At the end of day one of WTM 2016
After two long days exploring everything that World Travel Market 2016 had to offer, I'm on a delayed train back up to Newcastle. Not only that, but I am somewhat weighed down by all the swag I have collected. Shiny brochures highlighting must-visit destinations, maps with suggested itineraries, glossy magazines, pens, pin badges and plenty of business cards all enclosed within branded cloth bags.
What I am mainly returning up north with, however, is a mind full of this incredible experience. From the people I met and may work with in the future to the knowledge gained through attending sessions on everything from responsible tourism to targeted social media campaigns. And the most lasting impression of WTM will for me be one of intense colour.
Representatives from Nicaragua
The whole world is there, with countries erecting huge and elaborate stands, featuring the most recognisable and enchanting elements of their culture. There are representatives bedecked in traditional dress, local speciality foods being served and artisans crafting UNESCO World Heritage Sites out of sand or painstakingly hammering metal studs into decorative wooden boxes.
Konark Sun Temple realised in sand by Sudarsan Pattnaik
As a first-timer to WTM I didn't quite know what to expect and the scale is certainly overwhelming. It took me two whole days to cover both halls - Europe and the rest of the world - between attending talks, award ceremonies and panel discussions. Part of the problem is getting distracted by everything around you as you go.
It's a great idea to be organised in advance, but try and remain flexible at the same time, as the enormity of WTM means plans will change. My approach, which seemed to work fairly well, was as follows:
- Decide on the sessions you most want to attend and work your networking around these
- Get your bearings as quickly as possible, so you can make it to talks efficiently
- Smile at everyone you encounter and be ready to stop and chat
- Hand out masses of business cards and request them in return
- Visit the stands of places you have been to, as well as those you hope to visit in the future, as this can lead to passionate conversations and great opportunities
- When you're flagging, seek out one of the stands offering free coffee - Costa Rica and Italy are both good bets - take the weight off and plan your next move.
- Be systematic about covering ground, so that you've at least wandered the entirety of both halls. Start at one end and when you need to stop to go to a talk, take note of where you are and return to that point at the next available opportunity.
A well-earned coffee at the Costa Rica stand