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Destination news from WTM 2017

by Laura Gelder | 09 November 2017

Another World Travel Market is over and, with tired feet and notebooks full of ideas and inspiration, the Selling Travel team is back to the office and the mammoth task of writing it all up. From tourism giants like Florida and Spain to undiscovered Pacific islands and up-and-coming cities, there is a whole world at WTM which we couldn't even hope to cover in its entirety. Here is our first news round-up, covering news and views from just some of the destinations we spoke to.

Antigua
“The best way to support the re-building of Barbuda is to visit Antigua,” said the island’s new Minister of Tourism, Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Honourable Henry Charles Fernandez.

The Minister reported that Antigua is open for business having escaped the worst of Hurricane Irma. All hotels are open and since a few were previously closed for refurbishment the island’s hotel stock is actually in better shape than ever. Hodges Bay Resort & Spa will open in early 2018.

Cook Islands
The Pacific destination’s key objective is to talk to agents and they will continue getting out and about around the UK to increase awareness and knowledge of the destination. Next May will see the destination’s first travel agent fam going out to the islands with Air New Zealand.

Chicago
Flight capacity to Chicago is increasing with new Norwegian flights to Chicago O’Hare launching from London in March and American Airlines upgrading its Manchester to Chicago service with a new Boeing 787. The destination hopes the increase in capacity will boost long weekend stays and open the market further.

Fort Lauderdale
The much-anticipated Brightline train service connecting Miami to Fort Lauderdale will launch at the end of 2017. The high-speed rail service will cut the 40-minute drive time in half and will be a more scenic and cheap way to travel between the two cities. The West Palm Beach-Fort Lauderdale-Miami service will form Brightline’s phase one while phase two, which will extend the train service to Orlando, is currently scheduled to launch in 2020.

Norweigen is increasing flights from London Gatwick direct to Fort Lauderdale to five times weekly with BA flights due to launch in July, 2018.

Fort Myers & Sanibel
The southwest Florida region escaped the worst of the hurricane season with minimal impact.

The destination wants to shout about its green attractions and wildlife such as turtles, dolphins, manatees and migratory birds. Tamara Pigott, Executive Director of Lee County CVB says: “We are all about eco tourism and this is what makes us different from other sun and sea destinations.”

The region’s turtle season runs from May to October and thanks to the absence of street lights nesting turtles have a high success rate. 70% of Sanibel Island is conserved and out of the region’s other 100-odd islands only eight have accommodation.

Looking ahead to 2018, ground has been broken on a new Marriott Autograph Collection property in downtown Fort Myers.

Indonesia
The country is looking to promote destinations beyond Bali for 2018. Alternatives agents could push include spectacular diving in Sulawesi's Wakatobi; trekking up active volcano Mount Bromo in Java; the beaches, diving and wildlife of Komodo Island; and Asia's largest lake - Lake Toba in Sumatra.

Jordan
The country is pushing experiential travel and wants to position itself as an authentic experience.

“Our biggest resource is our people and our culture,” said Mahmoud Freihat, Marketing Area Nanager, Jordan Tourism Board. “We want to help visitors to meet the locals and experience real Jordan by learning how to cook our food, make our crafts and experience our hospitality by booking into a homestay.”

Jordan’s newest attraction is the J Trail, a 430 mile hiking trail  running between north and south through 52 communities and passing Petra, the Dead Sea and Aqaba. The trail is signposted and can be undertaken with or without a guide. Accommodation along the route ranges from eco lodges and home stays to luxury hotels.

Malta
The Malta Tourism Authority has re-launched its online training website for UK and Ireland travel agents – learnmalta.org. Every six months agents who complete the five-module-course will be entered into a competition to win a three-night break for two to Malta and there is also a monthly draw to win an iTunes voucher worth £50.

easyJet have added an additional weekly flight to its Manchester-Malta route. Operating four times a week in winter and daily in summer, the capacity increase shows rising demand for Malta, which has been named as one of the top countries in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018.

Air Malta will be reintroducing flights from Manchester to Malta on a weekly basis throughout the summer, starting May, 1, until October, 16, 2018.

Palm Springs
The Southern Californian city is keen to communicate that it has changed a lot of the last five years. Mary Jo Ginther, Director, Palm Spring Bureau of Tourism, said: “The Coachella festival has shifted perceptions but many agents may not realise what Palm Springs is all about – we represent cocktail culture, an easy al fresco lifestyle and a vintage feel with our mid-century modernist architecture, and we are attracting an increasingly sophisticated audience.”

The 144-room Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs opens soon with a rooftop bar, pool and restaurant, offering city, desert and mountain views. An Andaz by Hyatt is under construction and will open in summer 2018. There are also plans for boutique brand Dream Hotel to open in the city.

Qatar
Qatar is running a competition amplifying Qatar’s ‘Welcome to The World’ message, following the introduction of visa-free travel. Photographing one of the Qatar-branded taxis in London and sharing it on Twitter using the handle @visitqatar and #PassportToQatar will give you the chance to win flights for two to Qatar.

Quebec
The Canadian province continues to promote its ’14 experiences’ for both summer and winter. The three-year marketing strategy is a shift of focus onto the traveller, promoting experiences rather than destinations. New additions to the list include the Montreal Observation Wheel, the largest in Canada offering panoramic views with heated cabins and a bar 60-metres above the city, and visiting the Dandy distillery to taste the first 100% Quebec-made gin.

Taiwan
China Airlines is launching direct flights between Gatwick and Taipei from December 1. The four-times-weekly service will improve UK access alongside Eva Air’s direct services from Heathrow.

UK visitor numbers are up 10% this year and the tourist board is hoping to continue growth in 2018 with a focus on sustainable travel, particularly cycling holidays. A 968-kilometre bike trail circles the island through dramatic, mountainous topography and can be tackled year-round, while the 2018 Taiwan Cycling Festival kicks off in September 2018 and will bring together multiple cycling events.

The country is also looking to attract LGBT travellers after becoming the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage this year.

Tenerife
The collapse of Monarch has had an impact on the island's UK visitor base but it’s hoped that Ryan Air and Jet2.com will take on some of the routes.

Speaking at WTM, Alberto Bernabe Teja, Tenerife’s Councillor for Tourism and Foreign Affair Area said perceptions of Tenerife were changing but work was still to be done: “One out of three visitors to Tenerife are British and they have been a top market for us for a long time but we have seen a change in the profile of visitors," he said. “Our five-star segment has grown over the last ten years and the perception of Tenerife is changing. Every hotel currently being built  is five-star and we have developed a new concept of leisure beyond the theme parks and beaches.”

The Councillor went on to talk about high-end experiences on the island including stargazing at Mount Teide paired with a Michelin-star dinner.

The island will continue its ‘No Limits’ marketing message to communicate the year-round sports and activities it offers including hiking and biking.

The trade will have plenty of opportunities to visit Tenerife in 2018/19 as the tourist board is hoping to bring 1,000 agents to the island.

At Tenerife’s WTM party the president of Tenerife announced plans of a treaty with the Canary Islands, allowing freedom of movement between the UK post Brexit. President Carlos Alonso said: “With the Canaries already benefiting from special measures and exemptions in EU policies, a treaty between us could ensure free movement, trade, services and capital between the island and Britain post Brexit and allow the islands to deal with the UK as a third-party country.”

Tobago
Virgin Atlantic announced its latest project aimed at promoting Tobago - Lets Map Tobago. The project will launch in January 2018 and allows stakeholders and visitors to upload photos of events, places and people in a Google-style street view format.

Speaking at WTM, the Minister of Tourism, Shamfa Cudjoe, declared that Tobago is now ‘rebranded, refocused and ready for business’ and that the new project, powered by Google, will help to open up Tobago as a destination to the rest of the world.

It was also announced that Tobago will welcome a Sandals resort in 2018 while Trinidad are currently developing the Brix Hotel, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.

Valencia
The region of Valencia has reported the British market continues to grow, with numbers up around 17.1% this year (aprox 2.3 million visitors). The region, incorporating the entire Costa Blanca, will be promoting its ‘Mediterraneaness’  with an emphasis on gastronomy, arts, culture and heritage.

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