Alison Gilmore, Senior Exhibition Director for ILTM, sits down to share her wisdom about the International Luxury Travel Market.
- What sets ILTM apart from other luxury travel exhibitions and meetings? How do you ensure exclusivity at each of your events?
ILTM events are slick, invitation-only events, where the suppliers of the world’s best travel products and experiences meet with luxury travel buyers from all four corners of the world. ILTM is organised by Reed Travel Exhibitions, the world’s leading provider of exhibitions to the travel and tourism industry, with a wide-ranging portfolio of 21 international events in 14 countries. ILTM follows the proven successful Hosted Buyer formula where pre-qualified buyers meet with their suppliers of choice in a series of pre-arranged one-to-one appointments with additional exclusive access to social networking opportunities and topical education programmes.
ILTM in Cannes is the global flagship event in a portfolio of six different ILTM events which each aim to serve a different market or sector of the industry. Cannes brings together international suppliers and international buyers, whilst the other ILTM events see international suppliers meeting with agents from that region. The exception to this rule is ILTM in Africa, where the opposite is true. It is about giving a world-class platform for African product.
The ILTM Portfolio now comprises six events: the global flagship event in Cannes, core regional events in Asia and the Americas (for North America we have ILTM Americas in Mexico and for Latin America we have Travelweek Sao Paulo by ILTM in Brazil), and two specialist events: ILTM Japan and ILTM Africa.
- How does ILTM maintain a fresh dynamic approach while holding multiple events a year?
Across the ILTM Portfolio, the quality of the buyers is what defines us and is the key reason for the success of each event. Only the most productive of buyers are invited and a minimum of 30 per cent will be new to that event, meaning they have never previously attended it before. Holding multiple events actually helps us to keep each event fresh and dynamic as we’re identifying so many new agents and growing our network of luxury planners so rapidly. The agents we’re able to bring along to our events represent the hard to find HNWIs in a range of exciting new source markets from Vietnam and Indonesia to Hong Kong and Taiwan. These new ‘rising stars’ are also complemented by established agents you expect to see at ILTM in Cannes and Asia and the larger more international shows like ILTM Americas and Travelweek Sao Paulo by ILTM.
On the exhibitor side, our well-deserved reputation is also based on the fact that we welcome well-known brands from across the world as well as new products to the market. From private islands in the Pacific to stunning haciendas in Costa Rica to boutique hotels on stilts in Panama to new contemporary hotels in New York, ski resorts, culinary courses and yachts, the list continues to grow.
- What is it about Shanghai that enticed ILTM organisers to hold a key trade event there?
Shanghai is a thriving cosmopolitan city, a modern metropolis leading the way in fashion, design, and arts. As China’s largest city, Shanghai is also the ideal geographical location to host an international luxury travel event – indeed, with rising international influence, Shanghai is the preferred location for many events. With an excellent internal infrastructure, it is also the only city in China to boast two international airports with connections to over 200 cities across the world. ILTM Asia brings up to 500 agents from all over the Asia Pacific region, up to 200 of which come from Greater China alone, and Shanghai is the destination that allows us to bring all of these people together for four days of business in total comfort and luxury. Also, we don’t like sterile exhibition halls and the old palace we take over for ILTM in Shanghai is one of my favourite venues, I cant wait to go back each year.
- Have there been any new developments in the event format this time around?
At this year’s event in June, we will introduce a new area called ‘Debutantes’ to profile and support the new launches, openings and experiences across the region.
ILTM Asia 2015 will also feature regional areas to profile a number of exhibitors from specific regions. These include Iceland and Argentina for the first time, as well as groups of luxury travel products from across Europe, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, Switzerland and Vienna.
- Which new exhibitors can we look forward to seeing this year in Shanghai?
Brands such as The American Excursionist profile in-depth experiences for multi-generations: ‘Florida for the Whole Family’, culture vultures: ‘Smithsonian Curated Tours in Washington DC’ and adventure: ‘Death Valley Adventure in Las Vegas’. Pelican Hill is a singular luxury resort destination in California with true vision – designed for the next 100 years and beyond. Iceland will be big this year – Nine Worlds in Iceland offers experiences ranging from ‘Digital Detox’ to heli-skiing from the mountain tip to the seashore.
In Asia, new exhibitors include a high-end single cabin cruise in Indonesia and a new boutique resort in Thailand. In addition, Wynn Macau, owned by Wynn Resorts, is a luxury integrated resort in Macau, China, offering gaming combined with a hotel, restaurants, shops, spa, and a “Performance Lake”. It is the first Las Vegas-style integrated resort in Asia.
In essence, these – alongside many other both new and established names at ILTM Asia – are brands that are excelling in detail, allowing their clients to immerse themselves in luxury experiences created for 2015 and beyond.
- How has your previous experience at American Express equipped you to deal with the challenges of coordinating ILTM?
When I joined American Express and looked through the Fine Hotels and Resorts book back in 1995, I immediately fell in love with hotels and the luxury travel industry. As my passion for travel continued to grow, my role in leveraging the American Express global travel network by creating international travel partnerships and relationships was a job I loved. Luxury travel is about relationships and ILTM is absolutely a reflection of this.
- How has ILTM – and luxury travel overall – developed since you first started in the industry? How do you see it changing in the future?
ILTM is now is its 14th year and ILTM Asia in its ninth year. Personally, I have over 25 years’ experience in the industry and what a journey it has been for us all. This is an industry that continually evolves to meet customer demand like no other. The needs of high-net-worth travellers also differ – in some aspects, significantly across the different regions of the world and this will continue to be the case.
The luxury travel industry is being increasingly called on to “think global but act local”. Ultimately, today’s luxury travellers are looking to explore the world – its cultures, beaches, spas and its cuisine – in complete style. They also don’t just want to stay in their hotels, but get out and discover the landscape, local arts, crafts and cuisine and therefore support local communities.
There are global trends that we also see growing across all four corners of the world. For example, Health and Wellbeing: Digital detox is the buzz word of the moment and quiet space and ‘mindfulness’ in switching off are going to be key this year.
- How would you describe the prototypical luxury travel consumer? Has this demographic changed?
There are plenty of people who would have you believe that travelling is age-specific, that there are certain ways to travel depending on your age. The point is there is more than one type of traveller, more than one way to travel – the age on your passport may not match the age of your soul; for me, age is just a number.
Families are now travelling together more than ever before and multi-generational travel is now one of the fastest and sustained growing segments in luxury travel. We also know that children are the big drivers of decisions on multi-generational trips, but grandparents are often the ones who pay for those trips.
Cruises have finally shaken off their image of holidays for the elderly and now many feature rock climbing, assault courses and surfing lessons in on-board simulators, to appeal to everyone. Discovering the wildlife in the Arctic and Antarctic, gastronomic experiences on the Amazon or river cruises down the Mekong in Cambodia are sought-after experiences for all age groups.
Importantly, the way these travellers book their travel has also changed – the numbers of bespoke and concierge travel companies continue to grow to reflect the tailored approach demanded by the high-net-worth traveller today. And ILTM events are where these experts are coming to discover what’s new!
- Which destinations should the luxury travel trade be watching now?
Iceland is what’s trending at the moment. In fact, Iceland is profiling a series of experiential partners at ILTM events this year. Nine Worlds and Nordic Luxury are just two of the Iceland specialists but they are the talk of the town, focusing on creating unique and tailor-made Iceland-specific experiences. Combining the other hot luxury travel trend of the moment, the medical spa at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is incredible.
For our Asian luxury travel market, Latin America is hot right now: expeditions along the Amazon, in-depth visions of South American contemporary art and authentic, adventurous tours throughout the Andes. New cruise opportunities continue to grow with niche specialists such as Poseidon Expeditions offering exclusive icebreaker cruises in the North Pole and Silverseas’ expedition adventure to Antarctica – the world is definitely covered.
- Have your personal travels informed your ILTM experience? What do you seek in a luxury travel experience?
I am very fortunate that I have been able to experience so much of the world as part of my job and two travel experiences that stand out for me would be Laos, such a magical and spiritual place, and Antarctica… but we don’t have enough space or words here to describe its utter beauty. Put simply, there is no other place on earth like it.
- Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Registration for luxury travel agents interested in attending ILTM Asia 2015 ends on 18 April. Please email us now if you would like to be considered: firstname.lastname@example.org
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