The sixth edition of WTM Latin America will be held between April 3-5, 2018, in the city of São Paulo, Brazil at the Expo Center Norte convention centre. Luciane Leite, Director, WTM Latin America, shares an insight into the exhibition and what one can expect while attending the event.
Q) Could you give us a brief of the event?
WTM Latin America inaugurates the calendar of tourism events in the region. It is the travel industry’s main event in Latin America, commemorating its sixth edition in 2018 and consolidating itself as a business-to-business event which brings the world to Latin America and promotes it to the world. This event generates business and relationship opportunities for exhibitors, buyers and professionals in the industry. In 2016, WTM Latin America represented a 6.5 per cent increase by comparison with 2015. In 2017, we grew by 18 per cent vis-à-vis the previous year and the largest increase in our entire portfolio.
Q) Why is it important to attend the event? Who all should attend it?
With a focus on both leisure and corporate tourism, WTM Latin America also contributes to the professionalisation of the industry. Participants are offered debates about technology with experts in the area, who at every edition of the event have come together at the Travel Tech Show, with an unprecedented area for the sixth edition, bringing the Travel Tech Pavilion – an area which increases the access and inclusion of small and medium-sized companies of technology applied to tourism. Two other new developments are the destination areas, the Destination Pavilion, designed to enable private companies from destinations which are not represented at the event to be present at this edition, as well as the area reserved for independent, small and medium-sized hotels, who will have the opportunity to be physically represented during the three days of the event.
The Inspire Theatre (called the Conference Theatre in 2016) continues for another year repeating the success of the last edition. This space has themes that discusses new developments, news and innovations in the industry, as well as promotes a significant reflection in relation to issues that are topical for the industry. WTM Latin America’s identity is also supplemented by Speed Networking Sessions and WTM Buyers’ Club which are responsible for providing buyers with knowledge about major destinations and tourism companies.
We will also have the theme ‘Responsible Tourism’ on the agenda of subjects, following on from the agenda that we worked on at the last editions. It is an extensive agenda involving innovations in the technological field with names that are a reference in the market. Our partnership with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has been growing stronger with every passing year.
In other words, all the professionals who are connected to the travel industry find relevant networking and business during the event, including professionals connected to technology, gastronomy, events, travel operators, travel agencies, hospitality and land, air and sea transport, and management among many other topics related to tourism.
Q) How many participants do you expect at the event? Which countries will be participating?
In terms of the number of visits, over the years, we have registered an increase in the number of the industry’s professionals taking part. In 2016, WTM Latin America received 6,540 visitors, and in 2017, we registered 7,748 visitors. Taking into account the total number of participants, including both media and exhibitors, the event attracted nearly 10,000 people. It is important to bear in mind that we are audited and our visitor count does not include entries and exits during the days of the event. For this edition, the United States once again returns in force and we already have confirmed exhibitors from a number of countries, such as Portugal, Greece, South Africa, Germany, Palestine, Peru and Argentina among many others on various different fronts such as hospitality, technology, travel operators and hotels, etc. For 2018, we are working with the goal of a 5 per cent growth in the number of visitors, which will enable us to exceed the mark of 8,000 people at our event.
Q) What is the role played by Middle East in this event?
The Middle East’s participation at WTM Latin America shows how much the region is interested in showcasing its potential to the Latin America market. We aim to help Middle East tourism numbers to grow by taking Latin America tourists to this region. Since last year, UAE and Brazil have been facilitating the tourism visa for both countries. Under the agreement, holders of common passports, diplomatic and special passports from both countries are exempt from visa requirements. The exemption is expected to expand tourism and business travel between the two countries, mainly to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Moreover, according to figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in the Middle East was $227.1 billion (9.1 per cent of GDP) in 2016, and is forecast to rise by 4.8 per cent pa to $381.9 billion (9.7 per cent of GDP) in 2027. There are exciting times ahead for the Middle East, not least with the UAE set to host Expo 2020, with Dubai alone forecasting 160,000 hotel rooms in the emirate ahead of the world showcase opening. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to see exhibitors as Palestine and Emirates signing up for WTM Latin America. It’s a reflection of the burgeoning growth in that part of the world and how the travel trade there recognises that WTM Latin America is an important platform to both conduct business and boost awareness.
Q) How will this event benefit agents and other stakeholders?
Our objective is to generate business and this is achieved by pre-event networking – at which we provide ‘My Event’ platform offering the possibility of scheduling strategic meetings, making prior contact with other strategic participants, in addition to other possibilities that the tool permits. We believe that this is an assertive strategy which effectively contributes to the sector’s development. In fact, this is an edge that the participants have, at an event such as this one, that brings together main players in the market, with 80 per cent of the participating public being proven to be professionals with some business decision-taking power.