One of the primary reasons I was in London was for the World Travel Market exhibition. Marcello had told me about the World Travel Market, but I had no idea how large in scope, and how amazing in scale this show would be. Within the confines of the ExCel London Exhibition and Convention Centre the entire world of travel gathered to display a small piece of what their country or region had to offer.
You may be asking “But Brice, how does the entire world fit into one exhibition hall?” I would ask the same, but this hall was no county state fair barn. It was built before the Olympics, and is London’s largest convention centre. It is located in what used to be an industrial part of town along the Thames. There is still much industry in the area, but the convention centre has brought with it condo projects and infrastructure.
What I found most interesting about the event were the microcosms of cultures displayed in each of the display areas. Each country and region put forward what they wanted to show to the world. Obviously Colombia isn’t going to promote the FARC, nor is Russia going to promote the KGB. The best foot was put forward, and it provided a fun, interesting, and beautiful taste of each place.
One interesting observation was how politics came into play at the World Travel Market. For example, the Israeli display was situated in the European section, not the Middle Eastern section. Also, the Falkland Islands (Argentinians like to call them the Malvinas) were not put next to Argentina. I’m sure the organizers were cognisant of the delicate situations that politics play on travel.
I had four days at the World Travel Market. For a traveler, like myself, it was like the world’s biggest candy store. I could go to Ethiopia for a taste of coffee, Argentina for a cup of Malbec, Iran for some Turkish delight, then off to Holland for some Heineken. The funny thing about it was this sort of phrasing was how everyone talked there. You’d overhear “I’m going to Italy to talk to some people about wine tours, then I’m off to Thailand for a massage.” Instead of hours on a plane, however, it was just a walk across an exhibition complex.
Of course all this grandeur and spectacle was not put on for my own enjoyment (I mean I’m not the king of Saudi Arabia.) There’s big business to be done. Entire economies are based on people coming to see what’s inside their borders – Italy comes to mind here. This is a showcase as to why one region of the world should be visited over another. Therefore every best foot was brought forward. Colombia didn’t have any sign of their military, nor did Saudi Arabia have a public square with a noose. All smiles here. Truly a Disneyland of travel.
The biggest thing I brought away from the World Travel Market, however, was how to approach my travel writing as a business. Travel is big business. Increasingly, within this big business, people like myself are an integral piece. I personally came in contact with dozens of driven, intelligent, curious, and innovative people who have made a living for themselves through promoting their travels. This was inspiring. I was able to see first hand what it takes to move past “travel blogger,” and into a “travel brand.” It takes work. It takes dedication. And it takes drive. But in the end you are able to make a living off of showing the world through your eyes.