Staking its claim as the premier B2B luxury travel event in the region, ILTM Asia Pacific last week returned to Singapore “100 per cent bigger” than its inaugural edition, with a heightened stringency in buyer sourcing and matchmaking earning the satisfaction of many attendees.
The second ILTM Asia Pacific hosted 572 buyers from across the region, who took part in 30,422 one-to-one, pre-selected meetings. Apart from the standout market of New Zealand – from where the organisers reported 133 per cent increase in buyers – growth was also seen from Australia (nine per cent), South Korea (21 per cent), Malaysia (33 per cent), New Zealand (133 per cent) and the Philippines (38 per cent). First-time agents from Bangladesh, Moldova, Armenia and Belarus were also in attendance.
Quiet aisle, quality business
The absence of idle crowds, or any crowding at all, was a common observation of attendees at this year’s show.
Alison Gilmore, head of ILTM said this is every bit what was intended, and the outcome of stringent scheduling and matchmaking.
“The aisles should be clear,” Gilmore remarked. “It’s a military operation. Everyone comes here to work and do business. We make sure everyone has a diary full of appointments, otherwise they would not be allowed to enter the show.”
While ensuring suppliers get face-time with a stream of qualified buyers, the organisers also want to present buyers with diverse luxury travel products. “Some clients will only stay in a Ritz. Others will want something off the beaten track. We need to give them a palette of different products and services.”
While it may be a tall order for smaller suppliers to take up booth space, Gilmore is upbeat about their continued presence in subsequent shows, whether it be standalone or as part of representation companies or NTO-led delegations.
“If you’ve got just two villas or seven rooms (citing the example of two exhibitors at this year’s show), it’s a big investment. You’ve got to sell a lot of rooms to get your money back. The fact that we have these people exhibiting here means we’re doing something right for them. Some of them have returned, which says to us that they are getting their ROI,” she added.
It’s a match
Extra steps were taken this year in the area of buyer sourcing and matchmaking, all going towards maximising quality and conversion. “There are more millionaires here in Asia than ever before. There are also lots of buyers out there, many with a certain level of quality. It’s about finding them.”
For this year’s edition, ILTM hired an expert in the Asian travel trade to deepen buyer engagement. “He has been able to find new buyers. With a real track record in the luxury travel trade and knowing all the agents, he’s a little diamond and a great asset,” Gilmore said. “He has helped not only to weed out (rogue buyers or those he knows to not convert), but also get on the phone with registered buyers when they’ve not made their appointments.”
It seems the rigour and expertise that went into this year’s show are paying off. In its own press release, ILTM Asia Pacific cited examples of satisfied attendees. One of them, Ninna Haflidadottir of Iceland Luxury, said: “We received good bookings and increased interest in our destination as a direct result of attending ILTM last year. This year the meetings have taken it to another level.”
As well, Jeannie Yom of The London West Hollywood told ILTM: “This is our first time at ILTM Asia Pacific and we are really meeting clients that matter. ILTM is very specific in marketing to both suppliers and buyers, matching decision makers with decision makers and I received booking requests while I was sitting at the show. This is one show you have to be every year.”
“Last year was excellent but ILTM Asia Pacific is a much better quality show again. All my clients have had a full agenda of very qualified appointments and a lot of genuine interest. We’ll be back bigger and better next year!” said Christine Galle-Luczak of Heavens Portfolio.
Developing a life of its own outside China
Looking back on the decision to carve up an 11-year-old show in China into two separate regional editions, Gilmore said taking that step is “absolutely the right strategy”.
“China is culturally very different. Consumers have different travel habits and travel agents buy differently. You could have a 24-year-old booking travel for his four friends and bring in millions to the supplier, which is not typical elsewhere in Asia. There are such big differences, and we are happy we now get to focus on what works in each show,” she said.
This year, the show in Singapore received just 20 Chinese buyers out of all 572. The plan is to bring this number down to zero over time, to continue to cater to the different sub-regional strategies of suppliers in a more targeted way.
“This is just the start. We’re only in our second year,” said Gilmore. Going forward, she plans to bring back The Retreat and keep the conversation going with buyers and suppliers. “We will continue to be guided by what buyers and suppliers want. This year, New Zealand was the No. 1 top requested buyer market from our suppliers. We went out and got those buyers. If our suppliers feedback that they want Vietnam buyers next year, that’s where we’ll be looking.”