forget all around the world in eighty days at the world travel market ...

London is always exciting and so is the World Travel Market (WTM) which keeps everybody busy for weeks after its closure.

With the delegate increase, it makes it the largest trade-only WTM event and is the fifth consecutive year of growth. Visitor groups experienced growth, according to unaudited figures, and WTM Buyers’ Club delegates are up 7% to 9,116. This increase in senior buyers at WTM 2014 will see the event facilitate around £2.5 billion in industry deals.

Other visitor group increases include trade visitors (6%), international media (2%), and exhibitor personnel (2%) compared to WTM 2013. Furthermore, overall visits to World Travel Market are fast-approaching the 100,000 mark, with WTM 2014 having 98,426 visits. Unique delegate numbers for WTM 2014 are 51,965.

The Monday of WTM is an exhibitor invite-only day with the aim of allowing exhibitors to hold discussions and negotiations with those buyers that they want to conduct business with. The first day (November 3) of WTM 2014 was a resounding success with invite-only visitor attendance up 9% on last year’s event to almost 9,692.

Saudi Arabia paid its first tribute to WTM this year with its first issue of a brand-new brochure by Saudi Tourism revealing an unknown green side of Saudi Arabia such as the Feefa Mountains and Heritage Village of Jazaan, the amazing beach side of Taboukm and a winter vacation in the Al Louz Mountains – the only place on Arab Gulf where the snow is real, not science fiction.

Although tourism in Saudi Arabia is largely based around religious pilgrimage, there is a lot of growth in the leisure tourism sector. According to Saudi Tourism Marketing Director Fuad Al Shabramif, approximately 20 million people traveled inside Saudi Arabia in 2013, which does include the Haji. The main source is domestic travel, with locals traveling 4-5 times during the year inside the Saudi Arabia Peninsula, making it the world’s 19th-most-visited country.

In December 2013, Saudi Arabia announced its intention to begin issuing tourist visas for the first time in its history. But so far, Saudi Arabia will still remain undiscovered for non-Muslims. So then why is Saudi Arabia exhibiting at World Travel Market, I asked.

Tourism and mega events are building a lasting legacy. That was the motion of this year at UNWTO’s Minister Summit held in London – that beyond the immediate impacts of mega events in terms of investments, infrastructures development, namely accommodation and transport, urban developments, employment generation, and brand exposure, these are numbers that should be associated with mega events.

While mega events mainly get associated either with the Olympic Games, Football’s World Cup and other sports, H.E. Mr. Yazeed M. Alsheikh, responsible for Saudi Tourism and Antiquities, surprised everyone with a mega event that his country is facing every year.

Over 6 million pilgrims come together for the Haji each year to be close to God. Haji is different in various places but the biggest challenge is the countless different languages from all over the world. This is not a normal event for young people only – no, it is for all people whether they are old or young, he pointed out.

The bottle neck is the Holy Mosque transportation to the Holy City Makkah and the accommodation for Haji pilgrims. We are talking in terms of 3 million people on the move in 5 days, H.E. Alsheikh explained. This event needs a big administration board, with the Health Ministry team working with big numbers of volunteers. This year, with the threat of Ebola, new health actions had to be taken for those coming from West Africa. Also, the growing threat of ISIS has put a lot of pressure and surveillance on the administration.

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