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The WHL Group Message Spreads at the World Travel Market 2010

  • Ben P Jones
  • 23 November 2010

Held at at London’s ExCeL Centre and having concluded this year on 11 November, the World Travel Market (WTM) is a premier, global travel event, the goal of which is to allow industry professionals to explore the latest travel trends, conduct business and network. With specific focus on Responsible Tourism, the event therefore offered the WHL Group an ideal opportunity once again to spread the word about its network of local connections.

Estonia exhibit, WTM 2010

At the WTM, countries organize themselves by region and set up exhibits where business representatives can network. Estonia's exhibit emphasized the country's nature tourism. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Ord

Drawing a Big Crowd

To put the WTM into context: it’s a major draw at every level. On the first day of the event this year, 6,665 senior industry buyers were in attendance; unaudited figures suggest this is a 21% increase on last year. Immediately following, the fourth UNWTO Minister’s Summit on Tuesday saw a 41% increase in ministers and aides present.

Fittingly, the WHL Group was represented by a team from across the network, including whl.travel, Urban Adventures, WHL Consulting, Green Path Transfers, Lime and Tonic, and Gunyah. In addition, over 20 of the whl.travel local connections were present (from Ecuador to Uzbekistan). What we all discovered was that the message has certainly spread about our development. The network has grown to cover over 100 countries around the world, making it one of the largest global networks of its kind.

As an example of the WHL Group’s strength, Urban Adventures has expanded to cover over 60 destinations in the last year. Klaudija Janzelj, Sales Manager for Urban Adventures, valued the event stating, “We received very positive feedback from distributors as our product is fresh, innovative and different. There is a lot of responsible travel occurring outside urban centres so we are filling this gap.”

WHL Group members at the WTM

In attendance from the WHL Group at the WTM 2010 were (left to right) Naut Kusters (Amsterdam local partner), Hugh Yarborough (Quito local partner), Len Cordiner (CEO of the WHL Group)

Responsible Tourism

The WTM is a great opportunity for talking and networking. It was particularly interesting that BBC World chose to sponsor the World Responsible Tourism Day (WRTD, which falls in the middle of the WTM) and hosted several presentations about responsible tourism. Now in its third year in association with UNWTO, the day marks a conscientious industry decision to address pressing issue. “Responsible tourism is now at the top of the corporate agenda and it is essential that it becomes an integral part of the future industry,” said Fiona Jeffrey, Chairman of the WTM.

Anda Cirule, the WHL Group’s regional director for Europe and the Middle East also noted that “The responsible tourism event proved extremely useful for productive discussions with companies from the industry.”

Of course, the industry included our own local partners. We were glad to meet key people like one of whl.travel’s newest additions from Barcelona, Spain. “It definitely helped us a lot at BCN Travel,” remarked a company representative. “We were glad to meet with key people from whl.travel from other countries. Many interesting thoughts and future plans were discussed. We wish meetings like those would be organized more often for all members of the WHL Group to work closer, share ideas and improve our strategies.”

WHL Local Partners at the WTM

The WTM 2010 was a great chance for local partners to meet one another and WHL Group staff. Here, left to right, are Negina Mukhtarova (Samarkand local partner), Seif Saudi (Jordan local partner), Hripsime Badalyan (Armenia local partner) and Anda Cirule (WHL Group Regional Director for Europe and the Middle East)

Online Takes Off

Alongside the consistent messages about responsible tourism, the 2010 event focused heavily on developments in online travel and technology. As an online network this was very pertinent to the WHL Group.

One of the key findings was that Google’s dominance in online travel will be increasingly challenged by mobile technology. Devices such as the iPhone and the development of location-based applications are already revolutionising the travel industry, with smartphone penetration expected to reach 92 per cent in Europe by 2014.

These shifts in traveller behaviour illustrate that innovation will be an essential requirement for everyone involved in the travel industry in the coming years. The importance of mobile technology continues to grow, a theme continuously stressed during the WTM.

As well as the recurrent message of responsible tourism, consideration was given to the recent years of economic downturn and their effect on the industry. Crucially, the final day of the WTM focused on how small-to-medium-size businesses can escape the crisis, something of special value to the WHL Group, which labours to support and allow local partners to survive and flourish at an international level.

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festivals & events, responsible travel, responsible travel news, WHL Group news, whl.travel,

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