A repeat visitor to World Travel Mart 2009 that ended last week may be forgiven for thinking that there was no recession as the number of exhibitors was nearly as many (over 5500) as those for 2008 (5615). The crush of attendees alighting from London's DLR (docklands light railway) seemingly all at once every morning at the Excel Center did nothing to dispel that notion.
Countries that participated in a truly big way included economically deprived nations such as Nigeria as well as economically devastated states like Iceland. Formerly war-torn Sri Lanka also had a substantial footprint with a range of tour operators, hotels and its national carrier.
Innovative exhibitors such as hotelbeds where one could replicate a business experience with the receptive company showcased their wares next to relative minnows like Vertical Bookings. There was the obligatory exhortation to the travel industry to be mindful of climate change and even a seminar purporting to teach how best to "steward national identity" with a view to enhancing the reputation of nations. Some American tourism bosses even claimed to have found an entirely new market segment called the "funemployed"! The urban dictionary defines "funemployment" as "a happy time in one's life when one is not employed and is not wanting to be employed". Not to be outdone, organizers at WTM decided to dole out badges for some visitors with the title of "unemployed". It was hard to see the merit of the latter at any level whether as an exhibitor or a trade visitor.
WTM's technology section, off to one side of Excel's floor was not wanting either with a range of offerings for hoteliers and other travel providers with cutting edge companies such as netbiscuits looking to help hospitality to grow revenue in the fast emerging field of mobile technology. That the latter is clearly the next frontier as a distribution channel is clear from the fact that use of mobile browsers is increasing at warp speed. And yet top travel sites, according to a recent report continue to make consumers wait "anything from six seconds to more than 30 seconds
for the homepage’s of the top ranking travel sites to load." Consumers on mobile phones are likely to be even less patient. Seems like an opportunity for technology companies in the hospitality sphere that, perhaps, could be ready for WTM 2010.