The Good, the Bad & the Spin at World Travel Market 2012

It’s difficult to know where to start when trying to rein in my thoughts about World Travel Market 2012 in London, they’re behaving like particularly stubborn (or stupid) sheep and have legged it in all directions through the endless fields of my mind.

There were so many experiences that there isn’t a Middle Earth type ‘one blog to fit them all’, so whilst the cerebral sheepdogs go chasing the woolly creatures here’s a summary of overall impressions.

Excel Building, World Travel Market, London
The Good & The Great

Online Advice about World Travel Market 2012
The experiences of the online travel community were priceless in helping with preparation for the marvellous madness and carefully organised mayhem that is World Travel Market. Nothing really prepares WTM virgins for the real thing but various blogs and Alastair McKenzie’s Google Hangout just prior to the event was full of essential tips for first time travel bloggers and writers from how to dress to using the press room.
Subsequently we went armed with a plan and didn’t look like hill-billies.

Getting to World Travel Market 2012

We were fantastically impressed with transport. Even though we were staying on the opposite side of London, getting to and from Excel where WTM was being held was a painless and cheap process. We got a buzz from being part of the excited travel mob that swarmed from the trains into Excel each day.

Andy at Brazil Exhibit, World Travel Market, London

World Travel Market 2012 – the Venue
World Travel Market is a bit of an overwhelming beast. However, the seemingly seamless organisation of the event kept it a tamed one. Plenty of people about to ask for advice plus info boards and an incredibly useful WTM Route Planner picked up as soon as we entered the building all combined to help us navigate busy waters without ending up in Cambodia instead of Croatia.
One moan was that seats to plonk into to munch on a Cornish pasty, bacon butty or Mexican wrap were in short supply as were seats in the press room.

Exhibitors Part I
From a business point of view, the ones we met with were clued up, enthusiastic about their destination and open to suggestions. Generally speaking, destinations which fielded UK based PR personnel with tourist board personnel seemed to have a better grasp of social media and developments in the modern travel industry. Then there were others that were a complete revelation, the Cameroon presentation enchanted and charmed. However, those who viewed the World Travel Market as an opportunity to parade political suits missed the boat and came across as being a bit backward and out of the loop.
From a fun point of view – WOW – there were some great exhibits that cast magical spells and had me yearning to explore their tantalising lands. I’m still gutted at missing South Korea’s dancing Gangnam style robots.

Cameroon Presentation, World Travel Market

Bloggers and Writers
It might have been fast and furious but it was wonderful to get to bandy a few words with travel blogger/writer friends old and new. In some cases it was a case of ‘you say goodbye and I say hello’ but it all added to the overall enjoyment of WTM.

The Bad & the Spin at World Travel Market 2012
I didn’t really find anything bad to the bone at WTM, I had a ball. But there were some aspects that disappointed and others that set little alarm bells ringing in my head.

Exhibitors Part II
There were a couple of destinations that we were interested in but ‘dumped’ pretty quickly because of the people who were supposedly promoting the destination. In one case a male ‘suit’ stood and chatted with three tourist board girls whilst WTM visitors interested in the destination waited for an acknowledgement that never came. The exhibit was empty of people despite similar destinations around them buzzing with life.
We know this type of tourist board only too well and decided not to waste time with people who might be more concerned with their own egos rather than promoting the destination they’re representing. Scratching them off the agenda kept the frustration levels to a minimum.

Antonio Banderas, World Travel Market, London

Social Travel Market & Social Media Presentations
Maybe we were unlucky, but generally I was disappointed with the Social Media & STM events we attended (here’s why), although I was also glad that we witnessed them.
In a former life we attended a lot of conferences featuring experienced speakers covering topics they knew in great depth. Public speaking ain’t easy. Travel bloggers/writers and reps from PR agencies aren’t trained to do this, yet some have been elevated to keynote speakers over a very short period. Subsequently the content of presentations bordered on the shallow end of the pool and searching questions from the audience were rarely dealt with.
The worst example was where a panellist didn’t seem to know what the title of the presentation actually meant. Not that this was a problem for him as the presentation had absolutely nothing to do with the title anyway.

Social Media & Social Travel Market Presentations Part II
Some of the SM & STM presentations I attended seemed little more than marketing sessions. At one, TBEX was promoted under the guise of something completely different; at another it was TBU. The worry for me is that there is subliminal (or maybe not so subliminal) manipulation of the hearts and minds of travel bloggers, tourist boards and DMOs taking place.

Niggles aside, World Travel Market was an exhilarating, educational and immensely satisfying experience that I wouldn’t have missed for, well, the world.

Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+




4 Comments

  1. Agreed, agreed and agreed, and very diplomatically put (am struggling with a post on this topic). I have to say I’m glad I popped back on Thursday for the presentation of the TBU white paper, though, which was the only one which made any sense to me, and seemed to be useful to those thinking of employing/using bloggers. I almost didn’t go because my cold was getting worse, but glad I did.

    • Thanks. I’ve got a less ‘diplomatically put’ blog about STM specifically to follow soon 🙂

      The problem for me was that there were STM sessions that could have been better but which lost their way a bit because there was too much ‘selling’ of a product or a person going on.

      Looking forward to reading your thoughts on WTM.

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