30 November 2022, Virtual
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
With London making a very serious attempt to host the 2012 Olympics it was predictable that a native, (Lord) Sebastian Coe, the former Olympic champion and world record holder, and chairman of the bid, would open World Travel Market 2004 promoting the event. In fact his audience was perfect, the international travel trade and media. ExCel would be the home for the boxing, judo, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling. ExCeL's two halls, totalling 65,000 sq metres, regarded as the largest of their kind in Europe. News media reporting to their home outlets could only be impressed with this small part of the Olympic jigsaw.
Perhaps it was the fact that by the third ExCel World Travel Market regulars have found their way how to get to the place, or perhaps it was because these same regulars had sorted out the navigation once they were there, but certainly the 25th WTM had a real buzz about it. In spite of a near 50,000 record attendance over the four days even getting in and getting out of the London Docklands venue was easier than on previous occasions. Whilst there is a courtesy bus from nearby London City Airport, by 2005 the extension to the Dockland Light Railway might well be open encouraging trade visitors from not only regional centres such as Cardiff, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool and Manchester but also from points all over Europe. Our photo was taken last January during the London boat show and from a helicopter and not on take off from LCY, although to be fair the view is much the same.
Starting on the negative it was sad to realise that once again the three major British airlines BA, Virgin Atlantic and bmi were only noticeable by their absence although you could be sure that nearly half the overseas visitors came in on their aircraft. They are without doubt the largest providers of seats for leisure passengers coming from outside Europe to the UK and also in the other direction. In fact overseas airlines were well represented at the show particularly those from the Middle East. Emirates stand was sumptuous, Qatar Airways for the first time was separate from the State of the same name, and Gulf Air”s effort was so good that it took the organiser”s award for the best effort of all. The judges were impressed with the stand's two-tiered set up fully utilising the airline”s strong blue and gold branding. They noted that the contemporary design made excellent use of the space, enabling the airline to incorporate meeting areas, cabin seats and a 'runway' through the centre of the stand with a Formula 1 car ready to take off (to next year”s Bahrain Formula 1 World Championship GP).
Besides the British airlines it was the truants who were the most noticeable by their absence at WTM, either because of circumstances or deliberately. The state of Abu Dhabi”s massive and magnificent looking stand never opened out of respect for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the 86 moderate but visionary ruler who had died the previous week. For whatever reasons Hong Kong pulled out this year, a strange decision considering that the now Chinese city has always been a popular tourist destination.
Following the devastation caused by the hurricanes during September and October the various stands of the Caribbean islands were in full flow showing that business was back virtually to normal and that 2005 looked like being a boom year. Prospective visitors should note when the windy season is and plan their holidays for other times of the year.
With the success of last year”s inaugural airline conference the event was repeated this time around Kevin O”Toole, editor of Airline Business, holding the fort and acting as chairman. Speakers included; Willie Walsh, Aer Lingus; Andrew Swaffield, British Airways; Chris Tarry, CTAIRA; Tim Jeans, Monarch Scheduled; Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC and Paul Heighway of Amadeus.
One notable improvement was the re-location of the press centre to a new position high above the main concourse (see left). Most media briefing sessions were very well attended, countries and locations competing head on to attract the attention of the world”s travel press. Amongst the myriad of briefings perhaps the most important was one by the World Travel & Tourism Council to promote its next summit in New Delhi 8-10 April 2005. India minister of tourism Renuka Chowdhury said that the country was either rebuilding or re-furbishing 21 airports. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet challenged her offer "open skies" for India. Being a politician she neatly sidestepped that one.
World Travel Market is a leisure industry showpiece with the emphasis on the tourist. The inclusion of the dominating hotel organisations, some of the world”s largest airlines, and most of the major car rental companies is a firm indication that those involved in business travel find their, perhaps annual, pilgrimage to London more than worthwhile. Indications are that the 2005 event will be bigger still. Those who did not attend this year missed out.