5 Practical Tips For Visiting WTM As A Travel Blogger In 2019
Written by Jaillan Yehia
It’s a week since the end of World Travel Market 2018, and I’m still catching up with the backlog of business cards and follow-up phone calls I have after attending the best travel trade show on the planet.
But as backlogs go, this is one I’m very happy to have.
Yes ITB (in Berlin) is bigger than WTM (in London), and there are plenty of amazing trade shows in other parts of the world, especially the USA and Asia, but for me WTM is the most complete, trend-setting and internationally important of the non-consumer travel shows.
And of course it helps that it’s held in my hometown and that I’ve been going almost every year since back when I worked as a travel PR.
As well as the destination marketing organisations, hotels, tour operators and travel agents who meet, do business and network in London each November, there are also plenty of journalists and travel bloggers attending WTM – and the programme of events for digital influencers is growing every year. So if you’re planning on visiting WTM as a travel blogger in 2019, you’ll find it much more geared up to you and your specific needs than it ever was before.
I distinctly remember around 5 years ago WTM’s blogger events stopped being an afterthought and began to take centre stage: previously they were always over-subscribed and back then queues of bloggers spilled out into the halls meaning organisers had to start putting us in bigger rooms.
Now of course travel blogging has tipped in a major way – you don’t need me to tell you how big the industry is – so I’ll try and tell you some info that may be new to you, or if not entirely new, then hopefully pretty helpful.
Here are 5 Tips For Visiting WTM as a travel blogger in 2019
Even though I have been going to WTM for decades I learn something new every year so I hope this list of my 5 top tips, based on years of attendance, is useful for those visiting WTM in 2019 for the first time.
1. Think of the Planet – Don’t Pick Up Stuff Just Because It Is Free
One really positive thing I noticed about WTM in 2018 is there seemed to be a great deal less wasted paper, and in general a lot less free tat kicking about than in previous years.
Look, I love a freebie almost as much as the next blogger and I do use quite a lot of those jute and cotton tote bags when I do my grocery shopping (Glasgow, Zimbabwe, Gallery Lafayette and Egypt have been useful staples in my car boot for over a year) but as the talks and displays about plastic pollution have underlined, this planet is in crisis and having more leaflets and pointless plastic knicknacks kicking about that are destined for the bin is not the answer.
We are all at WTM because we love the world we live in, so please: Refuse, Reuse and Recycle where possible.
2. Dress For A Long Walk On A Spring Day – Don’t wear a big jumper, you’ll sweat like crazy
The first few years that I went to WTM I dressed in pure business attire: I wore heels and suits and I remember it physically holding me back from getting stuff done. It’s ok if you’re mainly going to be manning a stand (which I was back in the day) but if you have ground to cover, dressing for your own comfort is absolutely key.
I learned my lesson about the heels pretty early on (I am over 5′ 8″ so I know it’s easy for me to ditch heels) and I soon started dressing for WTM the same way I dress for a long journey involving an airport – in other words keep it simple, keep it light, or the sweat will start to flow. Let’s face it, nobody wants to turn up to a meeting feeling flustered, with sweat patches.
Like many air conditioned spaces, ExCeL can be fiercely hot, but areas can be chilly too, so my rule is to dress for spring and as it’s actually winter outside, throw on a big coat and scarf – because you’ll need them when you leave.
I saw one lady this year at the event in a huge roll neck wool jumper and couldn’t understand how she could possibly be functioning. Don’t be that lady at any travel conference in 2019.
3. Pack Light – Don’t Bring Anything You Don’t Want to Carry Around All Day Long
Just as you should dress for a long walk, you should pack for one too when coming to WTM.
I used to bring my laptop, charger, and a whole heap of other stuff with me, some of which I probably didn’t need – including multiple copies of the magazine I write the travel for, but as the years go on, I realise that being light on your feet and mobile is more important than literally anything else. I must have covered a good 4km per day on foot this year, and I didn’t want to do it carrying a Macbook.
Just like any trip, you will *want* to bring your computer of course, but if you can downgrade this to a tablet, your back will thank you for it – especially at the end of the day when you’ve been given that delightful but heavy freebie that you don’t want to ditch such as a bottle of wine, and the combined weight of your bag added to the long hikes between stands becomes as good as a full-on weights workout at the gym.
4. Bring a stupid Amount of Business Cards With You – Or.You.Will.Run.Out.
As always, this year at WTM I met many amazing people who are just as passionate about travel as me – from Tanzania safari specialists to tour operators who combine two of my favourite words in the world: luxury and Italy, I left feeling enthused about my 2019 travels.
I did the WTM Digital Influencers’ Speed Networking session again this year and Italy was the best represented country at that event, which is always good news for me as an Italy obsessive, and overall I was really happy with some of the hotels and destinations I connected with. I was also happy to see more brands understand the value of professional bloggers, it’s always a pleasure to see that.
And for the first time in ages I didn’t run out of cards – I was insanely organised and did my business cards before I left for Sri Lanka (I put stickers on all my cards one by one, by hand, so it takes a while), and being organised makes you feel less stressed, and you can do better business that way. Plus, who wants to be stressed?
5. Decide what YOU want to get out of WTM – Not what someone else says you should be getting out of it
It is so easy to get FOMO at WTM. I have to work hard not to get it myself, and because there are always 5 things going on at the same time that sound useful, interesting or fun, it’s just not possible to do everything you want or be everywhere you want to be (cocktails at Brazil clashes with coffee hour at Colombia, oh no!) and it’s essential that you make your peace with that.
I try to make a little list of the key events I want to attend and generally set an intention before WTM (ok, on the train on the way there, as I’m not *that* organised).
Just like setting an intention at the start of yoga class, it will be different every time, and what’s right for someone else, or what was right for you last year may not be right for your visit to WTM in 2019.
Maybe you have loads of work on and just want to catch up with your industry friends – if so lucky you! Maybe you have never been to a travel conference before and want to make some new contacts, in which case circle the press conferences, talks and stands which interest you or fit your blog niche, and add them to your schedule.
Maybe you know you want to do a certain type of trip next year – whether it’s wildlife watching, sailing, a city break or a train journey – so focus on meeting people who can help you with that goal.
Visiting WTM as a travel blogger in 2019 will be an amazing opportunity to gather the world together in one room and figure out where you want to go in 2020 (how futuristic does that sound? Can I go to space?), so all the tips above are pretty similar to general travel tips.
Of course the best travel tip is the same as the best WTM 2019 tip: remember to have fun, be spontaneous and just enjoy yourself.
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