African Countries Shine at World Travel Market Expo in London
Ever wanted to travel the world without ‘travelling the world’? If it has ever been your ambition to ‘see the world’ but somehow get the world to come to you, then the World Travel Market (WTM) is all and more than you have ever dreamt.
The event has taken place in London every year since 1980; originally at Earls Court and since 1992, at the much bigger Excel Centre, in London’s Docklands area. The area is the size of several football pitches.
According to the organisers, that first show featured 40 countries, 221 exhibitors and pulled in 9000 visitors.
When African Postmark (APM) visited this year’s event, the now three-day affair featured a scarcely believable 182 countries and regions, 5000 (no, not a typo) exhibitors and 51, 000 participants.
As the African representation has grown, this seemed an opportune time for APM to check out our continent’s reps.
I’m happy to report that most of Africa was represented; and how! However, I first became aware of what now seems like a glaring absentee when Nigerian after Nigerian came up to me – I must have looked ‘official’ or ‘Nigerian’ – and asked, “Can you point me in the direction of the Nigerian exhibitors?”. I had to tell them, sadly, there weren’t any. Obviously, they must be getting far too many visitors and see no need to tout for more.
To more than make up for Nigeria’s absence, many countries (South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Morocco, to name a few), had multiple exhibitors showing off various aspects of their delights.
The name World Travel Market, goes some way towards telling you what the event is about but only up to a point; as well as the obvious travel companies peddling their wares, there are a bewildering range of enticing events, including round-table talks, mini-conferences, seminars, opportunities for the media to attend general press conferences as well as pre-arrange one-to-ones with ministers and senior tourism board representatives from many countries.
In terms of food, almost every taste is catered for and, of course, many use taste and smell as a ‘hook’ to entice the otherwise uninterested.
APM managed to interview representatives from, mainly sub-Saharan Africa, asking them all to tell us, as you will see from the accompanying videos, ‘in 30 seconds, 3 reasons why someone should visit your country’. Many leapt at the chance to tell us about the flora, fauna, the cuisine, the beaches and, most importantly, the people of their lands. They almost all stressed the friendliness of their people.
Given the sheer scale of the event, folks have come up with novel ways to stand out from the crowd. Among my favourites were the Ugandan ‘gorillas’; no, not real ones but real-ish looking ones that proved to be a huge draw and scared more than a few, when they decided to take a lollop around the floor. They were a huge hit and lines of people queuing to have their photos taken with the ‘gorillas’.
One of the most successful attempts at pulling in a crowd happened around the Sierra Leone stand on the last day: the exhibitors had a master drummer, whose rhythms echoed far into the hall, drawing the crowds to see where this wonderful music was coming from. When they got there, they were hit with the ‘double whammy’ of Sierra Leonean food and drink – roast-meat on skewers, rice bread, fufu and palaver sauce and homemade ginger beer. Having been drawn there, the combination of music, food and drink proved so addictive many did not want to leave. It is no exaggeration to say, it caused a mini-riot in that corner of the hall. Whoever came up with the idea, deserves a bonus!
So, if the Nigerians (remember them?) decide they want to attend next year, some of the smaller countries have shown them how to ‘represent’.
Entry is free and if you don’t want to be like me, rushing around for 8 hours on the last day, go to all three days and take…your…time.
No to be missed. See you there, next year!
In their own words – Why visit Africa?