1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
World Travel Market has come and gone. The travel trade has been to Excel, London's new exhibition centre in the heart of Docklands. Undoubtedly WTM has been a success with a record number of visitors and exhibitors. What was perceived as a difficult place to get to was borne out in a practical sense. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR), normally a pretty reliable mode of transport, caused serious problems on both the opening day (last Monday 11 November) and the Tuesday. It is reported that amongst those stuck on the train for over one hour was Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who officially opened the show.
Where WTM really scored was the exhibition centre itself, two massive 45,000 sq ft halls, connected by a wide spine area itself serving as a meeting and greeting place and a spot to relax. All exhibitors were on the same floor level. Typically South America, now having as much prominence as its travel competitors from say South East Asia, unlike at Earls Court where the Latin America contingent was hidden away on the mezzanine floor. The halls seemed busy and yet airy. The opening day evening firework and laser display went down very well (even if it caused disruptions at nearby London City Airport ” the runway clearly visible from the long balcony overlooking the Royal Victoria Dock) and the mood of the place was very good.
What went right? It was a brilliant idea to offer free rides on the London Eye to all visitors and participants. A massive PR triumph. The open air piazza at Covent Garden welcomed visitors on the Tuesday and the Canary Wharf shopping complex stayed open late on the Wednesday. Excel itself proved to be up to requirements with the possible exception of the first floor reception rooms which are probably too small. The Excel staff were friendly and helpful. Overseas participants were in the main thoroughly pleased with WTM at Excel and say they are coming back although once again reservations were made regarding the time it took travelling to London central.
And what went wrong? Registration once again developed into a miserable wait as visitors piled off the DLR at the Custom House (west) entrance to the halls only to be faced with massive queues. The railway also stops at Prince Regent on the eastern side where one could quietly get off and check into the show without any wait at all. Visitors must be told of this alternative entry way next time. Complaints were heard regarding the fast food outlets and their costs. It”s an old problem regarding shows of this nature but given the strength of the pound sterling it is exaggerated, overseas visitors comparing the prices of a not very good sandwich to a complete quality restaurant meal back home.
For the future more hotels and facilities are due to open on and around the site. The DLR is being extended to London City Airport. And people, having been once, will actually know where WTM is taking place. Earls Court will be forgotten. Roll on World Travel market 2003. The exhibitors are re-booking.