WTM London will not be held as a physical event in 2020 for the first time in the show’s 40-year history, organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions has confirmed to TTG.
The travel trade show – and its technology-focused sister event Travel Forward – had been due to take place at London’s ExCeL on 2-4 November, but both will now be run entirely virtually.
Reed said “continuing travel restrictions, imposition of quarantine requirements and local lockdowns across Europe” had led to the decision to switch to a digital programme.
WTM London senior director Simon Press said: “Sadly, this year will be the first time since we launched WTM London in 1980 that there will be no live event.
“We have worked tirelessly to organise a physical show, but the increasing number of travel restrictions and the uncertainty around the world means it will be impractical for many overseas visitors to attend in person.
“Additionally, there remains uncertainty around business events and conferences being allowed to take place in the UK – the official deadline for this decision is 1 October.
“However, thousands of travel trade professionals from around the globe will still be able to meet and do business in an extensive range of virtual sessions, to help the industry recover, rebuild and innovate.”
WTM Virtual will take place from 9-11 November, offering delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one video meetings, attend conference sessions and roundtables and take part in speed networking.
Reed said the virtual show will also see an investment summit in partnership with the International Tourism & Investment Conference – and a new Marketing Forum and workshop in partnership with The Five Percent.
WTM Virtual will feature four digital theatres hosting webinars and debates.
A virtual edition of Travel Forward is also being organised and will combine a digital exhibition, free virtual conference sessions and speed networking for start-ups to meet investors.
With its theme - Resilience, Innovation, Response – Reed said Travel Forward Virtual would add a technology-based approach in supporting the recovery of the travel and tourism industry amid the Covid pandemic.
Event manager Richard Gayle said: “Travel Forward is the event that embraces fresh concepts and innovative projects to inspire delegates.
“This year, running Travel Forward virtually will allow us to connect even more with global travel tech companies wanting to promote themselves to the world.
“We are confident Travel Forward Virtual will offer delegates all the support and ideas about how the industry recovery and more solutions to overcome the biggest challenges facing the travel industry.”
Ahead of WTM Virtual, London Travel Week will be returning virtually (30 October - 5 November), providing attendees with a chance to learn, network and innovate in the days leading up to WTM Virtual.
During London Travel Week, there will be six speed networking sessions on offer allowing exhibitors, brands and destinations to meet before the main virtual show and form business connections.
London Travel Week will also provide an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those in the travel and tourism through virtual awards ceremonies - including the World Travel Leaders’ Awards and the Responsible Tourism Awards.
The week will feature summits on wellness, BAME and LGBT tourism, as well as destination briefings and press conferences allowing countries and brands to showcase their activities in the last few months to recover, rebuild and innovate.
The UNWTO, WTTC and WTM Ministers’ Summit will also gather tourism ministers and the private sector with a mixture of live and virtual events to set out a roadmap for a safer, greener and smarter future for the sector.
The summit is the largest annual gathering of tourism ministers and pledges to bring together around 100 ministers along with 100 industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and experts to help develop the manifesto for recovery.
Press added: “We made the decision to transition to a virtual-only event after a great deal of consultation with our industry partners, sponsors, delegates and staff. We know this will be a disappointment to all those who were planning to attend the live show.
“However, our main objective has always been to deliver a global show bringing travel professionals from the seven continents, and we are now channelling our energies into the creation of an outstanding, large-scale digital gathering that will enable the travel industry to connect, to network, do business and learn about this new consumer environment.
“We will miss meeting you in person at ExCeL but we have the skills, experience and resources to produce an engaging and effective show to support the industry’s recovery.
“2020 has been a challenging year, but we pledge to do everything we can for the travel industry in 2021 and bring you the best live version of WTM London from the last 40 years.”