK buyers to register for the EMEA leg of the virtual ILTM World Tour. Interested buyers representing high net worth clients should contact Natalie Weatherer