WTM London opens with full on seminar programme

World Travel Market (WTM) 2016 opened in London, 7 November, with a Speed Networking event, numerous sessions on topics ranging from technology and terror to sustainability and aviation.

Peng Peng, air tickets senior director for Tuniu.com, China’s third largest online travel agent, and Yogesh Mehta, vice-president of hotels for via.com, a technology platform which powers some 60,000 offline travel agents in India, were two of those taking part for the first time.

Business was particularly in focus on the opening day of the show, with many destinations taking the opportunity to update the market on 2016 and to look ahead.

Elena Kountoura, tourism minister for Greece, reported that this year was in line to become her country’s busiest ever with more than 27m international arrivals expected.

Vinod Zutshi, secretary at India’s tourism ministry, said that his government was prioritising tourism by investing in the public infrastructure in order to facilitate specific tourism investments from the private sector.

Brexit was a common theme across the seminar programme. Aviation expert John Strickland told the Forecast Forum about a possible issue arising in terms of flying rights if the UK is not part of the EU Open Skies agreement –  UK airline easyJet is allowed to fly  within France and Spain while Ryanair can operate in the UK with an Irish airline operators certificate as a result of the EU Open Skies agreement.

And in a separate session, two senior airline bosses – Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group and Emirates president Tim Clark – suggested that airline alliances could become a thing of the past.

Walsh said: “I would question if [alliances] are around 10 years from now,” with Clarke describing the oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam concepts as  “anachronistic”.

On the proposed Heathrow expansion, Walsh said there was no justificaton for spending £17.6bn on the project.

The industry’s resilience was highlighted by travel writer Doug Langsky, who said that by looking at hotel searches for Paris, Brussels and Orlando, he found it took two to three months for interest to return to pre-incident levels after terror attacks and in some cases as little as three weeks. “We’re getting desensitised to terror… bounce-back is quicker,” he said.

Lansky suggested that destinations needed a crisis plan in place before the crisis happened, and that one useful strategy is to know which source markets are ‘the bravest’ and to devote marketing resources to these destinations.

Elsewhere, the opening day of WTM London 2016 saw the first ever Global Sports Tourism Summit.

Buyers from the WTM Buyers’ Club are predicted to sign deals at the event worth US$3.6bn.

WTM London 2016 is expecting to attract up to 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press at ExCeL – London and runs until 9 November.

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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