Wednesday, 12 November 2008

World Travel Market 2008 - first thoughts from the fair extraordinaire

If you have never visited World Travel Market before or are completely and utterly new to the internal workings of the travel industry, don't worry. Once I've unpacked, re-grouped and deciphered my notes, I'll be sharing a full run down of what this beast WTM actually is and what it means to the thousands of travel industry delegates who travelled to London's Excel from all corners of the world.

Notes from the press conferences and seminars will also follow.

So.....this feels as good a time as any to put my Sandwagon thoughts and opinions into context. I love to travel but I'm no epic adventurer. Rather than pack up my life and hit the road at 18, I studied and spent - as so many students do - a summer of inter-railing abandon in Western Europe. That experience of the infinite glee that independent travel gives a person of any age made me commit to a life in the travel industry. I'd never be rich. I couldn't face being a lawyer, a banker, another graduate management scheme wanna be. After travelling for just one month, making money seemed so soulless in comparison to sharing the joy of travel and enabling ordinary folk like me to travel, any damn which way they chose and could afford.

So I worked as a Specialist Sales Consultant for a long haul tailor made travel company (nope, not the student-centric one), before working as a travel agent for a small specialist business. Next, I fulfilled my dream of combining my love of travel love and increasing expertise with my love of words, confirmed by an English Degree. I became a Creative Copywriter, then an Editor, then a Managing Editor for one of the top two travel companies in the UK. 50/50 chance of guessing which; they both begin with Th...

I'm telling you this because, firstly, giving context to the voice behind a blog is important. And secondly, I have nothing to fear. I would never slate the travel industry or any of my former employers. The travel industry, just like travel publishing, can be hugely demanding for its employees. (I'm no sniper-type Blogger. I just want to share understanding and the latest news.) Margins are minimal, expectation is maxed but the passion common to each and everybody present at WTM makes working in and for the industry a given. Once your in, you're hooked. Some days it's even (heaven forbid) enjoyable.

World Travel Market is a wonderful coming together of the most passionate people there are. It's a chance to do business, face the big issues that challenge the industry and its consumers, network, buy ex-colleagues a beer and basically share the love.

That done, here are my first objective and editorially sound observations of WTM:

Transport Trouble ruined my well-researched plans for Tuesday. Out of action sections of the Dockland's Light Railway, coupled with lots of pushing and shoving onto London buses took the edge off my first morning's joy.

Press Lounges that were kindly sponsored by the Greek Tourist Board. A free cuppa, a cloakroom with smiley attendants, lots of desk space and mobile phone chargers. All very well received

Informative, Inspiring Press Confereneces and Seminars Press and business delegates alike came away with notes, ideas to pursue and fresh motivation with which to face these troubled times.

Blogcamp organised by the award-winning Travel Rants blog, proved that bloggers can face the real world and speak to a crowd in person, rather than through the internet. I felt a huge sense of pride for all UK bloggers in attendance. About 80 people chatted and debated the ins and outs of this blogging adventure that we're all on. Even some big names in travel sent out their PR and Marketing bods to learn a trick or two. Are the speakers experts? I'm not convinced that there are any best practice blog rules. This is the internet; do as you please, in any way you please. But don't do and be damned.

Simon Calder taking the stand to inspire would-be podcasters, before flying off to Salamanca.

Orissa Discovering more about the Indian state described as Scenic.Serene.Sublime

Opulent Exhibition Stands Kazakhstan, I loved your tented up-top meeting room. Taiwan, I filmed your puppet show for posterity!

World Responsible Tourism Day Debates especially Stephen Sackur giving hoteliers a roasting on behalf of the planet. 'The Great Towel debate' rumbled on and on.

Hard Rain by Mark Edwards A sound and vision portrayal of the ills we do our planet. Did everyone in the audience take a call to action from it? Sandwagon definitely did.

Much, much more to follow over the coming days.

Tell me, which bits of WTM 2008 stood out for you?