Previous speed networking sessions at World Travel Market (WTM) were so well received, that many people were keen to repeat the experience as it offered the chance to make valuable, targeted contacts in a concentrated period, enabling them to chase lucrative leads later at the show.
Day four of World Travel Market – the leading global event for the travel industry – opened with another packed Speed Networking Session with hundreds of buyers and sellers keen to meet and discuss business deals.
Vikas Khanduri, Chief Executive, Holiday Merchants, commented: “Last year was very, very good – the best part of WTM. There are good, targeted suppliers to meet and we get deals from the most serious people – they are to the point.
Tourism Intelligence International Managing Director Dr. Auliana Poon added: “Judging by the amount of people here, it should be even bigger. I’m really surprised to see so many people here and they were lining up to get in.
“It is a brilliant idea and demonstrates just how much people want to work together.”
The UK’s various tourism bodies need to start working together in order to meet the best interests of both the country and holidaymakers.
London Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise Kit Malthouse said a more cohesive strategy would ensure visitors are encouraged not just to visit London, which currently attracts 80% of all overseas tourists, but to extend their trips and visit other destinations such as Wales and Scotland.
He argued this would not only benefit the entire country financially but would also ensure tourists get a complete experience of Britain, as opposed to simply its capital.
Malthouse said: “If you (the nation’s different tourist boards) cooperate and come together then you would promote the country better.”
He added a further benefit would be ensuring the various tourist bodies could then speak to Government with one voice and so get better recognition of their work and greater assistance.
Another well-attended session on the fourth morning was the Future You conference for travel and tourism students, organized by the Institute of Travel and Tourism.
It was standing room only as WTM’s Nicole Collett joined Matthew Gardiner (Choice Hotels Europe) and Ben Jarman (Hidden Journeys at the Royal Geographical Society) as the three are among Travel Trade Gazette’s 30 under 30 Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders.
They joined Daniel Pearce, Managing Director of TTG Media Limited, as they gave the students key tips on how to succeed in the sector.
British Airways has left it too late to get a foot-hold in today’s budget aviation market, says no-frills pioneer Barbara Cassani.
The former Chief Executive of Go – the late-1990s low-cost offshoot of BA – and a key figure in the early days of the London 2012 bid, spoke about BA’s parent IAG’s acquisition of Vueling and said “the time has passed.”
She also commented on the new ‘consumer-friendly’ image of budget giant Ryanair and its maverick boss Michael O’Leary, urging delegates to “watch the actions not the mouths.”
She admitted O’Leary is very good at creating a buzz, but suggested that he wasn’t turning over a new leaf because he was “cuddly” but because he needs to do so.
Cassani also questioned the feasibility of long-haul low-cost services, such as the Gatwick-transatlantic plans announced last month by Norwegian Air.
The low-cost model may not work because of the economics of marketing and the fixed costs of such long-haul flights, she said, as she arrived for the WTM Talk Business, hosted by WTM Aviation Expert John Strickland.
Cassani later shared the stage with OnHolidayGroup CEO Steve Endacott and bmi Regional CEO Cathal O’Connell.
Costs again were an issue, with O’Connell insisting that it possible to make money operating 50-seat planes, despite the higher overall cost per passenger than most planes.
“It is just a case of finding the markets where it works. We collaborate with industry, organizations and specific companies to ensure that the service is appropriate.”
Costs to the consumer also were discussed, with baggage charges under the spotlight. Endacott suggested that Ryanair’s approach to charges “could damage its relationship with customers.”
He added that he has invested in a business which delivers holidaymakers’ luggage from their home to their hotel cheaper than it would cost to take them on the plane.
O’Connell said: “Travelers now expect to pay for bags, so those airlines that don’t charge need to make use of this in their marketing.”