BTN Europe presents an overview of business travel and MICE predictions for this year
ExCeL London - 24-25 February 2021
World Travel Market closed it doors for the second time at Excel last Thursday, undoubtedly a great success, but some would say that this was in spite of its location. The Docklands venue is excellent in itself, spacious, bright and airy, and now actually within a living community. It suffers, as it will always do, in its location. A typical example was a visitor from Bremen who was able to speak from home to a colleague in London”s western suburbs and actually beat him to the show by using London City Airport and the free shuttle. And better still when the DLR opens to LCY in 2005. Manchester Airport to Excel will then be about 60 minutes, not bad. For most European visitors by air the venue is perfect. As it is, the DLR was still a struggle on the opening morning and the organisers have clearly not discovered the alternative railway line, Silverlink Metro, which circumnavigates north London. This is still a 30 minute frequency service. Let us hope that it will be heavily promoted for 2004 and the trains per hour will be doubled, at least from Highbury and Islington to Custom House.
More and more WTM is a destination show (and none the worse for that) with the serious business travellers, their schedule organisers and service providers concentrating on Olympia”s Business Travel Show early in the new year. Since probably the majority of overseas visitors actually came via British Airways one complaint was the lack of visibility by the national carrier, not even a sales desk for changing bookings or gaining information. Electronic reservation systems have a major role to play but are not the answer to everything. Some airlines choose to exhibit in their own right whilst others form part of the national stand. Those with individual participation included Air Europa, Air Jamaica, Bangkok Airways, Continental Airlines, Emirates, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, Nationwide Air, Royal Air Maroc and Saudi Arabian Airlines. In a move that underlines the airline's confidence, Srilankan also took its own stand this year where previously it has shared with the national tourist board. One of the more unusual product ideas being put forward by the carrier is a domestic amphibious air service to serve tourist areas around the country (see above).
South African Airways, with a very big display within the South Africa stand, were promoting yet another increase of frequency bringing the airline's total on the route to nine a week and the total from the UK to South Africa to 23 weekly flights. Qatar just had a desk, easy when the state tourist board mounts an impressive display all around you, your name is the same as the country of origination and you can supply airhostesses to adorn the stand.
SAA's lie-flat business class product continues to be rolled out through the fleet and is now expected to be on all UK flights by the middle of next year. Among the smaller airlines, Russia's Transaero makes its first World Travel Market appearance this year. The carrier, which operates three flights a week out of Gatwick to Moscow Domodedova, promoted its strong Russian and East European network at WTM as well as its new route from Moscow to Hong Kong. CSA Czech Airlines is another carrier endorsing its extensive Eastern European network. The airline, which operates more than a hundred flights between the UK and Czech Republic, is working to develop its Prague base as a significant European hub.
Middle East Airlines had a high profile within the Lebanon Ministry of Tourism delegation as it celebrates the renewal of its entire fleet with Airbus A330 aircraft and record passenger figures out of the UK. Most of the passenger traffic is ethnic but with Beirut now said to have a lower crime rate than Switzerland, efforts will be directed at reviving the city's once flourishing tourism economy. Other airlines exhibiting with their national tourist board delegations include Estonian Airlines, Lufthansa, Mexicana and Vietnam Airlines.
The Mexican carrier, Mexicana, soon to step out of the Star Alliance (see above), highlighted a fleet upgrade to Airbus A320 and A319 aircraft and new routes such as Mexico City ” Las Vegas and Guadalajara ” San Antonio in Texas and to Vancouver.
ABTN noted about 50 airlines at Excel, some more apparent than others. What seems to be universally accepted was WTM”s excellence as a forum and meeting place. Where else could you be talking to a senior airline executive from Uzbekistan one moment, then an investor starting a new operation in the Pacific, followed by an airport person from the US Mid West. Roll on WTM at Excel in 2004.