I was lucky enough to attend my first World Travel Market last year and was left wide-eyed by the extravagance of the stand designs and marvelling at the industry coming together from around the world. Not to mention exhausted from running from one side of Excel to the other juggling press packs, on-stand badges and a laptop, all whilst wearing high-heeled boots – oh I had a lot to learn!

Since then, it’s sadly safe to say the world has really been turned on its head and I was unsurprised when we received the news that WTM would take place virtually this year.

As we all know, virtual events have been all the rage in 2020 and some more than others have really set the bar high for what a successful online event looks like, so I was curious to see if the leader of travel events could compete.

Here are my four key takeaways from this year’s Virtual WTM:

1. There is a real and apparent need for people in the industry to be connected – WTM has thrived on bringing people together from around the world in one place for many years and the demand for that connection is still apparent.

2. Virtual events can’t replace the value of face-to-face contact – Whilst Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings have proved invaluable to businesses during the pandemic, WTM this year has proven that digital doesn’t always equate to better or more efficient.

3. The ‘My Schedule’ page and pre-set meeting times were really useful in creating a lean and tailored appointment program for our international clients, which in turn provided a more focused WTM experience.

4. Demand for travel is up – It was fantastic to hear that travel enquiries and bookings have been and are still increasing in the last few months. Pent up demand, coupled with the recent travel corridor announcements, have really boosted interest in travel, putting it on a good foot as we enter into the new year.

Still, I couldn’t help but miss the buzz that comes from being at the Excel Centre, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people bumping into old industry friends or rushing to an anticipated conference session, and especially walking past stands drawing in crowds with dance performances, snow cones and of course the odd cocktail socialiser… or two!

Here’s hoping we’ll be back to Canning Town in 2021!