WORLD TRAVEL MARKET FOR BLOGGERS
The ultimate guide to making the most out of the event (Last Updated September 2018)
This year I attended the World Travel Market in London for the first time: a 4-day tour de force walking up and down the Excel Exhibition Center, where the world of tourism reunites every year to forge business partnerships, to learn and to gain insight into the industry’s latest trends.
WHY THIS ARTICLE?
As soon as I got my Press Pass, I started an online research and I noticed that the articles on this topic, especially for “beginners”, were quite limited.
The big question I kept asking myself was: ”Will it really be worth it, even for a fairly new blog like mine”? After attending the event, the answer was clear: ABSOLUTELY YES.
Even if you are just starting your blogging career and your numbers are not spectacular (yet!), the event is a must for everyone who is taking the travel blogger profession very seriously. For this reason, I put together a complete guide with:
- Top 5 reasons why a travel blogger should attend the WTM
- 15 useful tips on how to make the most of it
- Links to external resources on the topic.
All you need to know, condensed into one article! But first things first:
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE WORLD TRAVEL MARKET EXHIBITION?
Connecting people around the Globe has never been easier! The World Travel Market is the only place where you feel like you’re on a very special RTW trip: You can jump from Thailand to Colombia, with a quick stop in Kenya, in less than 10 minutes!
And this is exactly what you should aim for. The key word here is: EASY CONNECTIONS.
The world travel market is the top event of the year in the travel Industry, where:
- Tourism boards
- Travel agents
- PR companies
- Tour operators
- Hotels and Airlines
- Press members
- Bloggers and Bloggers Associations
reunite at the Excel Exhibition center in London, to connect and to start new business partnerships. The whole world is there, in a parade of colorful stands, each representing a different country.
WTM official Statistics from the past few years show that more than 90% of the companies/Individuals attending the World Travel market were able to create partnerships and deals, achieving £1,859m in new business.
These numbers are impressive and give you a clear idea of the huge potential and impact of the event for the travel Industry.
WHY SHOULD TRAVEL BLOGGERS ATTEND THE WTM?
1 | LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES:
The World Travel Market event is packed with seminars, with a special program tailored exclusively for travel bloggers.
This year the event hosted 6 seminars, organized by the TBU, which were focused on how travel bloggers can profitably impact the travel industry, creating compelling content and using the right tools to deliver what the travel industry is searching for. In a word: ROI (Return On Investment)
The panel included some of the most influential authorities in the field: Ross Borden from Matador Network, Traveldude‘s Melvin Broecher, Keith Jenkins from “Velvet Escape” and Debbie Hindle from Four Bgb, just to name a few.
A fantastic opportunity to gain insight from great leaders, who have been in the industry for years and who have a deep understanding of the dynamics underlying this challenging profession.
The sessions are highly interactive and you will have the opportunity to ask specific questions and tips about blogging. In a nutshell, you’ll learn how to leverage your blog and how to take it to the next level. Highly recommended!
2 | CONNECTING:
One of the most important reasons why every travel blogger should attend the WTM is the opportunity to connect with other bloggers, to share experiences and to create strong bonds with like-minded people.
Organizations such as PTBA, and sponsors like Hostelworld.com organized some fantastic social events for bloggers, which encouraged people to meet and socialize in a relaxed environment, to share ideas and experiences and to have fun together.
Not only will you make new connections, but you might also start interesting collaborations by participating in informal “brainstorming sessions” in front of a good glass of wine!
If it’s your first time attending and you’re a little nervous, I can reassure you. I was in the same situation, and I can guarantee that these events are a really great way to start socializing – and if you see someone else who is sitting quietly in a corner, go there and start a conversation. You’ll find out that there are more newbies than you thought!
3 | CREATING AWARENESS AMONG THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY:
If there is something that I learned more than anything else at WTM, it’s that companies are still not fully aware of the impact that bloggers have on the travel Industry.
Talking to tourism boards and tour operators, especially the ones representing small countries, I found myself having to explain several times that a “blog” isn’t exactly a personal travel diary.
It is crucial for the travel Industry to understand how their customers rely on bloggers’ experiences and recommendations even more than on traditional travel guides because we tell a story with an angle. We have a point of view.
During the TBU sessions, one of the first questions to the audience was ” how many companies/tour operators/PR agencies are present at the session”? the results were not very encouraging. The numbers, compared to the travel bloggers attending were very tiny.
What can we do about it?
- Explain and be Clear: After realizing this trend, I decided to make more of an effort when approaching the exhibitors, by explaining to them in detail what the travel blogger job is all about. By using this approach, I had some very positive feedback: meaning possible partnerships, that wouldn’t have been possible without this introduction.
- Attend the event and be professional: We also shouldn’t underestimate the impact that we have on the exhibitors by simply attending the WTM: It shows that we are professional and that we are seriously committed to our job. Which is also an advantage when sending the “follow up” emails after the event.
4 | CREATING BUSINESS:
I strongly believe that even newbies, if well prepared, can get some business out of the event:
- Invitations to tailored (individual) press trips.
- Freelance writing contracts for travel publications.
- Reviews or sponsored posts/videos for specific countries.
You blog still has a small audience? Don’t lose hope: if you target the right countries and you point out the benefits that working with your blog would bring, you can be successful.
Do you want to know how to monetize your blog?
Read this article about my experience for some useful tips.
With more than 7000 travel industry representatives, it is relatively easy to find someone interested in your brand, because of the unique angle and selling proposition that you can offer.
Find your strength and sell it to the right people/organizations. It takes patience, the right mindset and some good planning before the event.
5 | GETTING YOUR NAME OUT THERE:
This is especially true for new bloggers, or for those who haven’t been able to attend other important bloggers events, such as the TBEX.
If your name is just a name on the blogosphere, it is difficult to make the right connections. By interacting with people and by handing out your business card and media kit, you are creating and/or reinforcing your brand awareness.
After attending the WTM, I can already see a difference in terms of “post-event” interactions: I’m receiving targeted emails with business proposals that are far more detailed, tailored and specific than the ones I used to receive before attending the event.
Brand Awareness is crucial if you really want to get to the next level. You may feel insecure because when you are a “small fish” in the pond, you need to go out there and spread the voice. But that’s how it all starts, in every industry.
Associating a face with a specific brand is one of the most productive ways to get the business you want.
15 USEFUL TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF THE EVENT:
So now you know why you should attend the event. How should you prepare for it? Below is a list of actions/things to do to get the most out of the WTM Exhibition:
1 | Business cards
Make sure that it looks professional and that it includes all the relevant details and contacts. For first-timers, I’d say you won’t need more than 100 business cards. Remember to have them with you all the time, not only when attending the exhibition, but also when going to social events.
2 | Media Kit
If you don’t have your laptop with you (or the stand’s representative can’t access it with theirs) It is crucial that you have some printed copies of your media kit with you at all times. I was surprised as not many bloggers had their media kit ready to hand out to PR representatives and exhibitors. Having your media kit with you will make you stand out from the crowd.
Make sure it’s updated with the latest statistics and numbers. Accuracy is also important, check for spelling mistakes and errors (That was one of my worst mistakes as, being Italian, I realized there were a couple of mistakes I could have easily avoided).
3 | Introduce yourself to the panel at the end of the sessions
Don’t run away as soon as the conference is over! If you have questions or just want to hand out your business card, don’t be shy – introduce yourself, have a quick chat and ask for more information.
4 | Be interactive
No, your questions are NOT stupid. Many people don’t dare to raise their hands to ask questions during the interactive sessions just because they are afraid that their question is not relevant. If you don’t feel confident, write down your question, and go for it.
I tried once and the outcome was surprising: 5 companies approached me afterward with business proposals. I didn’t think about this “side effect” when asking my question, and it was definitely a pleasant surprise.
5 | Create a schedule for the event
Make appointments beforehand. Many exhibitors are very busy and it may be difficult for them to find a spot for you. You can contact them by browsing the countries you want to visit on the official website and by filling in a dedicated ‘appointment request’ form.
6 | Set your goals
Are you attending to learn, to gather information on certain countries, or to try to get sponsored trips or contracts? It is really important that you have clear goals so that you can organize your schedule based on them. Avoid wasting your time and strolling around the stands without a plan.
7 | Ask to talk to the right person at the stand
If you have business in mind when approaching the stand, immediately ask for the PR/marketing representative. If they are not available, ask for their business card and try to set an appointment for later.
Also make sure to approach the tourism boards first, as they are the main contact for all the other smaller companies within one country. If you’re not able to talk to them, you can move on by approaching the single tour operators, hotels etc.
If you are just starting out, your numbers may not be spectacular, so try to improve your reader’s engagement, fan numbers on Facebook/Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn at least one month before the event.
Connect with the WTM official pages on social media and interact as much as you can. I found LinkedIn a very powerful resource for this purpose. I asked a few questions before the event, which resulted in several invitation emails from different exhibitors and bloggers.
9 | Define your strengths as a brand
Make sure you know exactly what you can offer, what’s your USP (Unique selling proposition) and how the exhibitor can benefit from a partnership with you. This must be very clear and should be highlighted on your media kit.
10 | Read the official website
Browsing the WTM official website can be overwhelming, as much as setting foot into the Excel Exhibition center for the first time. Take a few days to become familiar with the many sections on the site and to take notes of the seminars, exhibitors and PR agencies/members of the press who will attend the WTM.
11 | Ask for a Press pass
Getting a Press Pass is easy and allows you to gain admission to the event more quickly. You will have access to the press area, the Computer room and the lounge area – this way, you can catch up with work or simply connect with members of the press and bloggers.
Some of the social events are by invitation only, so make sure you register in advance. Do a little research on the official websites hosting the events as in many cases there is a list of the attendees. This way you can also spot top bloggers or personalities you might want to connect with.
The events for bloggers are usually not shown on the official WTM website, so you need to search on Facebook groups, or rely on the LinkedIn/Twitter network to get all the information you need.
13 | Always follow up with emails after the event
When you establish a connection, always follow-up with an email to thank them for their time and renew your interest in a possible partnership or to put down the details of a co-operation that has already been agreed.
This step is really important to reinforce the connection. Even if you are not getting any business at the moment, the follow-up email is a powerful tool to make you stand out and to make sure people consider you for future projects (always include a copy of your media kit in the email).
14 | Have a top list of countries you want to visit
If you aim for everything, you’ll probably end up empty-handed.
The WTM is huge and it can be overwhelming. By having a list of top countries you want to focus on, you will avoid getting lost around stands that may be very interesting, but that has nothing to offer in terms of business opportunities.
I’m not saying you should avoid the countries you are not interested in visiting right now, I’m just saying that you should prioritize your top countries stands. Of course, if you still have time, you can always explore any other country’s stand that catches your eye!
15 | Read as many articles as you can on the topic
If you are new to the event, read every article you can find that has been written by bloggers who have attended the event. You will have differents point of views (from the beginner’s to the seasoned blogger’s perspective) and you will be psychologically ready and know what to expect.
To close this guide with the aim of giving you as much information as possible, I have included below a list of useful links to external resources, from blog entries to the official websites for some of the event organizations and sponsors.
- WTM official: Youtube Video- TBU seminar: “Is It possible to effectively measure Travel Blogger ROI?” for all the WTM videos you can click directly HERE.
- PTBA official: World Travel Market Advice for Bloggers By Laurel Robbins
- A detailed post on the TBU sessions at WTM 2013 by “The travel Tester” website by Nienke Krook
- A beginner impression on WTM2011 by “Reclaiming my future” website by Tony
Did you attend the WTM? What are your thoughts on the event? Do you think it is worth attending it?
If you have any impressions or thoughts/links to add, feel free to leave a comment with your point of view on the experience, and If you wrote a blog entry on the subject, let me know and I’ll add it to the list!
Thanks to: Giulia Cesano for Editing.