After leaving BT to follow my dreams, I became involved in this wonderful industry of travel, hospitality & tourism and have remained fascinated by it ever since. I can’t remember which year I started going to World Travel Market, but it was many moons ago when the event was at Earls Court. Imagine your first trip to WTM, being squashed on a tube, in rush hour, between a magnificent Canadian Mountie and a beautiful young lady from the Far East; listening to so many different languages being spoken and trying to guess which they are and just breathing in the different exotic scents. So exciting.
What a fantastic week it was! Every single person there was an inspiration to work with ~ in the picture to the left is Dwayne Bentley, Samoa Tourism Authority; Anna Pollock; me and the lovely Kate Fenton, Representation Plus for Samoa.
Samoa means the Sacred Centre of the Polynesian Islands. Such a magical name! Polynesian Xplorer is a Destination Management Organisation (DMO) and was managing the World Judo Championships in Samoa whilst WTM took place. The company was formed by husband & wife, François Martel and Zita Sefo Martel. They make a brilliant team ~ François, originally from Montreal, Canada and now a Samoan national, is a highly accomplished and internationally recognised specialist in nature conservation, biodiversity and sustainable forest management. Zita is a High Chief (matai) hence the formal title of Vaimasenu’u and, earlier this year, Zita was privileged to receive her “malu,” the tattoo received by women in Samoan society. Have a look at Anna’s blog, ‘Samoa provides deeper meaning to the concept of branding‘. Zita is Samoa’s first and only woman Fautasi skipper and has trained & led the majority of winning crews for ten years. The French Government invited Zita to become the Honorary Consul of France in 2000, a prestigious diplomatic role which has supported and enriched her capacity to welcome guests from around the world.
The stand, which was a model of a traditional fale (beach house), was shared between Samoa and Tonga ~ another part of the paradise that is Polynesia. The girl with the lovely smile in this pic is Sandra Fifita, Ministry of Tourism, Kingdom of Tonga. Such a wonderful warm person and, like Dwayne, with an inner serenity. The other member of the Tonga team was the delightful Ronnie Simpkins, but he mysteriously disappeared when the photos were being taken. The smiles were there all week, we had a great time meeting and greeting people and passing on this marvellous happiness that exists in Polynesia.
Perhaps more people should try this, smiling, that is! At some stands, there were people who looked forbidding, bored, disinterested and too busy talking to each other to have time for anyone else. This marvellous event is a celebration of each country represented there, so let’s all celebrate ~ the advantage should be grabbed by the buyer and the seller ~ every single person who attends has a unique sets of values and wants. There are some brilliant events and seminars there you can go to – take advantage, make it work for you.
One of the people I met on the Samoan fale was a very interesting travel journalist from Vancouver, called Robin Esrock. Robin has his own take on WTM, ‘Notes from the Underside‘.
And randomly, between where we were and Madagascar, the next door stand was for Tang Dynasty Tours of China. Again, fascinating people to talk with.
Now back to the people I was with. Anna Pollock has worked in the travel & tourism industry for more than thirty years. Her bio on Twitter, where she is @PembridgeAnna, states; ‘Boomer (international speaker, change agent in tourism) kept very young by her fascination with deep change affecting business, marketing, the tourism community’.
She is an outstanding strategist, a visionary (recognised by BC, Canada, when she was given the Tourism Visionary of the Year Award), a very successful international speaker and, subjects now being discussed in the industry, were addressed by Anna in papers she wrote nearly 10 years ago! Definitely a change agent, she inspires people!
Anna is a true advocate of sustainability and responsible travel. Indeed, many people are these days – it is very fashionable to have jumped on the bandwagon for this. And that is where the travel and tourism industry starts to look a little on the jaded side. There is a distinct old boys’ network, with many huge egos out there; but not to be completely negative, there are some truly wonderful people out there too, and after a few years you get to know the good guys from the posers. It’s the same on the conference circuit, so many people who do the rounds as speakers, especially at annual ones, but that’s all they do – they talk. They don’t actually achieve anything, they just talk. If you have conferences on certain subjects, then why are action points not agreed and measurable goals set that can be checked on during the year up to the next conference? Or is that too simplistic?
This year, I didn’t even get to go to the other side of the halls at Excel – but that’s a good thing as we were busy. Excel is soulless, nevertheless, the cacophony of sounds and the vibrant rainbows of colour everywhere bring it to life. Where else can you pop to Canada, America & Latin America, then look at safaris in South Africa and sample lunch time treats in South Korea, going on to anywhere in the world that your wishes (or meetings) take you?
There have been some negative comments on travel bloggers not getting proper recognition at WTM; that they should have separate areas at each destination and even have lunches and receptions held for them! Please! I know many travel bloggers, all of them absolutely wonderful but not one of them expects to be treated this way. Yes, it is very busy there and yes, sometimes you don’t get to talk to people but that is the same as at any large event – you just go back again if you don’t have an appointment! As the meerkat would say, simples!
Talking of travel bloggers, on the Tuesday evening was the Travel Blog Camp. Organised by Darren Cronian (@travelrants) and presented by Kevin May (@kevinlukemay), the evening was a sell out. Good speakers (the first being the delightful Andy Jarosz, @501places), good sponsors and the chance to meet up and chat with lovely friends. Monday and Wednesday evenings were spent working, had to skip having dinner with the gorgeous Simon, she is @1step2theleft on Twitter. Must remedy that!
The most important thing anyone exhibiting can do is to listen before talking. Well actually, you don’t talk, you start to build a relationship. We met some wonderful people on the Samoan stand, people I sincerely hope we see again and share in building, not only a successful business relationship, but also, a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. It is an absolute privilege to meet so many different people, from so many different cultures and countries ~ I always come away with new learning and understanding.
If there is any pointer about how to / how not to exhibit, it is the mindset, the attitude! Celebrate being there, celebrate making new friends, celebrate your country, celebrate what you do, celebrate life! That joy and enthusiasm will shine through, will make a difference, will enhance your experience and that of the people you meet. Enjoy!
So here’s to Fiona Jeffery and the superb team at World Travel Market, and here’s to WTM 2011, Monday 7 to Thursday 10 November ~ long may it continue!