If you don’t know what #WTM means it’s world travel market. A large event at London ExCel all about travel, with travel agents, airlines, tourist boards, PR folk, press and bloggers.
Going in alone was very daunting, it is a truly massive building. I signed in as press and that was it. On my own, no map, wasn’t told (or advised) where to go. I wasn’t aware having the Press pass meant free tea or coffee, nor did I know there is a press room to sit in for a little rest. Nope, I knew none of this, nor where the meeting rooms were.
It’s a shame I learnt all that at leaving time rather than on the way in.
Anyhow why did I go there? I am not a travel blogger, I am just another mother that blogs right? Wrong! I have worked in travel, well the add on jobs to travel – nothing as fun as air hostess or holiday rep. I worked for several years at National Express coaches, or NX as they prefer these days. I also worked for a few years selling luggage. I had memorized airline cabin baggage allowance weight and sizing in centimetres and also I knew so many route numbers and coach timings it was unreal. This means I talked to a lot of customers about holiday plans – even though I wasn’t a travel agent I would be asked for my advice an awful lot.
If you need packing tips I might be helpful, but equally useless as I would say pack sun cream and shoes, lots of shoes.
I know it is hardly a glowing CV of travel knowledge, but it’s not a bad start. Also I grew up in Cornwall, home of British tourism. I have learnt from the community side about tourism and travel rather than actually being the tourist. I know how whole towns become almost abandoned in the off season (Autumn and Winter).
Now I am, in my own opinion, getting a bit better at the writing malarkey I want to see where it can take me. (Please be Australia!)
I totally get that travel bloggers do not get free holidays, more like a holiday in return for a service. It is hard work, writing a good blog post can take hours, then there are photographs or video. These take time to do properly, then that post needs promoting too, sharing on social media and so on. You don’t get free holidays unless you win them – even then the expenses you can’t avoid stack up like home to airport travel (by NX most likely) and cabs or buses from the airport to your hotel or villa. From experience a free holiday will cost you about £200 but that is so much better than paying for everything.
I still really want in on the travel blogging scene though because we normally holiday in tents for financial reasons. If I was to get press trips or PR support for holidays I could hopefully holiday abroad for UK prices. I am already a social media addict, check my twitter and you’ll see I really cannot stay silent. Whilst for many blogging and Instagraming and tweeting everywhere you go would be a real drag, but I love social media so it would be perfect.
Back to WTM, I was only there one day. My advice one day is a bad plan. If you are going as a blogger/press you need business cards.
“yeah I am a blogger”
“what’s the address – I’ll get a pen?”
“its julies note book dot co dot uk“
would get rather dull rather fast. A card can have other details such as a short description of your blog, maybe your twitter or Facebook name and your most grown up looking email address (firstname.lastname@example.org looks and sounds way better than email@example.com doesn’t it?). If it has a good photo or something eye catching on the card the travel gurus or PR folks might actually remember you. What I found hard was although I am happy to holiday as an exchange of services…. I felt uncomfortable trying to talk to the various companies. When I say “Hi I love doing xyz so I would love to work with your brand” I fear it sounds like begging. I just need a better way to say it, to attempt to “sell” myself and still come across as at least a bit professional, to sound confident but not bragging, blagging or begging.
I want to work, and I feel I’ve found something I can do at last. Travel writing would suit me, if my conditions cause me pain I can have a slow day – I could just go on a bus tour rather than a mega long bike ride. Wait out the pain like I would at home, something I couldn’t do in retail work. Readers don’t just want to see food photos and prefect sunsets, they want words and opinions. I think many families plan in a slow day, or a beach day to get a midweek rest anyway? Walking slowly around the backstreets of an old town can be great fun, remember to look up above modern shop fronts and you will probably see hidden gems. I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want to rush about like a buzy bee all vacation?
Another top tip if you do attend WTM this week (or next year) is take snacks. Consider the whole place as window shopping. Collect as many business cards as you can and pitch these companies later. Chat to the people on the stands – if you’ve not a clue what a company do or where in the world a certain country they are selling even is, ask them. What is the worst that can happen? If it goes all embarrassingly pear shaped don’t give them your business card at the end. (Still pick up theirs though – they might not remember your silly questions by the time you email them).
The place is so full, so busy, so loud it is a bit like a casino – time disappears and before you know it you’ve not only missed lunch but it’s gone dark outside. That was not smart of me to forget to eat as it meant I also didn’t take my pain medication and now feel like I could use a walking stick or zimmer frame, just call me Doris. I did however remember a notebook and pen, a power pack phone charger, lip balm and a spare hair band. If you’ve hair like mine you will appreciate that band in your pocket when you are waiting for the tube trains and one goes through fast on the other platform – if you forget you will end up looking like chewbacca testing a wind tunnel. Don’t say I don’t warn you about things that matter!
Next important thing, network! If you bump into similar people talk to them, swap tips, gossip, even chat about which stands were helpful and which you felt were not. Try to go to a few of the talks, learning from your peers is fabulous.
But above all, have fun.
I think I will be back next year, but no longer a newbie and hopefully I can get more out of it. Go in there with a plan and ace it.