The event is predicted to generate more than £2 billion worth of deals this year alone while London will be more than £160 million better off as it plays host to almost 50,000 industry professionals attending the show.
The day got off to an auspicious start with the first of two Speed Networking events aimed at introducing exhibitors to the right buyers for their businesses. Superbreak Head of Theatre and Events David Thomas said the broad spectrum of businesses attending the event meant there is always someone worth meeting. He added: “Even with the web, there are still events happening out there which we don’t know about until someone tells us. I had a meeting with a chap who told me about a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition in Brabant next year which I’m pretty sure we can do something with.”
Groupon Head of Travel Greece Irina Pavlova added: “I’m really pleased with how it’s gone. Although I am responsible for Greece, a lot of the contacts made will also be of interest to other country managers, so it’s been a great day for the business.”
Nor was the optimism restricted to the opening speed networking sessions. Former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose was the guest speaker of the WTM Captains of Industry Lunch, which was attended by 200 leaders of the travel industry. He said: “The recession is over. I am pleased to say UK PLC is back in the black and it’s not just about London. People are definitely more upbeat, next year will be a better year.”
While he chastised the UK Government for failing to push more green-focused legislation he added the industry should not see the incorporation of green policies in their businesses as an expensive venture. Instead he said Marks & Spencer made £50 million more in its 2008/09 results as a result of the policies.
Elsewhere Greece reported an 11.6% increase in visitor numbers between May and August for the Region of Attica, home to Athens. The Greek National Tourism Organisation will further capitalise on this trend with the launch of the new athensattica.com website while a new smart phone app will be launched in 2014.
Spain also saw a strong year with up to 13 million Brits, a 5% year-on-year increase, expected to have visited this year. The UK market accounts for 24% of all the destination’s visitors.
Egypt tourism officials are hoping to meet the UK government in the next few days to persuade it to lift its advisory against all but essential travel to most of the country. Despite restrictions imposed since the summer, the country is still set to reach one million UK visitors this year, the same as 2012.
Reed Travel Exhibitions Exhibition Director World Travel Market Simon Press said: “The optimism is out there in the market for 2014 as consumers increasingly think the economy is on the up.
“The first day of WTM has been a great success and will prove the perfect stringboard for the rest of the event.”