There is London and there is London Docklands. The former is the most vibrant, cosmopolitan, influential capital city in the world. The latter is a barren, God-forsaken wasteland where real life has had both the real and the life sucked out of it. Even the DLR trains seem depressed, shuffling around the network reluctantly and unreliably while their Jubilee Line cousins speed in and gratefully back out into the Metropolis. I contemplate this contrast every November when the World Travel Market rolls round again. As a Brit, there's always a feeling of local's embarrassment when accompanying the world's travel community as it negotiates the tortuous daily commute from comfortable West End hotel room, through Checkpoint Canary, to the gulag of Custom House. As many have commented, what hope for the Olympics?
Somehow the WTM itself - once a proud citizen of SW5 - has taken on the character of its surroundings. Arriving at Excel for registration last Monday morning, we weary travellers were (as usual) forced to descend an outdoor iron staircase into the bowels of this giant grey shed, then to endure a long walk along concrete corridors, through an underground car park, only to be faced with an endless line of fellow prisoners waiting to be strip searched and showered before being issued a pass. OK, I made up that last bit. But it was a really long line and there were only 3 people on the registration desk (sponsored by Greece perhaps?).
Once inside the halls, I headed directly for the Global Village where once upon a time the world's hotel groups gathered. Sadly these days it's more Village than Global. Most of the big chains have gone and their footprint has been gobbled up by OTAs, bed banks and channel management companies. Still, the silver lining of any WTM is in the silver hair of increasingly aged, long-standing industry friends and colleagues. WTM, for now, remains one of the best networking events in Europe. It's just a pity that even us Brits have to travel to another country to attend it.