The final day of World Travel Market 2012 saw the popular Speed Networking event take place on the final day for the first time, which saw more than 100 buyers discuss post-WTM deals with exhibitors in the Meridian Club Lounge.
Raj Thakkar, Meridian Club Manager, said extending Speed Networking to the final morning had filled a gap in WTM's schedule.
âExhibitors said to us they wanted more buyers on the Thursday, because like any trade show, you get fewer buyers on the last day. At least 50% of these buyers would not have turned up to WTM otherwise.â
The 10:00 am opening saw a large queue form. Among them was David Thomas from UK operator Superbreak.
He said: âMonday was the first time I went to Speed Networking. In a short space of time I saw a lot of people and a high percentage were relevant. It's very well organized.â
James Scipioni, a Director of tour operator Go Barefoot added: âIt's a great warm-up for the rest of the day. You get to meet people that I would not have time to meet on the stand.â
Thursday also saw several key speakers appear at the WTM Talk Business session.
One of them, Easyjet CEO Carolyn McCall, spoke about the need for a 20-30 year transport infrastructure plan for the UK, not one that just focused on Heathrow airport.
McCall said there was too much emphasis on the question of London's hub airport and not enough on the southeast as a whole and on rail infrastructure.
âThis country needs a 20-30 year road map for transport where aviation is integrated with other links and that is what has been lacking for a long time,â she said.
Another Talk Business speaker was Birdseye Iglo Group boss Martin Glenn, who encouraged travel to âinnovate big.â
Glenn said that while the industry was often advised to tweak and monitor results because of tight margins, especially in areas such as technology investment, it was better not to make small, sudden changes because this ends up fragmenting ideas and taking longer.
Glenn, who said he was solely responsible for innovation within his organization, added that travel needed ultimately to address its cost structures to break out of the cycle of tight margins and lack of investment in innovation.
Social media was also a big theme of the day once again. A full session during WTM Social Travel heard that social media has not changed the basic rules of handling crisis situations and needed to be treated with equal importance as other communication channels.
Travel journalist Jeremy Skidmore and Siren Communications' Sarah Rathbone told a full session that taking things seriously, showing you are working hard and well prepared, and having designated spokespeople was key.
Another session, Best Practices in Travel Blogging, told how to avoid the âhashtag #prfail.â
Oliver Gradwell, Director and Founder of Travel Bloggers Unite, said travel bloggers can offer âan extraordinary blend of promotional exposureâ on trips. âThey offer the âHoly Trinity' of promotion: pre-departure, during the trip, and after the trip,â he said.
Tourism Flanders' âWorld's Biggest Blog Tripâ earlier this year generated 100 euro of "conversation value" for every 1 euro spent. The Belgian destination invited 94 bloggers from target global markets to visit festivals in the region during the summer under the âFlanders is a Festivalâ initiative. The cost was 300,000 euro and the âconversational valueâ of the coverage worth 30 million euro.
Bloggers so far have posted 273 blogs, generating 12 million unique visits. Tourism Flanders is planning a similar exercise next year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Tour de Flanders cycling race.
Meanwhile, Thursday also saw the presentation of the People's Choice award for the best stand. Congratulations this year go to Honduras, which was voted for by the WTM online community.