Are you a travel blogger and ready to be incredibly inspired and educated? The World Travel Market (WTM) is the first place that helped me really think about my blog, inspired my content, opened up opportunities, and got me incredibly motivated to share stories and tips with you.
I did research before going to my first WTM, but nothing truly prepares you until you are there. It’s a place filled with opportunity, wonder, and excitement. I wrote all about my experience from 2015 if you want to read that as well.
Personally, I enjoy creating relationships and building friendships — both with fellow bloggers and with industry professionals. But as an introvert, the idea of going in and talking to people I didn’t know for four whole days was terrifying. Couple that with being a planner, I knew I had to get some things figured out.
To help other bloggers prepare for this grand event, I have created this Ultimate Guide to the World Travel Market for Bloggers. I’ll take you from the beginning to the end based on my experience. I truly hope it helps you, and please reach out on Twitter if you have any questions about it!
Register as Press
To register as a member of the press (yep, that means bloggers too!), click here. You’ll need to take a photo of your business card and choose the areas you cover. They take about 3 days to confirm your acceptance, then you will receive your pass digitally which you’ll need to print out before you arrive. This is free, so take advantage of this awesome opportunity!
Check out the schedule and add the sessions you are interested in on your My WTM calendar so you can refer to it, and plan around those. I did find out that some of them are super popular (such as: How much money a travel blogger should make), so plan a good buffer, maybe 15-20 minutes beforehand so you can get in a get a seat.
Focus. Focus. Focus. I say this at work all the time and this is no different. Don’t go in thinking that everyone wants to talk to you or that you have something to offer every country in the building. We are focusing on Europe right now. Mainly our adopted home of the Netherlands, but we also enjoy exploring all of this beautiful continent. Then I narrowed it down even more. I figured that I’ve flown into Iceland twice and I want to see more of it. The Nordic countries don’t get enough love, so I’ll check them out, Germany, France, Belgium, and the UK are super close, so I’ll connect with those groups, and who doesn’t love Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece,and Croatia?
Group countries by importance to you, or maybe by likelihood of getting a meeting. Then plan your meetings around the sessions you choose. When asking for a meeting, be professional, polite, and respect their time.
You will definitely need business cards! Of course you can get business cards from many places, but my favorite (and I noticed a lot of people’s favorite) is MOO. They are amazing quality and come in a really handy box with a couple of dividers. Keep your cards in the front and add the ones you receive in the back. No confusion! Order your MOO business cards through that link and get 10% off and I get a little something too 😉
Don’t put these off until the last minute. Having them ordered at least one month before will make you feel a bit more prepared. One last piece of business card advice: go with a standard size and incorporate a bit of white space to give people a little spot to write a note about you. I know people want to stand out, but the half cards and square cards are annoying for people to handle. Find a different way to stand out!
I ordered 100 cards (that’s two MOO boxes) and handed out maybe 60 between other bloggers and industry contacts. Some handy them out like candy, and I guess I did as well, but I was also selective in the booths I went to so that I could keep my focus. So, I think 100 would be plenty–unless you are SUPER outgoing and talk to anyone who will talk back. Always keep a few in your pocket!
Press Kit (Media Kit)
Do some research to figure out how you should create your document, what the design should be, what information to put on it, and how to print it. I had a friend help with mine and we used Canva. She would have preferred InDesign, but I wanted to have access to it for changes. Use whatever is comfortable for you. We were told at WTM this year that bloggers are stepping up their game when it comes to press kits, so spend some time on it. Sadly, not many people asked for mine since they preferred digital. I hate wasting money and paper, but at least I was prepared. To be safe, I would suggest printing 20-30. Really though, nobody loves a ton of paper. You will find some booths staple it onto their form, so they already have a system in place to accept them.
You’ll get an email about the WTM app that’s free to download. You should probably have it, though when it came to looking up vendors, I tended to look at the paper route planner that you pick up when you arrive. It’s just easier to read. Just test it out yourself before relying on it, and be prepared for multiple updates to the app.
Know What Makes You Special
Depending on the size of your blog, you may have already thought of this, but let’s get into it anyway. What makes you unique? Who is your market? Who is your target audience (this might be different than your market)? What’s your niche? You can have more than one. Do you have a unique view of the world? Are you a foodie? A wine or beer expert? Do you only stay at the homes of locals? Are you nomadic? Do you like the quirky stuff? Are you a stylish traveler? Are you a penny-pincher? An adrenaline junkie? Treehugger? Vegan? Volunteer? Or a luxury traveler? What geographical areas do you cover? Are you better at taking photos than writing? Are you sassy and tell it like it is? Maybe you’re everyone’s best friend?
Example: We are a couple who enjoys traveling and discovering the areas that tourists don’t bother to find in cities that everyone seems to flock to. Whether it’s a day trip from that city, enjoying a local festival, or finding the quirkiest thing to do, it’s probably not what everyone else is doing. We also love food and wine, so those regions known for that are very interesting to us and we want to explore them. And of course we love authenticity. Geographically, our focus is Europe.
Know your story and tailor it to the destination.
Part of being classified as international press and going to make professional contacts is looking the part. So, make sure your clothing reflects that. I saw outfits that ranged from “I wouldn’t have worn that” to (staring) “What the hell is she wearing?!”
Think business casual for women and suits for men. I wore a half-sleeve sweater one day, a button-up another, then a small v-neck sweater with a blazer, and a mock turtle-neck with a nice looking duster. I paired these with a straight-leg medium brown trouser and a medium grey relaxed-leg trouser. All paired with a rounded tip black flat. Don’t wear jeans.
It is London, so you may want to pack an umbrella and be sure to have regular (non-conference) shoes with you too! I wore these on the plane. Though I learned the hard way that you might want to bring water-resistant shoes.
Leave room in your suitcase for papers! As much as you probably don’t want to carry home a bunch of brochures, you will get some that are beautiful, helpful, or that you simply need! I didn’t expect to get a lovely swag bag from Dubai with a wide brimmed hat, flip-flops and sunscreen, so packing that was unexpected!
A schedule is always helpful, but in this case it can save you from thousands of steps. First, check the sessions you are interested in attending. That’s the easiest task to start with since the information will be available. Then, you can try to set up meetings with those you are serious about connecting with. Do it as early as possible, before their calendars fill up. Add in the events you want to attend (external and internal) and finally, prioritize the areas you want to visit. You can still meet with people if you didn’t get a preset time, you just need to catch them at their stand! Monday was the best day of getting around the stands for me. Tuesday and Wednesday everyone seemed extremely busy. Thursday was very quiet as many people had left and students come in to scope out work and internship opportunities.
Getting There and Getting Around
There may be discounts available for getting to London and then getting around the city. WTM also has official accommodation providers if you are interested. Of course, there is a DLR stop on either side of the ExCel Center so it’s relatively easy to get to. Just keep in mind that traveling in London seems to take quite a while no matter where you are coming from or going to. Whether you are staying close by or more into the center of the city, get an Oyster Card (their transit card)! It will make your life easier. Tap in and out for the metro and DLR (once when you start your journey and once when it’s over–not at transfers). And only tap in for the buses.
It’s a huge space, and it can be hard to think east-west/north-south. Luckily the signage is really well placed and there are maps all over. The hall is divided into continental areas, and then by countries, with the Global Village and the tech area at one end.
As soon as you arrive, head straight to the Press Centre to check your coat and any bags you won’t be needing. Take a minute to sit down and review your schedule for the day. Then take a deep breath and go for it!
WTM Route Guide
This is your best friend. Really, have this, your cards and media kit and you are all set. The Route Guide has all the sessions listed in an easy-to-follow way and there is a fold-out map in the back with a directory inside. On your first day, you may want to circle/highlight/write the country name in the booklet to help you later because you aren’t going to remember that the Netherlands is EU500.
I am so incredibly thankful for the Press Centre. It’s a refuge from the craziness. There’s a coat check that you can use for free, there’s extra wifi if you can’t get the main two to work, and there’s a coffee/tea/snack bar inside. Everyone listed as press is treated the same way which is really interesting. I sat with a member of the BBC and Euronews TV. Give them all your card! If you’re lucky, they will be handing out vouchers for coffee/tea. You will also find the Press Centre info desk, extra wifi, bathrooms, an office area, and a room with press kits and such from destinations along with other information. (Note: They moved the Press Centre in 2016 so this information may change)
There are so many sessions to choose from! Don’t feel like you have to go to all of them, but pick one or two that you will find interesting or that you think you will learn from. You can never learn too much! I went to three, all were incredibly interesting, and I came out with great notes from each. It can be easy to make connections in these sessions as well. You never know who you will meet and where.
Not all the categories will be relevant, so read the descriptions and even ask around if you aren’t sure if it’s for you. They have some that are labeled as “blogger” sessions that might be of interest, and I went to a couple of those. I also went to a session about the food/drink/travel industry which I found fascinating! Don’t forget that sessions give you an opportunity to sit down which is awesome because you will be walking a ton!
One night each year WTM is now hosting festivals. A handful of countries stay late (until around 7:00 pm) and showcase their music, personality, food, and drinks. These are open events for attendees and quite interesting to see. They do get very crowded, so I suggest figuring out which one you really want to see, and go there first.
In 2015, I saw a Mariachi Band, tasted coconut ice cream, and saw drunk trade people dancing to pop/rock tunes. Everyone was having a blast. The Caribbean festival was the craziest with different types of food on trays constantly arriving. Because it is open to everyone, and we all like free stuff, people would swarm these servers to grab a bite to eat.
Many events are planned around the World Travel Market and make it a very well-rounded experience. There may be food tours offered, or parties hosted by destinations or other companies. Travel organizations host events as well–and are VERY well attended. Most are invitation only — so start tweeting the WTM hashtag, join Facebook groups, and get on mailing lists!
Traverse tends to host something the Friday before the event. This can be hard to get to if you aren’t based in London, but something to keep in mind. Travel Massive had an overly large event at a cool venue after the first event day. On the last event day, someone usually hosts a finale party somewhere in the host city.
It’s a fact that some people go to these things just for the freebies. Some are after big ticket items like press trips and others are interested in the food. I’m sure they don’t come to London just for food samples, but I think you know what I mean.
There are lots of freebies to be had, but again, be respectful. Some of the fun ones were getting pictures taken “at the destination”. So I have a photo in Costa Rica, Portugal, and even Platform 9 ¾. There are chocolate tastings, beer and wine tastings, and the Festivals have quite a bit of food and drink as well. I got a neck and shoulder massage from Thailand for free which was heaven, and they offered free coffee as well. Sri Lanka had a tea bar and I’m pretty sure they were doing foot massages (can’t believe I missed that!). The Netherlands had Heineken and Ireland had Guinness.
I enjoyed the little candies and chocolates spread about and don’t forget to ask about them. Destinations are showing you what they are proud of, so let them explain. You can learn a lot about a culture through food, drink, and little candies! There are even some raffles you can enter and virtual reality you can experience. So much to do, right?!
I don’t personally go in the first time I meet someone and immediately throw my elevator pitch. I know others who could pitch in their sleep and probably land a contract in 10 minutes. Just like everything, everyone has their own style. So, here’s mine:
First of all, stick with your focus, then it will flow better when you talk to people. Depending on your mood and the perceived mood of the person, you could start with simply introducing yourself. Though, I don’t say I’m a travel blogger at first. Maybe this is wrong, but I felt that it was easier to build a rapport before throwing that in there. I say that because I do hear bloggers say they feel like people perceive them as just wanting free things. Yes, I want experiences, but I genuinely want to experience that place and share it with the world. And that needs to show.
I tend to first gush over their region and use specifics. “Austria has some of the most beautiful buildings.” “I hear the food in Spain is incredible and that your area has a great food culture” “I’ve visited your embassy in D.C. and found the people so friendly and learned that you have some of the oldest ruins” You get the point. Just be real. If you are headed there soon, tell them that you are excited (hopefully you are if you are going!), and that you want to learn more so you don’t miss anything since you’re a travel blogger and want to share the love.
A different approach I used was mentioning my niches first, or asking something specific. For Switzerland, I mentioned I was a blogger and said I was interested in winter destinations because I think that people don’t take advantage of winter travel as much as they should. Or I would tell a destination how I loved finding the quirkier side of a city, or an experience outside of the main city, and what would they recommend.
Another segue into working with blogs could be “Do you have a blogger program?” or “Do you work with bloggers?” If you ask this question, you will likely be directed to the PR person or someone like that, so they can give you relevant information. Some are very straight-forward with what they offer and some will just add you to a list.
I think I was asked for my numbers twice and had 60 press kits printed (not cheap!) then gave maybe 5. They rest just preferred it to be digital. So do I!
Here’s a great article on pitching from Travel Blog Success that might help you even more.
You are networking all the time. Always have your own cards handy. I made great connections while sharing a lunch table, sitting next to people in sessions, and other random spots. Always be open to meet people and chat.
First thing on Monday morning, you are welcomed with a breakfast where you can network with other members of the press. This might be for magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs. Never turn down an opportunity to network…especially if it involves food!
Take business cards! I immediately put the contact info in a spreadsheet and ad them on Twitter to a WTM list so that I remember where I met them and maybe a fun fact about our conversation.
Take photos during WTM and upload them as you go, or wait until the evening and schedule posts for the next day. That way you can be sure to tag the right people and use the right hashtags! Tweet the people who on are panels at the sessions you are attending. Connect however possible to be noticed!
Hootsuite: Follow #WTMLDN, #WTM16 (unofficial), @WTM_London and check them throughout the day to see if there’s anything interesting you should check out or to engage with even if just on Twitter.
Be polite, professional, and genuine!
Don’t be all “Gimme-Gimme”
Respect is a reoccurring theme in this port for good reason. Just because you have big numbers or you think you are super special does not mean that people should feel honored to work with you. Go into meetings with a mutually beneficial attitude and you’ll get much more out of it. Bloggers seem to have a reputation of going to booths just to ask for free things. So let’s all help change that stereotype to one of friendliness, professionalism, and being easy to work with. Start with building relationships and you’ll go much farther!
Take Care of Yourself
Try to take food with you so you can eat on the go when you realize you are hungry. Maybe that’s energy bars, fruit, a packed sandwich, just something to keep you going. I kept water, food bars, and peanuts in my bag which helped a lot.
Wear decent shoes. Yes, you should look professional, but maybe bring some light/comfy shoes in your bag with you for when you need to get out of the nice shoes. I went with Toms shoes since they are light and very comfortable.
After this crazy whirlwind of an event, you’ll want to follow up with the contacts you made. This might just be a polite “Thanks for meeting with me. Hope to work with you soon.” Or something more productive, like hashing out a contract. Either way, it’s good to connect soon after and try to add something personal to make your contact remember you. Maybe you spoke about their dog, or they had a tough flight, or anything you remember from that meeting, bring it up and they know you weren’t just making the rounds.
Going to the World Travel Market as a blogger is an awesome experience that can boost your blogging social circle, your motivation, and your understanding of working with brands and destinations. Embrace it! You are going to come out with so much knowledge and so many contacts that you won’t be able to help but to start taking yourself seriously as a blogger. If you are able to make connections with fellow bloggers before you leave, definitely schedule a meetup to give you a head-start on networking.
If you are going to WTM this year, tweet me and I’ll put you in my WTM ‘16 list. Maybe we can even meet up! Have other questions? Leave them below, or just let me know what you are most excited about! Catch ya in London 🙂
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