WTM London 2023: Diversity, Inclusion, Future of Travel, Responsible Tourism

Day two of World Travel Market (WTM) London 2023 – the world’s most influential travel and tourism event – saw key topics discussed including diversity and inclusion, the future of travel and responsible tourism.

The future of travel: Kicking off with a discussion about the next generation of people to join the travel industry, the Institute of Travel & Tourism Future You session told students how they could prosper in an industry that will have 85 million vacancies globally by 2030.

Anne Lotter, Executive Director of the Global Travel and Tourism Partnership, said 40% of jobs in the industry are at the higher end of pay scales. “This is a sector where you can start at the bottom and climb very high,” she said.

Louie Davis, easyJet Holidays Senior Strategy Manager, described how he had approached 30 travel agencies for work experience. “Twenty-nine said no, one gave me work experience, persistence pays. Keep knocking on doors, eventually one will open,” he said.

The travel outlook: The travel industry faces potential global economic downturns and recession but the outlook from mid-2024 is positive, leading forecasters have predicted.

A WTM London conference session; Inflation, War and Societal Collapse, What’s Next for the World’s Economies? heard how high inflation, soaring borrowing costs and the Middle East conflict would impinge on buying patterns in many countries.

Dave Goodger, Managing Director, EMEA, Tourism Economics said: “We are looking at a potential recession in a lot of countries. We’re seeing high prices undermining a lot of people’s earning potential and higher interest rates are a real shock. There are a lot of warning signs.”

However, he said there were also positives: “People are diverting spend to essentials and cutting discretionary spend, but within that they are still wanting to travel.”

Andy Cates, Senior Economist at Haver Analytics, said conflicts in Israel, Ukraine and the potential China-Taiwan issue had influenced travel patterns and prices of goods. In addition, higher energy prices could be here to stay, he indicated, with real energy costs now 80% more than 25 years ago.

Destination updates: China was a separate debate on the Discover Stage. Adam Wu, CBN Travel Chief Operating Officer, said Chinese outbound tourism had fallen drastically from 2019’s 155 million to 40.4 million in the first half of 2023. However, he said this was still equal to the population of Spain, adding only 41.6% of international flights from China were operating compared to 2019.

Those Chinese who were travelling were spending 24% more than in 2019, when a total of $254.6 billion was spent – four times the amount spent by UK outbound tourists. The Chinese were now less inclined to travel in groups and wanted a more bespoke experience, he said.

Wu added: “There are 1.4 billion Chinese and 380 million middle class, we have 300 million taking up water sports. Just be prepared for the Chinese.”

He advised nations wanting to attract Chinese visitors: “Just remove the visa requirements, because the Chinese will generally go where there are fewer barriers.”

Social media marketing was key, he said, with Douyin, the Chinese version of Tik Tok, being a powerful channel.

Visit Maldives has launched a new segment on its website to showcase the destination’s different atolls and their suitability to different types of clients, such as families or those looking for nature holidays. It can be found at atolls.visitmaldives.com.

Plans for a new luxury mountain destination, Soudah Peaks, were unveiled to the world at WTM. Set within a natural park in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, the destination is 3,015 metres above sea level, the country’s highest point. Phase one will see the building of nine low-rise boutique and five-star hotels and the resort will also offer adventure experiences and wellness retreats, all in an immersive cultural environment.

Sri Lanka is bouncing back from last year’s recent political and economic turmoil with more than 1.5m tourists expected by the year end, up from 719,000 in 2022. “We are a resilient destination; we’ve got ourselves out of it,” said Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism and Lands, who also shared that the destination is receiving interest from major hotel groups and is in talks with Bollywood about filming locations.

The country also used WTM to highlight its new global marketing campaign. Its tagline, You’ll Come Back for More, references the 33% of travellers who are repeat visitors to the destination.

Fernando also revealed adventure tourism was going to be the ’next big thing’ for Sri Lanka, with an influencer campaign already planned.

Sarawak today revealed two promotional tie-ups which will bring the nature-rich Malaysian state on the island of Borneo to a wider audience. A partnership with National Geographic Traveller will involve a series of eight articles and six one-minute videos for its website. Meanwhile, until April 2024, Tripadvisor users will have a dedicated Sarawak landing page to simplify the process of booking experiences in the destination.

SOURCE: WTM London 2023: Diversity, Inclusion, Future of Travel, Responsible Tourism