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07 Dec 2018
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Cause for optimism in travel despite Brexit uncertainty

A month on from the new-look WTM London 2018 and I am still blown away by the vibrancy, energy and ideas at the event. In many ways, it was a window reflecting the confidence, growth and optimism of the global travel and tourism industry.

Opinion, Simon Press, WTM

The industry grew by 7% in 2017 to 1,323 billion trips, and is predicted to hit £1.8 billion by 2030. Overall, WTM London saw a 6% increase in visitors to 32,700 (a record) – taking total participant numbers to almost 51,500.


However, it’s not just the numbers that excited me. We took a different approach to WTM London 2018 by regionalising the event, with the aim of increasing the relevance of the information, research and ideas for all delegates to be able to take back to their businesses and implement.


We did this, in part, with the introduction of five regional stages – dramatically increasing the number of sessions at the event but also increasing the relevance of the sessions on offer.


This year’s events programme had a capacity of 11,500 delegates and we have had some amazing feedback from those who took part. The development really improved the flow of ideas around WTM London and helped with the increased vibrancy and energy of the event.


The global travel and tourism industry is obviously not without its challenges – the uncertainty around Brexit being one of the main examples.


Brexit was a key talking point on the exhibition floor and a central topic of the event programme. Despite the uncertainty and the conflicting information around the impact Brexit could have on travel, I still sensed an optimistic industry that was confident of overcoming the challenges it could pose.


By having both a UK&I and European Inspiration Zone, we were able to discuss and debate Brexit in greater depth.


Research companies Euromonitor International and ForwardKeys covered the impact Brexit could have; easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren touched on it during his one-to-one interview on the European Inspiration Zone; and a dedicated session on how UK tourist attractions have used social media to overcome the potential impact of Brexit also took place.


Meanwhile, WTM World Responsible Tourism Day – the biggest day of responsible tourism action in the world – was again brave and full of inspiration and ideas. We never shy away from the big topics. Last year, we tackled the subject of overtourism, and for 2018 we shone a light on the industry to ask “how much progress have we made?”.


The introduction of Travel Forward – co-located with WTM London to inspire the travel and tourism industry with the next generation of technology – saw an increase in the number of exhibitors and visitors and tackled in depth the future opportunities for travel technology. As the role of technology continues to grow, we expect the event to increase in importance.


Simon Press is WTM London senior exhibition director

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