Jane Larcombe, whose stellar career in travel PR was inextricably linked to World Travel Market, has died aged 74 after a long illness (multiple myeloma).
She is credited with devising many of the features that remain on the exhibition programme and was renowned for her innovations and an ability to remain unflustered in crises minor or major.
Fiona Jeffery OBE, former WTM chairman, said: “Jane was a friend for whom I had enormous respect. She was a force of nature - fun, energetic, passionate, enthusiastic, professional, creative, had her finger on the pulse and, when she wanted, could be quite formidable.”
Their association began in 1991 when Larcombe pitched to run the WTM account while running the Travel Division at Charles Barker. Her exuberance and ideas helped successfully launch the daunting move from Olympia to Earl’s Court, exploiting the venue’s hidden swimming pool by imaginatively turning it into scenes such as Venice, a lakeside ski resort, a Caribbean beach. It became an iconic WTM backdrop.
When Charles Barker folded Jane adventurously set up her own company, hired a small team of professionals and excelled masterminding the WTM communications operation from her East Sussex cottage.
“Jane’s other asset was being a great strategic thinker as well as communicator. She added tremendous value to my vision," said Jeffery, who wanted to champion world environmental and responsible tourism policies.
Larcombe was also instrumental in setting up WTM’s Ministerial Summit.
“She developed seminar content, briefed royalty, prime ministers and presidents, and such was her authority they all listened and remarkably did as they were told including, surprisingly, current prime minister Boris Johnson," added Jeffery.
“The travel world expected us to cancel WTM scheduled only six weeks away after 9/11.
“Jane and I met in a dingy London pub in Victoria and re-wrote the entire programme because we felt it was critical for the industry to go ahead. The result of bringing people together was testament to Jane’s PR and crisis management skills.
“Another initiative where Jane became crucial was my desire to launch a travel industry charity.
“I was pregnant with my daughter Lauren and Jane and I identified that a child died every 17 seconds from dirty water and that £1 could provide a life-saving supply for nearly 10 years. Jane came up with the name Just a Drop, which is still going strong after 22 years."
In her 60s “Lady Larcombe”, as she was nicknamed, did a five-day trek to Machu Picchu and visited Ugandan projects in aid of Just a Drop.
In one village Jane met a woman of the same age and because they couldn’t converse instead danced under the trees with a Just a Drop latrine in the background.
It was a demonstration of Jane’s love for life and her ability to connect with people.
Jane’s PA Karsalie Fane Hervey said: “I absolutely loved working for her. She was totally inspiring for me.
“One high point is a drinks reception on a luxury Thames cruiser during World Travel Market where there were government ministers from around the globe including Iran, Palestine, Israel and Egypt with their armed bodyguards hovering nervously at the entrance.
“Jane engineered and planned that get-together and somehow we pulled it off.”
Jane started her journalistic career in local and then national newspapers switching to PR when joining P&O Ferries and at Charles Barker ran accounts for Butlin’s, Rank Organisation, Reed Exhibitions and also worked on the Liverpool Docks regeneration programme and the White Cliffs Experience at Dover.
Jane will undoubtedly be remembered for having helped give her local village a legacy with her devoted springboard determination in establishing Wadhurst U3A.
It is remarkable that she should play such a prominent role to make it a thriving body – from nil to 200 members – when previously she knew barely a soul in Wadhurst.
To her deep satisfaction, somebody once told her “The U3A has become my life. My family.”
Jane Larcombe: 12 June 1946-19 September 2020