I thought I’d share with you one of the highlights (if that is the right word) of working in the travel industry – that is attending the UK’s biggest trade show, World Travel Market, which is held in London every November.

WTM 2011 at ExCeL in London

Friendship Travel’s office team believes this is just another jolly for me.  But if only they (and you) knew!  World Travel Market (WTM) is held at ExCeL in London’s Docklands.  It’s a huge exhibition centre which is turned into the world in miniature over four days.  Hoteliers, tourist boards, airlines and travel companies from all over the world set up their stalls and it’s a fantastic place to find out about potential new holiday destinations and hotels – but I’ll tell you it’s hard work.  Just getting there, when you’re based in Northern Ireland, is a bit of a challenge.

Once there, it’s like speed-dating: to make it worthwhile, I cram in as many meetings as possible, 30-minute slots with people, both Friendship Travel’s current singles holidays partners, and potential partners for 2013 and beyond!  Because the 2012 brochure is already almost finished by this point in the year, so I’m already looking ahead to 2013.

At one point Dympna in the office checked my schedule and kindly noticed that I’d not left myself time for lunch or even go to the toilet on Tuesday: it was just back to back 30-minute appointments.  But that’s how it works.  It’s a fantastic jamboree, but there’s hardly anywhere to sit down and take a breath, so I end up cramming a sandwich down, on the way from one exhibition stand to another, and hoping that the people I’ve got my next meeting with offer me a coffee, or even a drink of water.  And as to getting that loo break, well I’ve got to not only find a gap in the appointments, but allow time to find the damn things and stand in the queue.  Who designs these places?

By the end of the day I’m wrecked, my feet hurt and my head’s spinning with different countries and ideas.  At this point, I always head to the Caribbean area.  This year the mojitos on the Cuba stand, followed by a rum punch offered by the Grenada tourist board brought me back to life.  Before I sound like I’m complaining too much, I have to admit that it’s an unmissable event.  You’d love it, but sadly, unless you work in the travel industry, or in the media that covers the event, you’re never going to get to see it, as the general public are not allowed in.

Regardless of the wonders of the internet, of skype and email, there’s nothing like meeting your partners face to face.  It’s the place to talk about hotel rates (which always start too high!) and give feedback from you – our guests – direct to senior management.  We’re a very personal company, so we try to build equally personal business arrangements!

At the end of each day, it was back to my hotel room to proof-read some more pages of Friendship Travel’s 2012 brochure (which is now, thankfully, on-sale and available to view on the website), and at the end of the week I dragged my bulging briefcase back to Northern Ireland (narrowly avoiding excess baggage charges).  It was full of leaflets from interesting looking destinations and hotels that might make good destinations for single travellers in the future.  Yes, no sooner is the 2012 brochure finished, than it’s time for me to start planning 2013!