World Travel Market 2012 #wtm2012

Me with two gorgeous girls I find inspiring, Anna Pollock and Zoe Dawes

World Travel Market has come and gone again. It’s not just a four-day event, it is so much more. I’m always like a child in a sweetie shop when I go – so much to see, so much to do and so many wonderful people there. There is no way I am going to be able to mention all those I met and reconnected with.

The intensity of the four days leaves you slightly bemused and not just a little tired on the Friday! The schedule of workshops and seminars is a joy, the only challenge you face is which ones you can get to! Always open and highly informative, always accommodating to the audience.

Me, Michela Fantinel, Valy Dumoulin, Sue Hillman & Zoe Dawes beneath a very green young man famous for incontinence in Belgium ;-)

On the delightful Hungary stand

I am told the length of the Excel is nearly half a mile. That’s a whole lot of walking we get through in four days!  Not that it makes that much difference to the figure when you can taste all the exotic foods of the world there – I have to walk around with purpose in my stride, no lingering where there are tasty titbits to be sampled. Well, not often anyway, although I did succumb to the offerings of Hungary; mainly because the young girl acting as an ambassador for her country was so absolutely lovely, professional and helpful, that I couldn’t resist!  In fact, she was one of the best ambassadors for a country, I’ve ever met at WTM.  So much so, that both Zoe Dawes and I cannot wait to visit Hungary now!

This is a perfect example of why the PR in ThatsPR signifies Personal Relationships and not the normal Public Relations.  You can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on marketing your brand but if you do not have ambassadors who proudly and enthusiastically represent you, if will not count for much.

It’s people who matter, people who make a difference, people who build relationships.

View from balcony

View from South Quays DLR station, looking opposite way

I spent the week of WTM sharing an apartment with the endearing and zestful, Zoe Dawes (aka @quirkytraveller). The apartment was courtesy of City Base Apartments and Central London Apartments and it was a treat to come back to at the end of a long and tiring day.  Situated near the DLR, it was good for access to anywhere you wanted. It’s a great alternative to a hotel, as you have your own bedrooms but share the sitting room and kitchen & dining area. So each evening, after we’d eaten, we checked what we needed to on-line and then flopped onto the settees for a good old natter.

I’ll carry on with another post as soon as ……..

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The future of tourism #FUTourism

I have so many posts I want to get onto the blog, that it is diffficult to know where to start, so here goes. Recently I spent an evening at The Future of Tourism event, held at The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, Mayfair in London. The big bonus was that I sat next to Andy Jarosz of 501 Places fame. I have immense respect for Andy, he’s well versed in travel and tourism, writes extremely interesting and informative posts and, to top it all, is a very, very nice man!

“G Adventures invites you to join us at the Future of Tourism, an evening of lively discussion about the future of the travel industry and sustainable travel, with visionaries from across the tourism spectrum.  We’ll be exploring the future of travel and how sustainable tourism plays such a vital role in giving back to the places we visit.

RSVP to join us and enjoy a top line-up of speakers:  Bruce Poon Tip – Founder, G Adventures  :::  Richard Hammond – Chief Executive and Founder, Greentraveller  :::  Gary Arndt – Travel Blogger, Everything Everywhere  ::: Paula Vlamings – Associate Director, Planeterra

While there is no official charge for the event, we are suggesting a donation of £5 which will benefit the Planeterra Foundation. Founded by G Adventures, Planeterra is a non-profit foundation supporting social and environmental solutions in the destinations our travellers visit.
We look forward to seeing you there!   

The team at G Adventures”

The evening was introduced by the delightful Lyn Hughes, co-founder of Wanderlust. Hardly any seats were empty and the audience was in sparkling form.  Behind the presentation podium was a large screen showing the presentations, etc.  Either side of this was a smaller screen with live tweets being shown with the hashtag #futourism, or, as Lyn said, easier to remember if you say FU Tourism!

The tweet screens were well used during the evening and there were some very witty people attending and participating. They were very amusing and chuckles abounded, but sometimes to the detriment of the speakers as they could not see them and when they did look round, the screens were on the next tweet.

Richard Hammond was the first speaker on and, as one of the tweets said, ‘he didn’t mention TopGear once!’. Richard is the Chief Executive and Founder of award-winning website Greentraveller, the travel editor of GREEN magazine (distributed by The Guardian) and writer of the ‘Go Green’ column in National Geographic Traveller magazine.

Richard was an eloquent and very interesting speaker and was not distracted by tweets or chuckles once – a credible feat!  I’d not heard him before and learnt a lot, mainly from the passionate way he was speaking, I was definitely engaged!

Gary Ardnt spoke next. Gary is the creator of one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, everything-everywhere, and one of TIME’s “Top 25 Best Blogs of 2010”. He has been travelling the world since 2007. An amusing speaker, Gary has a wealth of travel experiences and stories to share and spoke about the joys or otherwise of communication whilst travelling. He ended his talk by saying ‘Travel is a right.’

And that is where I disagree entirely; I believe travel to be an absolute privilege. Travel as a right can be destructive- conscious travel, eco travel, local travel, is what we should all be doing.  There are some inspirational pioneers in this field, but that subject is for another post :-)  Suffice to say there is a very small number of countries that is virtually unspoilt. Bhutan is right up there in cherishing its place on our wondrous planet. Bhutan limits its tourist numbers and looks after every living thing.  The gross national happiness that the kingdom measures, is a clear indication that happy people are caring people, lucky country!

The third speaker was Paula Vlamings, Co-Executive Director, Planeterra. Through her work at the environmentally focused Institute at the Golden Gate, Paula became involved in sustainable tourism and the power tourism has as an economic development tool. At Planeterra, Paula works to create lasting benefits in the communities G Adventures travels to.  An admirable organisation, working with the local communities towards sustainable tourism.

The final speaker, and the finale, was the man himself, Bruce Poon Tip. A true pioneer in the travel and tourism industry and a confident & competent presenter. Bruce founded G Adventures in 1990 with the belief that other travellers would share his desire to experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner. He was right, it’s grown from a one-man show to a company of over 1350 world wide.

The next event in the series is in Melbourne on the 18th April, it sold out ages ago!  G Adventures is to be applauded for these events and all that it does in the field of sustainable and responsible travel and tourism, long may the company carry on!

Time and travel

Okay, what happened to the last two months?  I can’t believe it’s March tomorrow!

I just looked up March on Google, and learnt something new (courtesy of Wikipedia)

The name of March comes from ancient Rome, when March was the first month of the year and named Martius after Mars, the Roman god of war. In Rome, where the climate is Mediterranean, March was the first month of spring, a logical point for the beginning of the year as well as the start of the military campaign season. January became the first month of the calendar year either under King Numa Pompilius (c. 713 BC) or under the Decemvirs about 450 BC (Roman writers differ). The numbered year began on March 1 in Russia until the end of the 15th century. Great Britain and its colonies continued to use March 25 until 1752, which was when they ultimately adopted the Gregorian calendar. Many other cultures and religions still celebrate the beginning of the New Year in March.

I didn’t know 1st March was the beginning of the New Year here until 1752 ~ the internet is truly amazing; all the information you could want to know at your fingertips!  History is like travel, the more you delve into it, the more you want.

All you have to do is log onto one of the social media sites and you can share in the travels of many lovely travel bloggers. What a fantastic way to learn about this wonderful planet of ours. I have friends all over the world – I feel truly privileged about that.

Travel is not a right, it’s a privilege.  I saw a tweet this morning from Jo Galloway, who is trekking across the Himalayas soon for charity, this sums up what travellers should be doing :-)

Must order the eco goodies for my Himalaya trek buddies. We want to leave only footprints.  http://bit.ly/eBtLLl

The travel and tourism industry does pay attention to responsible travel, but how much differs greatly. Yes, there are many great people out there, advocating and acting upon making travel responsible. People who inspire. But, there are also many who just pay lip service to it.

Are you a giver or a taker?  Do you take care to ensure your travels will not have a negative impact where you go, or, do you just book to go somewhere and take advantage of being a traveller in a foreign land?

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.  Robert Louis Stevenson

WTM itself

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.

This year I was going with two clients ~ the amazing Anna Pollock and also, Polynesian Xplorer from Samoa.

The A Team for Samoa & Polynesian Xplorer

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!

The journey to WTM 2010 – double trouble!

This year, I was looking forward to going to the Tweet-up at St Albans on my way to World Travel Market.  The fabulous Andy Jarosz of 501 Places had been hosting a weekend bloggers trip for travel bloggers and then, on the Sunday evening, there was an open invitation for other Tweeters to join the fun.

The Saturday had been hectic with moving house; boxes were everywhere and Sunday was filled with trying to make some sense of the disorder and copywriting & proofreading ready for the next day.  Tempus fugit – the time was suddenly half past six in the evening – argh!

Quick call to Andy to explain that I couldn’t make St Albans by 7.30 but would be there as soon as I could.  Ah yes, just a quick shower, pack the case and off!   Trains every half hour and it takes an hour to St Albans.  Aleck, my son, took me to the station for the next train and …. away I didn’t go!  They had engineering work happening on the line and buses were taking passengers to the next station (Flitwick) to pick up the trains there – oh joy.

Aleck took me to Flitwick and, as we got there, we watched the train pull out of the station, giving us a half hour until the next one.  By the time I did actually get to sit on a train, it was gone 9 o’clock and I wasn’t going anywhere quickly!  Sadly I sent a text to Andy to apologise for not being there; I wasn’t exactly a happy bunny as had been looking forward to the event for ages.  I got to St Pancras to find I’d left my oyster card at home, which, as it turned out, was a blessing.  Went to get a new card and the nice man at the ticket office asked where I was going.  When I said I needed to get to Custom House, he then told me I couldn’t go the usual way because, guess why?, they were doing engineering works, and proceeded to give me alternative routes!  Oh for goodness sake, not again, but I thought it wouldn’t be that bad.  Big mistake, I finally checked in at the hotel at gone midnight!  What a ‘super’ start to the week!

Since the World Travel Market moved to Excel, and after the first year’s horrendous transport debacle, each year, WTM and Transport For London have told us that the transport will be much improved and stress free – and each year it isn’t!  WTM is the biggest event that takes place at Excel and involves people from all over this wonderful world of ours.  For some it’s the first time they have been to England.  It really saddens me to think that the first impressions are of Heathrow airport, which would never win a beauty contest; but the London train system would beat it hands down for the ‘fail whale’!

Just two years to the Olympics, oh my goodness, it is really frightening.

Personal Relationships

The PR in thatspr represents personal relationships rather than public relations.

The personal relationships you build with your clients can spill over and you become friends as well.  Great for a working relationship – you trust and respect each other as well as liking each other.  I have been very fortunate here and word of mouth recommendation has been good to me.  Anna Pollock has been a client since 1995 and is also a wonderful friend.  Anna is the person I most admire in the travel and tourism industry.  She has such integrity and is not in the ‘old school network’ that is still around.  What she is, is a woman of her word, a true visionary and someone who was writing papers on subjects, that are now being discussed in 2010, nearly ten years ago!

It’s the same with social media, you connect with someone on twitter, facebook, linked-in and other sites and you begin to build a relationship.  The people you connect with best are those with shared values, interests and aims.  I have met some amazing people through this medium.

Last year, at World Travel Market, I met some of the travel writers and bloggers on twitter and facebook.  What a treat that was, all even nicer than I had thought they would be.  Since then I have met other delightful people and some have turned into true friendships.  The personal relationships you develop have a bearing on your outlook and it is so true about keeping company with those who uplift you.

In two weeks time it is World Travel Market again – I love it!  And I am going to meet so many more travel-lovers this year as well as catching up with old friends.  The people, opportunities, networking and knowledge that make up World Travel Market are not to be found anywhere else.  It is THE event in our industry!

You may not actually see some people from one year to the next but the friendships and comradery are sincere.  The personal relationships are kept alive through the year via social media and the hugs are saved until you see each other again – how wonderful is that?

It is very much like horticulture.  A garden that is well tended, looked after, weeded and loved is the same as a personal relationship – the more you put into it, the more you get out of it!

Social Networking: Do not say hello

Most people have experienced social networking, from facebook to twitter to linked-in and many more.  I’ve always said that the most important people in a company are the ones who have contact with customers and clients.  So it would follow on that the people tweeting, etc, for companies have the same affect on personal relationships and experiences.

This morning on Twitter someone posted that one of the no-no unwritten rules of Twitter was that you do not say Good Morning!  It brought a lot of retweets onto the screen, all disagreeing with the statement.  I was one of them!  When you meet someone, the first words are a salutation to greet the other person.  That’s called being sociable ~ so surely social networking should follow the same course of action?  The communities I am lucky enough to be in on Facebook and Twitter are extremely friendly, intelligent, witty and sharing.  You log on and the feel good factor soon comes.  And if people feel good, the communication, collaboration and co-operation is something that everyone wants to be part of.

It’s good to talk (I’m sure I’ve heard that tagline somewhere before!).  Happy people mean positive thoughts and better results ~ whoop whoop ~ it really is a win-win situation.   And it begs the question as to why a lot of companies are just posting statements with no interaction at all with anyone else.  You cannot build relationships talking at people; these are built by talking with, and getting to know, each other.  The rules haven’t changed, the scenario may have, but it always has been, and always will be, all about people.

When the relationship is built and the mutual respect is there, anything is possible!