I am writing this letter from London, having spent the past two days at the annual World Travel Market fair, where government tourism representatives, airlines, outfitters, and hotel companies gather to present their latest offerings.
Located at ExCeL, a hulking modern exhibition center in the Docklands area of London, WTM is always a challenging event. The traffic getting there and back is horrendous—this year especially so—and the ground one needs to cover for appointments and information-gathering requires peak conditioning. Though both the crowds and the number of exhibitors struck me as somewhat thinner than usual, there was lots of buzz about products and innovations that are likely destined for these pages, including the global expansion of once-regional brands like Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces in India, the Hong Kong–based Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and the Jumeirah Group from Dubai; Botswana’s efforts to introduce tourism into untapped wildlife areas; the reinvention of St. Lucia, in the Caribbean, through a tour de force master plan for sustainable development; forthcoming properties in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas; new sites and visitor experiences in India, the Middle East, and China. Such initiatives have the power to greatly expand our knowledge of the world.
No matter the vicissitudes of the global economy, the travel industry pushes forward, offering an ever-greater wealth of places and products to entice us beyond our boundaries. A certain measure of success is guaranteed: though I can’t tell you which of the forthcoming crop of hotels and resorts will pole-vault onto the T+L 500—our prestigious listing of favorite properties from the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards—it’s clear that many will.
As stress and economic woes swirl around us, this month at T+L we also point the way, in our 2009 trend report, to the old-fashioned essentials of travel (“Defending Tourist Hot Spots”), good manners (“Airplane Etiquette”), a country escape (“Living on an Organic Farm”), and a grand cruise liner (“Cruising in Style”). We drop in on Trancoso, Brazil (“Simple Resticity in Coastal Trancoso, Brazil”), Aspen (“Rediscovering Aspen Skiing and Nightlife”), and the wine bars of the Rioja (“Authentic Tapas in Spain’s Rioja Wine Region”), and provide a nine-point action plan for navigating the new economy (“9 Money-Saving Travel Tips”). Traveling well is the best revenge.