World Travel Market 2011: A Smashing Success
I have never been to any event that remotely resembled World Travel Market.
Picture this: nearly every country in the world has a stand in a conference building ten times the size of most wedding venues in London. Some of these stands are design marvels, particularly in the Middle East section. It takes 10 minutes to walk from one end of the building to another. There’s great coffee in Austria and Colombia, custard tarts in Portugal, kava in Fiji, and empanadas in the Dominican Republic.
Oh, yes. You keep running into your travel blog friends and saying things like, “I was just in South Africa and I’m on my way to Sri Lanka, but you want to meet up in Holland for a beer at 5?”
For Travel Nerds
All my life, since the days of Carmen Sandiego, I’ve harbored geography trivia in the back of my mind. I haven’t really had much of a chance to use it beyond games of Scattegories (“Somewhere hot that starts with P? Phnom Penh! Double score!”).
This is the first time in my life I actually got to use it.
I ended up talking to the Grenada rep about the island, and told him I wanted to visit. He, not surprisingly, asked why.
Wrack your brain, Kate! I told myself. SPICES! SMELLS! LA LUNA RESORT! DIRECT FLIGHTS FROM NEW YORK CITY!
I did this again when pulled into an impromptu events — a beer with the folk hero mayor of Vilnius, a dinner with Bermuda tourism, a meeting with a tour operator in India.
It felt like I was exercising a part of my brain for the first time ever.
The tide is turning for bloggers. Tourism boards and travel businesses are gradually becoming more blogger-savvy. The thing is, it’s not everyone — for every business that is eager to work with bloggers, there are two more who have no idea why we’re at the conference in the first place.
Take Egypt, for example. Egypt, as you may know, is facing a massive downturn in tourism right now. There is an advertising blitz all over the London tube. But to my shock, nobody from marketing, PR or any related department was there to talk to bloggers. I got the general marketing email address. That’s it.
For the price of one single ad on the tube, they could host a ton of bloggers on a five-star trip, airfare included, and get a TON of targeted coverage all over the web. And they could do a cheaper trip with more people. People don’t realize this, and it’s our job to tell them.
As for me, I was a machine. I spent four straight days going from stand to stand, iPad in hand, media kit pulled up on the screen. Having my media kit on my iPad, by the way, was the best decision I made.
Worst decision I made? Probably pitching Oman the one day I wore a low-cut top.
And a lovely surprise: my friend Kash was invited to give a presentation on working with travel bloggers to Atout France, France’s tourism board. Rather than be the sole presenter, he invited me, Cailin O’Neil, Kirsten Alana, Katy Stewart and Dylan Lowe to join him on a panel. It was a fantastic experience and I am THRILLED that the various tourism boards in France, a country I love and hope to visit more, are so enthusiastic about working with travel bloggers. Click here for the write-up and the video on Travelllll.com.
And I have confirmed what I have long thought — if you want to be a digital nomad, Southeast Asia is the place to be, but if you live and breathe for travel blogging, you move to Europe. Now that I’m based in the UK, there are SO many opportunities open to me that weren’t ever before. Expect a post on this later.
Any time that travel bloggers get together, it’s a GOOD time. Often too good of a time. But WTM isn’t a party conference. The stakes are too high. That said, we had a lot of blogger get-togethers.
It was particularly nice finally getting to meet Cailin, Nellie Huang, Gary Arndt, Kieron Turner and Amy (oh my God, I have no idea what her last name is), and COUNTLESS other bloggers, as well as seeing many old friends. And it was nice that there were events nearly every night for us to be our own little niche group.
The Next Steps
I spent a lot of time preparing for this conference, but the real work hasn’t yet begun — turning my new contacts into mutually beneficial business relationships. That starts now. And since I’m in Jordan right now with a busy schedule and iffy WiFi, the timing isn’t the greatest…but I’m not going to delay. It’s time to follow-up and use these contacts to plan my 2012.
Should You Go?
If you’re a travel blogger, you might be wondering whether WTM is worth attending, especially if you’re new to the world of travel blogging. Especially since it seems to be such an intimidating conference.
I won’t lie. It’s incredibly intimidating, and you need to be outgoing in order to succeed here. But after the first morning, you’ll hopefully find your sales voice. If not, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Tag along with more seasoned bloggers and see how they work.
If you’re not into cold pitching, there are plenty of less intimidating events — anything geared toward bloggers, Social Travel Market seminars, formal and informal tweet-ups, presentations by other bloggers. You can also just wander around and satisfy the little geography geek living inside of you.
Just come next year. I guarantee you won’t regret it.