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World Travel Market’s 30 years at the top

eTN Staff Writer  Aug 20, 2009

World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, is this year celebrating its 30th event. Over the past three decades, WTM has established itself as the key business-to-business event for the industry.

Here we look back on the highlights and headlines of WTM since it first opened its doors way back in 1980.

1980: WTM’s launch event at Olympia was opened by the Duke of Kent and Miss World, Kimberly Santos of Guam. The show was attending by 350 exhibitors and 7,753 trade visitors.

1981: Princess Alexandra opened WTM to a near riot among Sun newspaper readers when a consumer promotion went wrong.

1982: WTM had already established itself as a fixture on the travel and tourism industry’s calendar with WTM 1982 a massive 50 percent more participants than the launch show.

1983: Paul Ryan, executive director, Europe, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, was the first to construct a bi-level stand complete with a first floor. Up until now, WTM was made up entirely of shell schemes.

1984: WTM 1984 covered three Olympia Halls with each having its own entertainment stage. This increased size saw WTM 1984 attract 1,425 exhibitors and 28,922 trade visitors.

1985: The opening ceremony was standing-room-only drawing its biggest crowd to date to watch Princess Diana opened the event. Princess Diana had just given birth to the youngest of her sons, Prince Harry.

1986: Chairman of WTM Fiona Jeffery joins WTM as marketing manager. WTM’s Global Media Network is formed.

1987: A "naked" Lady Godiva riding a white horse on behalf of Coventry Tourism outside Earls Court caught the attention of delegates and passers by.

1988: Possibly inspired by Lady Godiva from the year before, the Indian Tourist Office hired an elephant from a local circus to parade up and down the WTM forecourt.

1989: Princess Anne helped WTM celebrate its 10th anniversary by opening the 1989 event. The Princess, alongside exhibitors and visitors, were shocked when anti-Apartheid protestors evaded security to drop leaflets on her head. The protestors also painted Olympia’s doors with red paint.

1990: WTM becomes so popular that a decision is made immediately after WTM 1990 to consider an alternative venue. The event moved to Earls Court two years later.

1991: As the Gulf War came to an end in February, the affects it had on the travel industry was huge. The collapse of ILG and its UK-based subsidiaries, including Air Europe and Air Europe Express and the group's two UK airline subsidiaries created a knock-on effect with many jobs and businesses closing.

1992: WTM launched Meridian Club for the industry’s senior buyers to aid negotiations with exhibitors at the first Earls Court event. Meridian Club launched with almost 7,000 (6,907) members. In 2008, it had almost 11,000 (10,981) members.

1993: Fiona Jeffrey continued to rise through the ranks to exhibition director from the position of marketing director, which she had held since 1981.

1994: Environment Awareness Day (now World Responsible Tourism Day) was launched to encourage greater debate on green issues.

1995: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated immediately prior to WTM. Security measures were stepped up at the exhibition.

1996: US exhibitors are the focus of attention as Bill Clinton is elected for a second term as president.

1997: The Egyptian Luxor massacre shocked the exhibition floor when it took place at the same time as the event, when more than 60 tourists were killed by an Islamic terrorist group. Six assailants, armed with automatic firearms and knives and disguised as members of the security forces, were involved. The killing, which went on for nearly an hour, fatally injured a five-year-old child from the UK and four Japanese couples on honeymoon. The massacre resulted in a major tightening of security measures for tourists in Egypt.

1998: WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery founded international water-aid charity, Just a Drop, on behalf of the travel industry. The charity raises desperately-needed funds to build wells, bore holes, install hand pumps, and run health and sanitation programs throughout the world. The charity has raised more than £1million and supported 900,000 people in 28 countries.

1999: Just a Drop helps the victims of a catastrophic earthquake in Turkey with clean water and water purification packs. The earthquake killed 845 people and injured nearly 5,000.

2000: WTM celebrated its 21st birthday with Tribute 21, recognizing 21 of the travel industry’s top international business executives, including The Hon Butch Gordon Stewart, managing director of Sandals Resorts; Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises; Dr Ralf Corsten, chairman, TUI Group; and Sir Richard Branson, chairman, Virgin Group of Companies.

2001: WTM’s whole program was completely rewritten following the events of 9/11. A two-minute silence was held to mark the terrorist attacks, and the program explored the impact it would have on the travel and tourism industry.

2002: WTM moves from Earl’s Court to ExCeL London. Visitors were welcomed by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The opening was performed by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. The world-famous Irish dance group, Riverdance, provided the entertainment, underlining ExCeL’s dockside location by the River Thames.

2003: Film superstar Michael Douglas caused a stir when he made an appearance at WTM representing Mallorca, where he and his wife Catherine Zeta Jones own a holiday home.

2004: WTM celebrated its 25th anniversary. Environmental Awareness Day - which pioneered education of green issues at World Travel Market over 15 years - was renamed World Responsible Tourism Day.

2005: Fiona Jeffery became WTM managing director before becoming chairman in 2008.

2006: The first pan-industry conference to discuss bi-lateral tourism relations with China took place during WTM.

2007: WTM hosted the first UNWTO Ministers’ Summit on Tourism and Climate Change, a key part of an international program to widen and deepen the debate on climate change when they agreed on a declaration and presented it to the UN’s Climate Summit in Bali a month later. Also, Polar explorer, Pen Hadow, opened the first WTM World Responsible Tourism Day, the world’s most ambitious global day of action, designed to encourage responsible tourism activity.

2008: WTM smashes its participant record with almost 50,000 (49,963) exhibitors, visitors, and international media attending the event – an increase of 4 percent on 2007.

World Travel Market’s 30 years at the top
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