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The World Travel Market 2008

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Each year at about this time, some 70,000 travel folks from around the world descend on London for the industry’s primary trade show. Exhibitors range from the huge presence of the Spanish and Italian tourist boards and their industry representatives, to the considerably smaller delegations from Uzbekistan and even Palestine.

I have visited every year since 1980, and love the show; it is bigger, of course, but the simple rush of finding new products and meeting old colleagues never diminishes.

This year, I am particularly interested in increasing our contacts in and traffic to Central Asia and The Caucuses. It is a difficult region, principally because of the almost continuous bad news generated in the mass media, but it is an area of almost limitless interest; cultures that stretch back for many millennia, scenery that ranks among the planet’s most dramatic, the extraordinary hospitality of people who have a long tradition of welcoming guests and the thrill of visiting lands that few tourists (yet) reach.

An old friend, Cyrus Etemadi from Teheran now assures me that visa issues that have been problematic for Canadian travellers venturing to Iran are now ironed out; our agent in Ashkebat advises that now the application for travel documents for independent travellers to Turkmenistan has been reduced to about 30 days, and that approvals are (almost) automatic. Life on the peculiar-travel front is looking up!

It was great to see my friend Ia Tabagari, the GM of Caucuses Travel in Tbilisi. The Russian incursion caused a dramatic reversal in the fortunes of her business, but now, the Europeans are heading back, and they (and we) hope that visitor numbers from North America will start to climb.

The global economic malaise does cast a pall over the event, but it is comforting to see so much enthusiasm and opportunity in one location.

The World Travel Market is an important show; now, its importance has grown from simply economic and commercial importance to the travel industry to embrace the wider responsibility of introducing the world to the world. I love it, and look forward to bringing more stories to you as the show goes on.

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