Published on Friday, November 8, 2013

A massive smoke-filled schlep with no healthy food?

Having just about recovered from this week's London travel trade event, World Travel Market virgin Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon reveals what she wishes she had known before she went.

1. It's a schlep
Like most visitors I wanted to stay in central London, so I snagged a pied-a-terre just off High Street Kensington. But that also meant that I had a long trek out east to the show venue at ExCeL. When it takes almost an hour and two changes on the tube to get from your room to the show floor you can forget about taking a break between meetings or freshening up pre-party, which makes for a very long work day. Next time I'll book Aloft London Excel, the only hotel connected to the venue.

2. It's smoke city
If you're sensitive to cigarette smoke prepare to hold your breath because coming and going requires running the gauntlet of smokers huddled right outside both entrances. I'd step off the tube feeling fresh, but by the time I got into ExCeL I'd be shrouded in fumes and feeling as if I needed another shower. It'd be great if the smoking section could be set a reasonable distance away from the entrances - you know, like five miles away.

3. Connectivity is crap
This was my biggest peeve, and a massive frustration to working journalist. Apparently there were two free wi-fi hotspots at the venue, Excel Free and the elusive Excel Free Fast (which appeared on my iPhone just as I set foot in the building and disappeared instantly, never to be seen again). But three out of four days of the show it was practically impossible to connect to it, which meant that I unable to work from the show floor. Admittedly, there was wi-fi in the press room, but I needed to be able to report instantly from where the action was. Connectivity improved on Thursday but I simply cannot fathom that an international travel show that's as big and well-established as WTM doesn't provide reliable wi-fi. Even my UK-based colleagues were frustrated with the lengthy times it took texts and emails to go through. My advice to foreign-based delegates who don't want to rack up roaming bills: buy a data/text plan before you leave home or bring a personal wi-fi hotspot, because you won't be able to work without one.

4. It's bigger than you think
I'd heard that the show was a biggie but I couldn't imagine how large until I actually saw it. There are more than 5,000 exhibitors; 8,000 attendees; and a gazillion booths. And we're not talking 6'x 6' stands; many were more than twice the size of my downtown Miami condo (and better furnished, too.) The takeaway: Be specific and strategic when picking a meeting point because it can take 10 minutes to navigate your way from one end of the show to the other - plus the time it takes to pose for photos with the multitude of costumed characters and reps in national dress along the way (yep, guilty).

5. Appointments are essential
WTM veterans know trying to find anyone in a jam-packed venue this size is an exercise in futility. You simply must set up meetings in advance, and a casual plan to "see you when I get there" just won't cut it. I tried for four days to connect with some PR people I know from Florida who were also at the show. Ha! Guess we'll see each other in Miami.

6. Healthy fare is limited
If you're careful about what you eat, I have two words for you: Bring snacks! While there are plenty of food outlets at the show you'll be hard pressed to find one that serves anything remotely healthy. Lines are long, prices are high (four pounds twenty-five for a side of French fries!), and service can be slow. It's all too easy to subsist on a steady diet of salt-and-vinegar crisps and the smorgasbord of sweets and calorific snacks the destinations give away. The energy bars I toted to the show every day saved my life.

7. The cable car is cool!
If you're commuting in from central London, consider taking the Emirates Air Lines cable car from North Greenwich (Jubilee Line) to WTM. The 10-minute ride (a 3 pounds 20 supplement if you've already bought an Oyster card) takes you 300 feet over the Thames past Canary Wharf and O2, and it's a great way to squeeze in some sightseeing before or after a day at the show.

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon is former executive editor of the US-based Caribbean Travel +Life magazine and jetsetter-in-chief at, where travel and shopping meet. Follow her on twitter at @JetSetSarah, and at


Story Image

Your Comments

, be the first to post a comment.
Your email:

Email other comments made to this story

NOTE: Comments are subject to admin approval before being posted.
  • Kensington to Excel

    From a West End Girl to an East End Boy as the Pet Shop Boys sang! Sarah - you could have had a very pleasant walk through Kensington up to Notting Hill Station then Central Line straight to Stratford and then hopped on DLR direct to Excel, a relatively civilised and underused route.

    By Andy Brabin, Friday, November 8, 2013

Mole Poll
Are you worried about redundancy ?
YES 52.42 %
NO 47.58 %

Thank you for your vote

What is GoodtoGo?

Submit your news
or special offer

Current UK Special Edition

Current US Special Edition

Current Asia/Pacific Special Edition


Recovery Update: Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, & China , with Mekong Tourism (Aug 5 )

James Thornton CEO of Intrepid Travel talks exclusively to TravelMole

Pure Michigan is prepared, protected and open for business - Next step International arrivals

Travel Industry Virtual Wellness Day Video