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R.O.A.R.: ETOA and WTM cannot be compared

Thomas Jenkins  Nov 14, 2008

The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) tries to busy itself with what might be filed “important issues”: sensible taxation; lighter regulation; liberal visa policies; non-hysteria driven security. Among other things, ETOA runs workshops. Now, it is wonderful to know that our efforts are appreciated. But the wider implications of your article “ETOA drops a bombshell” are open to misinterpretation.

The Global European Marketplace (GEM) that we hold on the Friday before World Travel Market is a members-only event. We have 180-odd buyers drawn from our Inbound Tour Operators, Wholesalers and Online Intermediaries. We have about 350 European suppliers with something to sell. At ETOA we strive to make these events as good as we can. But what makes them good are the attendees. The venue helps (“Thank you, New Connaught Rooms”). Sponsors are vital (“Thank you, in particular,. Travel”). But it is the attendees, the members, that are really responsible for making it work.

It is nothing like World Travel Market (WTM). Fiona Jeffrey, gracefully, said I looked “embarrassed” by the comparison. Embarrassed is a small word for what I felt. In the two decades it has been running, WTM has built itself up to be the premier travel fair on earth. There are tens of thousands of attendees, with standholders investing millions of pounds. That they have done so, that they continue to do so, testifies to its enduring strength.

Not only is it incomparably bigger in size and remit, it functions differently. The GEM is a members-only workshop. The exhibition format of WTM enables companies to express the coherence and strength of their brand. And it enables them to meet new contacts on terms that the standholder dictates. Established contacts are important – nobody can make new old friends – but new contacts are vital. They swim in shoals round WTM.

There is a relationship between the two. Nearly all the GEM attendees go on and use WTM to continue conversations. WTM has become the venue where GEM contracts are fully negotiated and closed. But ETOA aims for fundamentally different people: we do not represent the Great British Travel Industry, and have no British Travel Agents on our books. ETOA has a very localized remit: only European destinations are covered. ETOA’s events are wholly complementary to the event in Excel. They were designed as such and are meant to be appreciated as such.

I ought to declare interests: I sit on WTM’s advisory council, and Reed sponsor my Annual Dinner. But I have a far more obvious interest: 40 square meters in the Global Village. My work there this week has prevented me from writing to you earlier.

Thomas Jenkins is the executive director of the European Tour Operators Association.

R.O.A.R.:  ETOA and WTM cannot be compared
Photograph by Nelson Alcantara

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