They had been rumours of having a proper WTM Asia in Bangkok. Why are you now coming with a WTM Connect Asia event without an exhibition?
Vincent Lhoste- The unique one-to-one format that WTM Connect Asia will offer brings similar elements to the usual exhibition format. Ultimately the main aim of all exhibitions is to bring buyers and sellers together to do business and WTM Connect Asia will be no different. After two years of research we have identified the particular business style of this region. WTM Connect will bring together suppliers of South East Asia and International travel products for up to 30 pre-scheduled meetings with carefully selected elite hosted buyers, offering a targeted and time effective event.
There will also be a full programme of events scheduled offering new content and lively panel debates and discussions. With WTM Connect Asia and WTM Connect China taking place over two weeks, this also provides international exhibitors the opportunity to participate in both events one after the other.
Do you think that such a format works well in Asia with its own business approach? Compared to other similar events around the world, how far will be the Penang event ‘specifically Asian’?
We have performed lots of internal and external research over the last two years with both the public and private sector and we have listened to what the South-East Asia region wants and what our buyers want. We feel this style of event will meet and fulfil the needs of this market. WTM events around the globe offer the industry the perfect platform to do business and this will be our key aim for WTM connect Asia. Last year, the WTM events which include WTM London, WTM Africa, WTM Latin America and Arabian Travel Market, facilitated more than $7 billion in industry deals. We believe that WTM connect events will see this figure increase further.
What are your expectations? How many participants -sellers- and buyers would you estimate to come to this first event?
We are hoping to attract up to 120 exhibitors and 120 buyers to the three day event, with each delegate having their own personal diary with up to 30 pre-scheduled meetings in. We look forward to attracting a good number of top quality buyers from the world’s leading tour operators such as Cox and Kings, Kuoni Travel, China Ctrip, and China U-Tour to network, negotiate and sign business deals with this growing market.
Why the choice of Penang? Is it a permanent choice?
Asia-Pacific is now at the forefront of global leisure travel industry, with South-East Asia one of the fastest-growing regions in the world for both inbound and outbound travel. In 2013, South-East Asia received 102m travellers and South-East Asian travellers took 59m trips in 2014 (+6.0%pa over 2008-14), with Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia being the largest source markets.
WTM Connect Asia will take place at the Eastern Oriental Hotel, Penang, Malaysia on the 18 – 20 May offering a true Malaysian experience for the delegates, away from the hustle and bustle of the major cities. We then hope to move the events to different destinations each year.
What is the support of Penang and Malaysian authorities for WTM Connect Asia? Will the destination also be promoted?
We have already received a huge amount of support from Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau and Penang Global Tourism. All supporters are very happy to be partnering with Reed Exhibitions and are very much looking forward to hosting key travel buyers in Penang for the duration. It will be impossible for the buyers not to recognize the beauty and culture that Penang has to offer.