Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director for WTM London, in an exclusive interview with Travel And Tour World, speaks on Brexit travel constraints, the agenda of responsible travel and the downturn of Thomas Cook. He gave a preview of the programmes during the 40th edition of WTM London.
Travel And Tour World: How the Buyers’ Club Program has been revamped to provide a better experience?
Simon Press: The highest calibre buyers will receive a tailored experience, ensuring the arrival of fresh ideas and new possibilities. The top 600 industry buyers will receive personal invitations to attend the Buyers Club this year. These buyers have achieved their position due to their reputation, place of business and buyer spending power. This group have been screened to guarantee the highest quality set of buyers that will have ever attended WTM London.
Outside of the top 600 global buyers, the application process includes a new vetting procedure. This process will gather data on how individual buyers use WTM London to enhance their business, ensuring all who attend gain maximum from these interactions between buyers and sellers.
Travel And Tour World: Since this will be the 40th edition what changes and additions can we expect? Give us some insights.
Simon Press: Our visitors can experience unique celebrations that we have created to celebrate 40 years of WTM London, which will take over the Inspirations Zones.They include; authentic South American cocktails in the Responsible Tourism Café, a silent disco experience in the Americas Inspiration Zone and a popcorn and Pimms tricycle, riding round the UK & Ireland Inspiration Zone and much more.
Further highlights onsite include the invite-only Leaders Lunch.Lord Sebastian Coe, one of Britain’s most successful Olympians and President of the IAAF, and Dr Kevin Dutton, a leading phycologist at the University of Oxford, will speak on the power that persuasion has in modern business, providing information and advice for the leaders in our industry to digest and take back into their own working environments.
All are welcome to attend the UNWTO and Ministers Summit, which takes place on the Global Stage on Tuesday 5 November. This session features keynote speeches from ZurabPololikashvili, the Secretary-General of the UNWTO and Santiago Camps, the CEO of Mabrian Technologies, a company focused on understanding the travel trends of rural areas.
This will be followed by a panel discussion, featuring Chris Thompson the President and CEO of Brand USA and a ministerial networking event, providing a truly practical platform for the tourism leaders of the public and private sectors to share best practices and to explore investment opportunities.
Our newest addition is the launch of London Travel Week which will be a one-stop-shop for event hosts and visitors.
Travel And Tour World: How are you supporting responsible tourism this year at the fair?
Simon Press: Our speakers will address the challenges faced in the global travel industry and how to travel responsibly. Seminars will be focused on driving future change by educating those in positions of power on how to adopt responsible behaviour. We will host World Responsible Tourism Day on 6 November.
There will also be the dedicated World Responsible Tourism Awards, which will recognise and celebrate the leaders in this field.
Travel And Tour World: How the travel trade industry will look like in the next five years?
Simon Press: The travel trade will become more of an experience economy as opposed to a service industry. Travel is likely to become more about rejuvenation, fulfilment, learning new skills and experiencing a destination. The desire of people simply to stay on a sun-bed for a week appears to be dwindling significantly.
Over-tourism will be something else that dominates the travel trade over the coming years. For decades, most tourist destinations have been focusing on attracting as many people as possible. Global cities have already seen new technologies arising to deal with this issue – the Google Popular Times function – but I can foresee more and more techniques begin to arise to help tackle this.
Lastly, levels of environmental awareness have never been higher and we will see this impact upon travel trends over the next five years. The number of domestic holidays taken will rise yet further and we may see people shun aviation as it is seen as one of the major causes of climate change. Awareness has risen on this subject which means we are seeing the dawn of the responsible traveller, something that will have a big impact across the industry.
Travel And Tour World: How the dramatic collapse of Thomas Cook changing the tourism industry as a whole?
Simon Press: Thomas Cook was more than a globally recognised member of the travel community and our condolences go out to all those affected by its closure.
The collapse shows that travel agents and companies need to keep up with modern trends in tourism. Hays Travel, the firm that bought up 555 Thomas Cook stores and re-employed over 2000 members of staff, adapted to modern travel trends, such as having a strong presence online and on social media, as well as maintaining a personable, in-store presence.
So, firms need to be diverse in their offerings and pay close attention to market trends.
Consumers have changed the way they take holidays and travel, with the number of city breaks on the rise over the traditional beach holiday and cheaper flights and accommodation providers in the market.
Additionally, travellers are becoming more environmentally conscious while also wanting to explore new and exotic destinations and have their own, authentic experiences. Companies need to keep up with this to make sure that they stay ahead of the curve when it comes to global travel.
Despite the tragic end of Thomas Cook, the travel industry globally is still going from strength to strength. At WTM London this year we aim to beat our record of £3.4 billion worth of business deals made, proving the travel industry is more valuable than ever before.
Travel And Tour World: Lastly, how will Brexit affect the European travel plans and WTM London?
Simon Press: Brexit has played a significant role in European politics for a number of years now but its impact on travel will be minimal going forward. Ahead of WTM London, we have been consulting with UK Government advisory panels to assess the potential impact that Brexit will have on the travel industry.
Ultimately, Britons have an insatiable appetite for global travel and they journey to a diverse set of countries; almost half of outbound trips are to nations outside of the EU. The uncertainty over the exit date has had a small impact on booking patterns but overall capacity has not decreased.
Regardless, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no changes to inbound VISAs for those visiting the UK for WTM London 2019 or for any other reason.
The UK Government and the European Commission have agreed to a transition process that will cover travel to and from the EU if the UK leaves with or without a deal. Furthermore, global flights will not be affected should Britain leave the EU on October 31st. The Civil Aviation Authority has agreed to a framework that will remain in place until December 2020, which means that British aerospace will remain part of broader European aerospace.
Britain, London and WTM are still well and truly open for business and the global travel industry will see minimal disruption, whatever happens with Brexit.