LONDON, England – WTM London 2015 ended on a high, with speed networking for buyers and a separate session for bloggers setting the tone for a busy final day.
Speed networking is one of WTM’s most successful innovations to date. Exhibitors and buyers from different regions used the sessions to make international connections.
Alamgir M Pathan, Director of Tours and Planning, ISCRA India Tour Operator (India), said: “Speed Networking ensures we can reach the right people. We identified the Philippines as one of our target markets and I’ve agreed two deals in that region, so I am very happy.”
Speed networking also allows niche UK-based attractions to talk to a global audience. Jane Chivers, New Business Coordinator, Spinnaker Tower (Portsmouth), said: “This is my company’s first time exhibiting at WTM and we’ve met a range of high-calibre international buyers that we would not connect with otherwise.”
The concept of speed networking was expanded last year to give bloggers and interested tourism boards and suppliers the chance to connect. Haruna Ishikawa, Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau said: “We are looking at bloggers for a 2016 promotion because we feel we need to do more exposure on the internet and we’re trying to promote our cultural side more – so this event is working very well for me.”
Florian Wude, Sixt car rental added. “We’re already working with bloggers, but only within Spain, so I’m here because I want to work with those from other countries to increase business to Spain.”
Furthermore, in a separate session, tourist boards considering using bloggers to market their destination were advised not to rush into a campaign. Former Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, who is now CEO of marketing agency Destinate, said: “It is important to have a strategy and a plan. Allocate some real money to it…understand who your audience is and then work in a very close relationship with the experts and understand what your vision is.”
During the session, blogger and iambassador Chief Operating Officer Melvin Boecher said the world’s top 50 travel bloggers now reach an audience of 10.6 million.
But Toit-Helmbold countered: “Stats are nice but engagement is key. It’s important that it results in more business – more bums on seats.”
WTM highlights niche, specialist travel sectors and the combination of responsible travel and food sourcing is gaining traction. In a session about this entitled “Can You Taste the Difference?” delegates heard how tourism and hospitality can link with producers in sustainable projects that are mutually beneficial.
For example, The Travel Foundation’s Taste of Fethiye in Turkey has helped farmers gain 50% of their local income from hotel sales and tourist excursions while Hilton has started producing menus that enable farmers to plant crops in a more sustainable way.
While working with bloggers and sustainable practice are a relatively new part of the industry, family holidays are an established part of the business. A conference arranged by Holiday Matters, an industry organisation committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to benefit from breaks away from home, heard that offering subsidised off-peak breaks for disadvantaged families would help the overall industry.
“What if we could give tourism businesses an extra reason for staying open beyond the summer season, what an impact that would have. Seasonality has a direct negative impact on employment, transport and infrastructure development,” said Visit Scotland’s international partnerships/ EU engagement manager Lee McRonald.
Visit Scotland is backing a pilot scheme to enable disadvantaged families to take free day trips in 2016.
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