World Travel Market London to celebrate its 40th anniversary with £3.5billion of deals

World Travel Market London opens its doors on Monday (November 4) as part of the newly inaugurated London Travel Week that runs from tomorrow (November 1) to November 7.

Celebrating its 40th year, the world’s largest travel trade show is expected to see its 51,000 visitors and 5,000 exhibitors from more than 180 countries pack into ExCeL London to conduct some £3.5billion of deals that will shape the future of how we travel.

It’s a far cry from when the show was first opened by the Duke of Kent at Kensington Olympia in December 1980 when just 40 countries were on show and 7,700 visitors crossed the threshold of the inaugural exhibition.

Today, the show operates in a world where tourism is the UK’s fastest growing sector accounting for almost 12 per cent of all jobs, generating £232 billion annually for the economy, and host city London is the third most-visited city in the world with more than 19 million visitors a year.

World Travel Market alone is thought to add £160 million to London’s economy, taking into account how much show visitors spend on hotels, restaurants and entertainment.

Highlights of the 40 years of WTM include:

  • WTM has been opened by six royals, four British Government ministers, seven industry figureheads, four renowned explorers, two London mayors and a Miss World.
  • In 1985, security had to be increased as record numbers turned up to see Princess Diana open the show.
  • In the 1980s, one of the most unusual visitors was an armadillo that was regularly brought by Texas Tourism. It had to be placed in special quarantine at London Zoo when not at the exhibition.
  • Red Rum was set to visit in 1982 but was cancelled when the Hall Manager at Olympia insisted an armed vet would need to be present to shoot the champion racehorse in case of a fire.
  • Celebrities who have visited over the years include Michael Douglas, Sir Richard Branson, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Sir Steve Redgrave, Brazilian footballer Ronaldo, Freddie Flintoff, Sir Viv Richards and Dannii Minogue.
  • WTM has been at the forefront of industry green issues. Environmental Awareness Day was launched in 1994 and renamed as World Responsible Tourism Day in 2004. WTM is also responsible for launching water-aid charity Just a Drop in 1998.
  • Visiting delegates are estimated to walk 75,000 steps over the three days of the show; in 2013, one covered 120,000 steps – the equivalent of 60 miles.
  •  In 2009, then Mayor of London Boris Johnson launched the event, but forgot to swing by the Visit London stand.
  • In 2018, renowned graffiti artist Banksy caused a stir, erecting a replica of a painting of the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine to promote his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
  • In 2019, Moke International is to launch its new hotel-and-resort friendly electric vehicle. The iconic Mini Moke on which it is based has been around since the 1960s and starred as the village taxi in the TV series The Prisoner.

1980 vs 2019: the more things change, the more they stay the same:

In 1980

  • The UK was led by a Tory prime minister with a blonde bouffant and problems in Europe
  • The US president was former actor Ronald Reagan
  • The world discovered the identity of Luke Skywalker’s father in The Empire Strikes Back
  • Liverpool topped the league on December 25
  • Spain was the most popular destination for UK holidaymakers (with flights from a “bucket shop” costing as little as £25).

In 2019

  • The UK is led by a Tory prime minister with a blonde bouffant and problems in Europe
  • The US president is former reality star Donald Trump
  • Luke Skywalker is still dealing with family issues in the release of the final Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalker
  • Liverpool topped the league going into November
  • Spain remains the most popular destination for UK holidaymakers (with flights costing as little as £25).
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