It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m talking about the return of the World Travel Market (WTM) or, as I like to call it, the Toys R’Us of the travel world with all the destinations under one roof.
Last week everyone and anyone from airlines and hotels to cruise and tourist boards, descended upon WTM for the most significant event in the travel calendar. And this year was no exception: the event was back to its former glory, dominating the Excel Centre.
Yes, the sweet treat haul is excellent, and who doesn’t need a new notebook and a novelty pen? But there is more to the event than just collecting more trinkets.
It’s about catching up with contacts, forging new relationships, making deals, challenging peers and, of course, taking in the latest trends and insights on the future of travel.
Travel might be back, BUT there are still obstacles facing the hospitality and travel industry. According to WTM Industry Report 2022, almost a third of industry bosses don’t expect the travel sector to get back to 2019 levels by 2024 and 45 percent are concerned about the impact of the cost of living crisis in 2023.
However, despite the ongoing doom and gloom we are reading everywhere, there are some green shoots, with the WTTC predicting that travel will contribute $8.6 trillion to the global economy this year. Thats +21.5% compared to 2020.
With so much data and information flying around at WTM 2022, I’ve compiled my top three outtakes to provide food for thought as we head into 2023 comms planning.
Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability
If there was one topic dominating the show this year, it was sustainability.
Not surprising given that WTM coincided with COP27 and that 81 percent of travellers consider responsible travel important, and almost three-quarters want to travel sustainably in the next 12 months (Booking.com).
With this in mind, brands were taking every opportunity to announce their latest initiatives to encourage sustainable travel. Similarly, industry leaders revealed Norway is the most sustainable country in the world.
This year, the noticeable difference was that brands no longer compete to be the first. It’s all about uniting together to drive change.
Whilst some countries struggled, others thrived when restrictions were lifted.
But it’s not the usual destination suspects soaring to success. Pent-up demand and an appetite to try something different have seen lesser-visited destinations grow in popularity. According to the UNWTO, the US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Republic of Moldova, Albania, Honduras, and Puerto Rico surpassed 2019 tourism levels.
2023 presents an opportunity for lesser-known destinations to take the spotlight.
Invest in the future:
The travel industry creates 1 in 10 jobs globally (WTTC) and is key to many countries’ economic and social growth.
Mauritius, for example, reinvests profits from travel and tourism into communities to provide education and improve the lives of locals. Without tourism, many societies face a challenging situation.
The key to achieving this is recruitment, and this has become a massive barrier for the hospitality industry. According to the UNWTO, half of young people want to be tourism entrepreneurs but can’t realise their dreams. Many factors are tied into this, but for brands, there is an opportunity to help these young people realise their dreams and recruit for the future. Apprenticeships, work experience placements, or investment in upskilling are ways brands can get involved to encourage travel and tourism as a viable and secure career.
Whilst travel is on its way back, the ever-changing economic and geopolitical environment presents an air of uncertainty for 2023. As Secretary-General of the UNWTO Zurab Pololikashvili said during the Ministers Summit at WTM, “without peace, there can be no tourism.”