Charlie Mayhew, Founder and Chief Executive of Tusk Trust, and Fiona Jeffery, Chairman, World Travel Market, launched the WTM World Responsible Tourism Day 2012 with a plea for the travel industry to work closely with the conservation sector to ensure that endangered species and landscapes are preserved for future generations.
Jeffery noted that the industry needed to do more to help disabled travelers, but warned that carbon emissions are still the industry’s most important challenge.
Mayhew’s charity was founded in 1999, and has raised and invested more than $25 million into a wide range of projects. One-third of the money raised every year is invested into education.
His current focus is fighting the recent upsurge in ivory smuggling. He got his point across by showing delegates an image of a 43-year-old elephant which had been shot dead by poachers and had its face removed by chainsaw.
The sessions were moderated by BBC World journalist, Stephen Sacker. The WRTD Hot Seat interview featured Wolfgang Neumann, executive VP and COO of the Rezidor Hotel Group. Neumann said that his 327-strong hotel chain, which includes brands such as Radisson Blu, Park Inn by Radisson and Hotel Missoni, have committed to reduce energy consumption by 25% by 2016.
Another regular feature of the WTRD is the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. The overall winner this year was Reality Tours and Travel. The business, set up in 2005, offers city and village tours in Mumbai and beyond. The award is for their educational Dharavi Slum Tours.
Elsewhere, today saw the opening of WTM Social Travel Market, a dedicated program of events around social media. Many of the sessions were standing room only.
One session which proved particularly popular was about video blogging. Intrepid Travel outlined how it teamed with Perennial Plate, a pair of professional bloggers, to promote food trips to Vietnam. MSC Cruises gave six bloggers a camera crew to work with to film the highlights from stopovers in order to attract younger cruisers, while Inside Japan Tours ran a competition for bloggers, the winner of which will write up a 21-day all-expenses paid trip.
The Psychology of Social Media also attracted bumper crowd. Allister Frost, founder of Wild Orange Media, explained how Google has coined the phrase “the zero moment of truth” which is the point at which consumers turn to digital technology to learn about products from reviews, Twitter, Pinterest, and other online sources.
“Any dissonance between the promise you set up in your marketing and what they find in the digital world, you are dead,” he said.
One of yesterday’s highlights was the UNWTO Ministers Summit at WTM, with one recurring theme air access. At today’s Airline – Setting the Scene session, Emirates raised the issue of access. One of the most ambitious airlines in the world is unable to fly into Berlin because the bilateral agreement dates back to 1974, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification.
Elsewhere, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) marketing specialists, Out Now Global, is a regular exhibitor at WTM. It launched three new initiatives designed to help travel businesses tap into the market which will be worth a record-breaking $181 billion next year, up 9.7% on 2012.
Another regular topic during WTM2012 has been the impact and legacy of London 2012. A session hosted by Ken Robinson, CBE, former Chair of the Tourism Alliance and independent advisor to the tourism sector, said branding constraints were limiting what the tourism industry can do around major events, with the use of Olympics branding restricted to commercial partners only.
While not part of the social media program, online networking came up in a session about the Chinese outbound market. Destinations and travel companies can access more than 330 million Chinese consumers on the second biggest social networking site in the world via a new website. Tripshow.com has been developed by social media and e-marketing company Dragon Trail and allows non-Chinese companies to upload pictures which can be tagged and shared by Chinese consumers on the Chinese social network site weibo.com.
Finally, #WTM2012 has appeared frequently in the Top Ten Trending Now (UK) list on Twitter, peaking at number 5 at around 1230 this afternoon.