I first heard about the show from the Black Travel Creators event I went to earlier in the year. It it then I learned the importance of WTM with regards to exposing yourself to the wider tourism industry and being in a more corporate space. Big shoutout to them for the recommendation.
Did a bit of prep beforehand having read a blog post from Traverse. Printed off my media kit and badge, took my portable charger and packed lunch. I knew there was going to be a lot of walking around and the days were going to be long. I also arranged a few meetings with travel and tourism businesses that were attending through the WTM Connect Me feature.
First Impressions And Connections
En route to ExCeL on my first day I met these girls and saw them with WTM lanyard passes . I overheard them talking about the event on the DLR train there and thought I’d asked them about the event. Instead they asked me to join them. Hoo rah! We making travel friends already woop woop! We were getting to know each other, making songs about our names and talking about our deep travel experiences. All within 20 mins of meeting them. Then slowly we went our separate ways once we go to the event as we diverted onto our different plans. Shoutout to Beth, and Afra !
Into one of the main zones I went and I was so overwhelmed. There were so many stands and exhibits, not to mention. I couldn’t tell who was who and what was what from first sight. All I knew about was the stands of the travel agencies I either wanted to see the most or I had meetings with. Fortunately I downloaded the event map before so started referring to it to find everything.
A lot of the exhibitors and representatives were very professional and smartly dressed as expected. And then there was me wearing a denim jacket with skinny Adidas tracksuit joggers on. Proper local am I!
I started casually wondering about from stand to stand. Slowly figuring things out on my own. In general the venue was very well organised. I like how the stands, zones and exhibits were categorised into countries, continents and the alphabet too. For example all the Spanish tourism boards, hotels and travel agencies will be in one place and under “Spain” within the Europe area. Whilst countries Sweden and Switzerland will be nearby too.
The stands were well decorated and colourful too, native to. Some stands offered free samples of national food and had people dressed up in native wear too which was creative. There was an international media centre for people with press/media access to chill in and get on with work.
One advice guys! Bring business cards with you to any convention or conference you go to! I lost count of the amount of times companies asked for my business card after every interaction. Only for me to leave them empty handed or shove my one copy of my media kit that they couldn’t keep either 😂 Whilst I’m flooding my bag with tons of business cards they’re giving to me. Also for any travel content creator reading this hit up the tourism boards, hotels, resorts and tour operators when you’re at these events. They’re the organisations more likely to work with influencers or at the very least offer their services at a discount.
As for the networking side I was on it in terms of putting myself out there and being chilled . Along with bumping into travel creators I already know it was great finding and meeting a few other travel bloggers. Chloe from Chloe’s Bucket Lists, Bernadetta from B Sweet Escapes And Yari from Beauty Backpacker. Make sure you give their content a look or two too!
It’s easy to be very stiff and have tunnel vision. Mainly because of meetings and talks to attend, the business opportunities potentially available. But sometimes you can just soak in the occasion, enjoy being around people who get you and their company for however long it is.
There were also a lot of talks, conferences and seminars held across the three days. Obviously I could only get to the select handful that I prioritised but I surprisingly enjoyed them more than I thought they would. Especially the ones done by Traverse Events and WTM Responsible Tourism.
The talks were informative and progressive. They mainly addressed the ongoing issues within the travel and tourism industry and the solutions to the issues. Backed up with bulletptoof stats and facts and speakers that were emotionally invested in what they do. The Each Traveller Matters and Promoting Controversial Destinations talks stood out for me the most. No one was afraid to have the tough conversations and speak their mind but also keep an open-mind and ask questions.
These are the kind of discussions that are needed in not just the travel industry but also other industries. Saving my best shoutout till last and that’s to my good travel friend Marty for killing it as moderator/host for it.
My experience at WTM wasn’t perfect however. There are downsides an area they can improve on in the future. For starts I feel like they should consider having fun and interactive games and rooms placed in areas of the trade show. With younger audience growing more and more of a presence in form of content creators this could be one way of welcoming them. I appreciate that representatives come to WTM for business purposes but they could be a bit more relaxed and try and have casual convos about travel. At the end of the day travelling and tourism is a fun life experience too as well as a business venture and the former can be shown a bit more.
Also being origininally from Nigeria I was a bit disappointed not to see any Nigerian travel or tourism companies representing themselves. None whatsoever. Actually “bit disappointed” is an understatement I was HUGELY disappointed. When I went into the Africa zone I was curious as to why that was the case. Until I was told by an ATTA represebtative that they pulled out of WTM due to budgeting.
The lack of Nigerian presence was even more startling when I saw the likes of Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sierra Leone doing their thing and celebrating themselves. Nigeria is the biggest country with the biggest economy in Africa yet can’t afford to represent themselves at a global scale like this? It’s a big shame really as there’s much beauty and colour about the country and many travelers are gonna miss out on that exposure.
Summarising my first time attending WTM is difficult to do in a few words. WTM was absorbing in many ways. The atmosphere is huge with so many people from all walks of life. I’ve learnt about how travel conferences work and
who to approach and who not to. There’s the opportunity to be exposed to many cultures and ethnicities under one roof. Attended enlightening and educational talks and met some cool like-minded people along the way. But again to reiterate the show could be more relaxed and less corporate going forward. It’s hard to imagine that arguably the biggest travel fair in the world is at my doorstep so I’m grateful also.
Recently I’ve been sending pitch emails and my media kit to loads of travel companies and gotten a few positive responses back. Fingers crossed they lead to a few collabs or campaigns. Otherwise we move on forward.
I’ve already rectified my mistake of having a lack of business cards and ordered a batch that got delivered to me a few days ago. As part of prep for future events #proactivity
Have you attended WTM London or any business show or conference before? I think I’ll do a post that’s a guide to attending travel conferences sometime towards the end of the year or early 2020 for first timers.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below and give this post a like or share of you enjoyed reading.
Thank you guys for reading as always xD
Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures