Germany’s back; Sierra Leone has arrived and Saudi Arabia is bigger

By | Category: Travel news

A new country – Eswatini (it used to be Swaziland) exhibited under its new name

Today is the last day of one of the largest travel trade shows in the world. I have been traipsing out to east London ever since the World Travel Market moved there from Earls Court many years ago. By the time you get through the London rush hour you feel as though you have done a day’s work already.

Although the show is a vehicle for destinations and hoteliers to sell themselves to tour operators and travel agents it is very useful for travel writers because it gives a clue to how much effort (or the lack of it) that destinations are employing to sell themselves. The bigger the stand, the more changes, the more people gives us a clue as to how important they see the British market. Is their exhibition stand bigger or smaller than last years? Do they have anything really new to say or to give us another reason to holiday there?

Take Spain (including the Balearics and the Canary Islands) for example. It has seen a slight slump in the number of British holidaymakers this year as Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt have become more popular. It has always had a large presence and this year is no exception. There are different graphics on some of the stands and they are holding a number of press conferences spread across the three days of the show. Could that be because there is concern that Britons might stay away next year if Brexit is the hard option and they are worried about the impact of needing visas might have on British holidaymakers?

Ras al Khaimah in the Middle East near Dubai had a larger stand this year

In fact Brexit is the elephant in the room. At meetings they will happily discuss it with more than a few suggesting that if the politicians were removed from the negotiations, business people might have sorted it all out by now. Destinations, tour operators, airlines and travel agents are as unaware as the rest of us about what is going on and what will be the eventual outcome. Forecasters (and we’ll bring you some later this week) and trying to understand what is happening but they are no wiser either.

Perhaps that is why the non EU countries have bigger smiles. A hard Brexit might mean more business for them since they have visa systems in place (online applications are becoming the norm) and the infrastructure to process those with visas at airports. Could that be why some of the Middle Eastern and Far eastern countries have bigger stands than I remember them having last year?

and Sharjah’s has become very elegant

This year Germany is back. Its stand is much smaller than it used to be before it pulled out due to the high cost of an exhibition spot. But Germany relies heavily on British holidaymakers with the UK being one of the top five providers of tourists. Maybe they felt they had to have a presence after not exhibiting at all last year.

One country that is making an effort is Sierra Leone, an African country that in recent years has suffered from a war and an ebola outbreak. Their Minister for Tourism, Mrs Memunata Pratt, didn’t sugar coat the country’s past but she – and the government – are actively pushing for tourism development in the country. They are looking for investment in developing more tourist offerings as well as wanting us to holiday there. To help attract us Sierra Leone is going to reduce the cost it charges for visas next year. Coming at the same time as we might possibly have to face visa charges in EU countries, Sierra Leone might have made a smart decision.

The Saudi Arabia stand has become larger this year as does that of Sharjah, Qatar has had a makeover and two of the smaller governments in the area have booths. Fujairah is a little known emirate but then so was Ras-al-Khaimah. Fujairah’s stand is small whereas Ras al-Khaimah’s is much larger. A few years ago this emirate was  hardly noticeable. Today its big push to attract tourists has been working and it regularly not only makes the travel media pages but more and more tour operators are adding it to their brochures.

The stand of the Dominican Republic has also become larger. British visitors make a substantial percentage of the visitors to the country

Some of the Caribbean nations and islands have cut back on their presence such as St Lucia and Dominica, Martinique and the US Virgin Islands. Despite the fact that Barbuda was heavily impacted in the hurricane season last year, Antigua and Barbuda are here in force to promote themselves.

Florida (indeed the whole US contingent) seems as large as ever but South American countries have been steadily expanding over the years. Now the stands of Brazil, Peru, Argentina as well as Mexico will rival any of the other stands is size and colour.

Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey are countries that have attracted more tourists this year as I said earlier largely at the expense of more traditional holiday destinations like Spain and Portugal, Italy and Greece. But Greece has succeeded in attracting more Brits yet it is in the Eurozone so has presented high costs to those Britons holidaying there.

Egypt offered this statue of Tutankhamun

As for the home countries, there isn’t a big presence. They can see UK and Irish operators any time so why attend.

It seemed slightly less busy to me this year but hurrying between press conferences (they largely always run late) means that there is little time stand watching. In a few hours the jamboree witll be over for another year and things can get back to normal. PR people will stop ringing, texting and cajoling writers to turn up, locals will be able to get on their trains a little more comfortably than they have and the travel trade will move on to the next show.

People like me just have a ton of news and ideas to wade through that we’ve been given or sent. Somewhere in all of that will be something in which I hope you, the reader will be interested in!!

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