WTM London has grown beyond belief in the past four decades. 40 countries, 221 exhibitors and 9,000 trade visitors took part in the first ever WTM at London Olympia in 1980. Two moves (Earls Court in 1992 and ExCeL in 2002) and 40 years later, now WTM London facilitates £2.8 billion in industry deals and has around 5,000 exhibitors from 182 countries and regions and more than 51,000 participants.
The History of World Travel Market London
The WTM launch event at Olympia
WTM’s launch event at Olympia was opened by the Duke of Kent and Miss World, Kimberly Santos of Guam. The Duke astounded everybody when he visited the Oklahoma stand by putting on a full-length Native American headdress. It was counter to his reputation and the picture appeared in every national newspaper. It is deemed to be the making of World Travel Market.
Princess Alexandra opens WTM
Princess Alexandra opened WTM to a near riot among Sun newspaper readers when a consumer promotion went wrong.
Princess Diana opens the event
The opening ceremony was standing room only drawing its biggest crowd to date to watch Princess Diana opened the event. Princess Diana had just given birth to the youngest of her sons, Prince Harry. "She was the most famous woman in the world. The security was fearsome... Everybody wanted to be there. You couldn't move because she made such an impact."
WTM celebrates its 10th anniversary with Princess Anne opening the show
The Princess, alongside exhibitors and visitors, were shocked when anti-Apartheid protestors evaded security to drop leaflets on her head. The protestors also painted Olympia’s doors with red paint.
WTM moves to Earls Court
WTM becomes so popular that a decision is made immediately after WTM 1990 to consider an alternative venue. The event moved to Earls Court two years later.
Launch of WTM Meridian Club
WTM launches the Meridian Club, an exclusive club for the industry’s senior travel buyers. Designed to aid negotiations with exhibitors, Meridian Club launched with almost 7,000 members. By 2008 it had almost 11,000 members.
Launch of Environment Awareness Day
Now known as World Responsible Tourism Day, was launched to encourage greater debate on green issues.
Just a Drop was founded by WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery
WTM Chairman Fiona Jeffery founded international water-aid charity Just a Drop on behalf of the travel industry. The charity raises desperately needed funds to build wells, bore holes, hand pumps and run health and sanitation programmes throughout the world. The charity has raised more than £1million and supported 900,000 people in 28 countries.
WTM celebrates its 21st birthday
WTM celebrated with Tribute 21, recognising 21 of the travel industry’s top international business executives, including The Hon ‘Butch Gordon Stewart, Managing Director of Sandals Resorts; Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO Royal Caribbean Cruises; Dr Ralf Corsten, Chairman, TUI Group and Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group of Companies.
WTM moves from Earls Court to ExCel London
Visitors were welcomed by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The opening was performed by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. The world-famous Irish dance group Riverdance provided the entertainment, underlining ExCeL’s dockside location by the River Thames.
Environmental Awareness Day was renamed World Responsible Tourism Day
WTM celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Environmental Awareness Day - which pioneered education of green issues at World Travel Market over 15 years - was renamed World Responsible Tourism Day.
WTM Hosted the first UNWTO Ministers' summit on tourism and climate change
This was a key part of an international programme to widen and deepen the debate on climate change when they agreed a declaration and presented to the UN’s Climate Summit in Bali a month later.
Boris Johnson opens the event
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, opens World Travel Market on its 30th birthday.
WTM Speed Networking was introduced
The highly successful WTM Speed Networking session was introduced, matching buyers and exhibitors for quick business meetings on the first day of the event.
The Travel Technology Show and a Taste of ILTM at WTM was launched
WTM was expanded to be the biggest and best yet with the introduction of the new The Travel Technology Show at WTM and the luxury showcase A Taste of ILTM at WTM.
WTM London is revamped as a 3 day event
Following exhibitor and visitor feedback and an unprecedented period of growth, WTM London was revamped as a three day event.
WTM London goes Virtual for the first time
2020 was an unusual year, and we all had to adjust to new ways of working so, for the first time ever we held a completely virtual show. A total of 50 sessions took place as well as countless meetings between buyers, exhibitors and visitors. The feedback was fantastic.
What do visitors gain?
Expand your business network and hear from industry leaders about travel trends and innovations.
Showcase your destination
Gain exposure and promote your culture to 51,000 visitors from the travel industry.