Responsible tourism was one of the themes for the final day. As the leading global event for the travel industry, WTM London has championed the cause of responsible tourism and the annual WTM Responsible Tourism Awards celebrated the best of travel across six categories.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana won the best in carbon reduction category; Grootbos in South Africa was the best for accommodation; Sapa O’Chau, a female ethnic minority-owned enterprise in Vietnam scooped the best community initiative award; Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana won the best communication award; the prize for best poverty reduction initiative went to Indian walking holidays and local accommodations provider Village Ways while South Africa’s Transfrontier Parks Destinations was name the best tour operator.
Overtourism remains a major concern in the context of sustainability and was discussed on the dedicated Responsible Tourism stage. Adama Bah from International Centre for Responsible Tourism West Africa suggested part of the problem is that “governments still think in terms of numbers and not in terms of benefit for communities.”
In an afternoon session which looked at accessible travel, Ade Adepitan MBE, a Paralympian and TV presenter, noted that while people with disabilities find it difficult to travel, improvements are being made, citing the example of the Colosseum in Rome which has installed a lift which lets people in wheelchairs experience the 2,000-year-old attraction.
The Digital Influencers Speed Networking session provided the chance for suppliers to talk to a stellar line-up of 120 global bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers. As more people take inspiration from the growing number of digital channels, the importance of influencers in the marketing mix continues to climb.
The session was sponsored by Whalar, a platform which connects brands with content creators. Its co-founder James Street said: “Travel is a big space in the influencer landscape – and it does not look like advertising. When influencers are holding a product, it looks like an advert, but if they’re sat on a beach in Mauritius, it doesn’t.”
Carole Rosenblat runs Drop Me Anywhere, which specialises in solo female and spontaneous travel, said: “It has been useful and very valuable today. I have met people from Tenerife, Naples, boutique hotels and other influencers – one that I met at WTM last year is now sharing an Airbnb place with me for this year’s WTM.”
PR expert Debbie Hindle, managing director at Four Travel, noted in another session that the influencer/blogging industry “has expanded massively…and while there is still a lot of professionalism to come, there is a huge amount of creativity and passion.”
Elsewhere, the Travel Tech Theatre hosted a full day of standing-room only sessions. Highlights included tnooz, Amadeus and SITA discussing blockchain, Hotelbeds and Accor looking at the future of hotel distribution technology and Julia Lo Bue-Said from Advantage Travel Centres explaining how travel agents are using tech to not only remain relevant but also to grow their business.
The Inspire theatre continued to inspire, with BBC journalist Ros Atkens presenting BBC World research into so-called “affluent millennials” and how brands can tap into this group’s propensity to travel by offering unique experiences which are “Instagrammable”.
The event concluded with WTM Festivals, allowing visitors to end their time at this year’s event experiencing the culture, hospitality and cuisine of the Caribbean, Tokyo, Indonesia, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Ghana, Senegal and Brazil.
Simon Press, Exhibition Director, World Travel Market said. “The success of this year’s event proves that the recent changes we have made to WTM London resonate with what exhibitors, buyers and visitors want from the leading global event for the travel industry.
“We will continue to listen to our stakeholders to make sure that we are absolutely aligned with their business needs.”