Tuesday saw a busy second day at World Travel Market London with buyer numbers up a huge 29% and visitor numbers up 3% by lunchtime compared with the same day last year.
A key event was the UNWTO & WTM Ministers’ Summit, where more than 50 tourism ministers and deputy ministers met to debate the challenges of branding destinations in the “brave new world” of social media.
As well as hosting one of the largest gatherings of ministers in the world, the summit also heard from Facebook, Expedia, Eurostar and the World Travel and Tourism Council.
“The rules of the game have changed and the consumer is in command,” said Dr Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General.
“Destinations can reach out directly to consumers on social media, and consumers can be whistle blowers or ambassadors. It’s not enough to say you are good, you have to be good.”
However, the debate’s moderator, CNN International anchor Richard Quest, warned that the rapid rise of social media meant countries’ brands were at “the mercy of so many external forces” over which they have no control.
Two key award ceremonies also took place. The WTM World Travel Leaders Awards saw 12 WTM London media partners honour key individuals or organisations in their region.
Meanwhile, Japan, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Etihad Airways and eRevMax were named winners at the WTM London 2015 Best Stand Design Awards.
Japan National Tourism Organization (AS370) won the overall Best Stand accolade; Canary Islands (EU1600/EU1650) was voted Best Stand for Doing Business and Etihad Airways (ME350) was awarded the accolade for Best Stand Personnel.
The Egyptian Tourist Authority’s impressive wooden boat with oars was voted the Best Stand Feature (AF500/AF550), while eRevMax (TT550) received the gong for Most Innovative Stand within the Travel Tech Show@WTM.
The industry also learnt about creating a foodie culture in travel. World Food Travel Association executive director Erik Wolf told a WTM London audience: “Food and drink can be drivers of economic development – they’re great ways to excite people about a destination.”
Similarly, a sports tourism debate heard that the numbers attracted by an event may be relatively small, but the media exposure can be enormous.
Also hoping for more bums on seats is Sicily, which will receive a new daily flight from London. British Airways’ first ever direct flight to Palermo launches in May, with tourism officials expecting its “Sicily, so much…” campaign to help raise the island’s UK profile.
Mexico City, meanwhile, will work with the country’s popular beach destinations to encourage more twin-centre holidays. In the past six months, seven carriers have announced plans for new routes or expanded services to the Mexican capital from key North American and European cities.
GTP is an official media partner of WTM London 2015.