Are hotel groups boycotting WTM?

Now in its 26th year, World Travel Market appears to continue to go from strength to strength, as exhibitor figures and attendance numbers grow year on year. Certainly, the London travel extravaganza puts on a good show: with Irish dancers, blockbuster movies and the latest musical all jumping on the bandwagon in recent years.

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  December 12, 2005

|~|WTM2005_129L.jpg|~||~|Now in its 26th year, World Travel Market appears to continue to go from strength to strength, as exhibitor figures and attendance numbers grow year on year. Certainly, the London travel extravaganza puts on a good show: with Irish dancers, blockbuster movies and the latest musical all jumping on the bandwagon in recent years. This year’s event recorded an overall increase in attendance of 5% to almost 49,000 people, and certainly the sprawling mass of exhibitors across ExCeL left many a visitor feeling defeated before they even began, realising that four days simply was not long enough to make the most of this industry behemoth of a trade show. However, a quick sweep of the Global Village pavilion showed that some of the usual suspects were in fact missing. Many of the international hotel chains didn’t choose to exhibit this year. No Marriott International, no Four Seasons, no Ritz-Carlton and no InterContinental Hotels Group. It seems the global hospitality players no longer want to play the WTM game. Regionally, individual hotels did turn out in force, albeit as part of their respective destination tourism board delegations. Which leads one to wonder, are the big hotel chains deliberately boycotting the show, or is it more of a case that as technology advances corporate accounts can be managed more easily online rather than face-to-face at international trade fairs? Talking to those hoteliers present at the show, the general consensus was that WTM was little more than a PR exercise, a change to ‘press the flesh’ with colleagues, competitors and peers, and perhaps catch up on a little industry gossip. A quick chat with one of Marriott International’s London-based directors of marketing confirmed that the US company had decided not to attend the exhibition with a corporate stand, because WTM was no longer vital to the sales process. Again, technological advancements were cited as one reason why trade exhibitions were no longer relevant. While the business reasons appear valid, it seems a shame that the hospitality industry appears to be turning its back on the chance to interact with the international travel trade. As hoteliers, shouldn’t they embrace the chance to meet new people, learn about new destinations and promote their brands? At the end of the day, the hotel business is a people business and hotel companies should be wary of cutting themselves off from the trading floor, as they hide behind GDS systems and web sites. Funnily enough, the one hotel-orientated event at WTM was a panel discussion between industry leaders from Starwood, Cendant, Best Western, Yotel and Hilton, which focused on the growing importance of e-marketing and distribution. Perhaps show organiser, Reed Travel Exhibitions, had already seen the writing on the wall when it scheduled this event.||**||

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