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ETOA is to apples as WTM is to oranges

Written by editor

LONDON (eTN) – The rain poured inexorably yesterday all over London, but this has not dampened the spirit of thousands from around the world to flock to the ExCel Exhibition Center, where this year

LONDON (eTN) – The rain poured inexorably yesterday all over London, but this has not dampened the spirit of thousands from around the world to flock to the ExCel Exhibition Center, where this year’s edition of the annual event World Travel Market (WTM) is being held.

According to Reed Exhibitions, the event organizer, WTM is a must attend business to business exhibition that provides a unique opportunity for the whole global travel trade industry to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business. By attending WTM, participants efficiently, effectively and productively gain immediate competitive advantage for their business and stay abreast with the latest developments in the travel industry.

Last week, Felix Guttman of the European Tour Operator Association (ETOA) had candidly suggested that his organization’s event called ETOA Global European Marketplace, which precedes WTM, is more successful in generating business among participants within the European market.

“My immediate reaction is to smile,” said Fiona Jeffery, chairman of the World Travel Market. “I think ETOA is a fantastic event and it really generates business for the relevant people and members that attend.”

“However, WTM is an absolutely a doable event where business is done,” Jeffery added, “Last year, over US$28 billion worth of business was actually transacted at the World Travel Market according to independent research. I think the truth is we are comparing apples and oranges.

“I am delighted that ETOA is such a successful business forum, but that doesn’t mean to say that that the World Travel Market is any less successful. We are just look to accommodate a wider, broader and more international audience.”

Ironically, Reed Exhibitions was among this year’s sponsors of ETOA’s annual gathering. As such, ETOA’s chief executive, Tom Jenkins, was quite “embarrassed” about the remark, according to Jeffery.

Year after year, exhibitors and buyers from a growing list of countries and destinations brave London’s cold November weather that undoubtedly awaits them. Obviously, it is the business that they hope to generate that keeps them coming back year after year.

Weather is no concern, even for a destination where there is perpetual sunshine such as the Maldives. The director of the Maldives Tourist Board, Mohamed Adam, said: “UK is the number one market for us, and a lot of people in the UK, they love to go to the Maldives. They try to avoid their weather in London, and they prefer to have the weather like in the Maldives. So we are still very much hoping that a lot of tourists from the UK will be traveling to Maldives. That’s the main reason we keep coming to London.”

In her speech in Monday’s opening ceremony of WTM, Jeffery mentioned specific measures that WTM is putting in place to help the industry cope with the current global economic crisis. She said: “The global industry is robust, diversified, innovative, entrepreneurial, and, in most cases, financially sound. But we simply cannot ignore the crumbling collapses that have scarred international financial markets in recent weeks. We have to face the fact that in some parts of the world in 2009 – certainly here in Western Europe – less package holidays will be sold and those that are, will undoubtedly increase in price.

“These are unprecedented happenings in our lifetime, but I want you to know that we recognize just how tough it is for much of the industry right now and hope that during the next four days World Travel Market can contribute positively to helping business plan and reach out to new markets and profit revenues.”

According to her, WTM has organized two very important business events for senior and middle management executives on Thursday, November 13, which are aimed at helping business work through this turbulent rollercoaster and emerge in much better shape.

The first is ‘The Business Case for Responsible Tourism’ in which “a formidable line-up of international responsible tourism experts” will introduce a “new and potentially valuable means of improving the bottom lin