The fact that this June’s ITT Conference at the Hilton Sorrento Palace is a sell-out clearly shows that the leaders of our industry still appreciate the networking opportunities that a quality conference represents.
My first conference was the Abta Conference in Rotterdam in 1970. It was attended by 1,800 delegates, most of which were small retail agents; and I was one of them.
Fast-forward 27 years and I had become Abta president, with more than 2,500 delegates attending the 1997 conference in Tenerife, and 2,750 people journeying to the conference in Marbella the following year.
In those days, destinations would fight tooth and nail for the right to host the major conferences. Indeed, I would chair a joint Abta/Antor (Association of National Tourist Office Representatives) committee, set up to build relationships between the directors of the various national tourist offices and the industry.
How times have changed! The committee no longer exists and, with a few notable exceptions, directors of national tourist offices come and go with very little contact with the trade associations.
The tourist boards are missing a huge opportunity. Hosting the travel industry’s decision makers, along with newspaper travel editors and the travel trade press, can have a huge impact on a destination.
Two years ago, the ITT held its conference in Ras AL Khaimah and it was a huge success. Since the conference, inbound tourism there has increased by 30%.
It is down to the vision of tourist offices that some relatively small destinations have chosen to invest in an ITT Conference, while some larger ones have ignored the opportunity.