Vibrant Start to WTM London 2023: A Day of Insightful Gatherings and Tourism Insights

WTM London 2023, the globe’s most influential travel and tourism event, commenced on November 7, 2023, in London, with a series of international gatherings, setting the stage for an exciting event.

The 17th edition of the WTM Ministers’ Summit held in partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), welcomed 40 ministers in 2023. The summit’s theme, “Transforming Tourism through Youth and Education,” underscored the significance of investing in education.

Natalia Bayona, Executive Director of UNWTO, emphasized the multifaceted nature of tourism, stating that only 80% of relevant degrees focus on hotel administration. Several ministers also shared their insights at the summit. The UK’s Sir John Whittingdale highlighted the prospects of social mobility within the travel industry, where individuals can start from the bottom and ascend to leadership positions.

On the Discover Stage, destinations showcased their sustainability initiatives, offering best practices from around the world. Examples included the German National Tourist Office encouraging tourists to extend their stays to reduce their carbon footprint. Other tourist boards, such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and France, detailed their efforts to attract more visitors during shoulder and winter seasons, promoting lesser-known destinations to alleviate pressure on popular ones. Spain also focused on slow travel, promoting train-based holidays.

Brazil’s Embratur highlighted Bonito, known as the world’s first carbon-neutral ecotourism destination, while Tourism Australia introduced the Discover Aboriginal Experiences collective.

In addition, the WTM Start-Up Pitch Battle, in partnership with Amadeus, recognized InterLnkd as the winner. InterLnkd’s platform connects travel and hospitality suppliers with fashion and beauty retailers, offering a proprietary matching engine that presents travelers with relevant products, creating a new revenue stream for the travel industry.

A session titled “Spotlighting Hidden Disabilities: Successful Strategies for Inclusive Travel” emphasized the importance of making neurodivergent individuals feel at ease during their travels. Neurodiversity Consultant Onyinye Udokporo shared that the term “neurodivergent” witnessed a 5,000% increase in searches on Google last year, highlighting the growing awareness of hidden disabilities. She stressed the need for hotel companies, airlines, and corporations to make internal changes to support employees. Suggestions included incorporating adjustable lighting and offering weighted blankets to reduce anxiety.

Former WTM Director Fiona OBE discussed her work in founding the clean water project, Just A Drop, with a panel on “Empowering Women to Change Travel.” The First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid, highlighted the country’s efforts to close the gender pay gap.

Numerous destinations used the platform to share their plans. The Balearic Islands revealed their focus on sport and culture to extend the tourism season, with 40 low-season events planned for the coming year. The islands’ president, Marga Prohens, emphasized the government’s commitment to aligning tourism, culture, and sport within a single department.

Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin detailed Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 tourism plan, which seeks to address the country’s economic challenges and youth unemployment by fostering tourism growth. He expressed hope that the country would achieve its 2030 target of 100 million visitors and revised the goal to 150 million, involving a substantial investment of $800 billion.

Greece’s tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, announced the nation’s transition to a “new era in sustainability.” Despite pandemic challenges and geopolitical factors, Greek tourism exhibited remarkable resilience, with a year-to-year increase of 18% in arrivals and a 15% rise in tourism receipts. The country is now focusing on sustainability, extending the tourism season, and promoting eco-friendly practices across various sectors, including ski resorts, diving destinations, and marinas.

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