Experience Latin America (ELA) took place for the fourth consecutive year on the 32nd floor of 40 Bank Street in Canary Wharf, which offered everyone attending the event panoramic views over London. In 2016 attendees were able to watch the RMS St Helena coming up the River Thames. No such excitement this year, but for the first time St Helena had its own table for a full diary of scheduled meetings.
There were around 150 exhibitors ranging from hotels, trains and ships to destinations, ground operators and airlines. Over 120 buyers or tour operators, mainly from the UK and Europe, attended the event. St Helena Tourism had over 30 scheduled one-to-one meetings, and Director of Tourism, Chris Pickard, met and talked to many more as well as the travel media in attendance during the event’s networking and social events.
Tour operators were keen to learn about the upcoming air services to St Helena, and can now start to plan knowing it will be SA Airlink. They were also interested in the new Mantis hotel in Jamestown, as well as happy to hear of the diversity of smaller properties on the island.
“There continues to be a lot of interest in St Helena as a destination,” explains Chris Pickard, “but most tour operators still want to visit the island first before trying to sell it. Not surprising given some of the coverage of the airport in the UK media. Now is the island’s time to prove all those naysayers wrong.”
Chris found a growing awareness and curiosity in the island’s walking and hiking options, the bird life, as well as diving and swimming with the whale shark, the latter two being boosted by the coverage of St Helena in the most recent edition of Dive Magazine. The importance of Napoleon and his time on island, can also not be overlooked as a major international draw for visitors.
“It is extremely important that tour operators have the chance to speak to St Helena face-to-face at these travel shows,” says Chris. “The shows are a very cost effective way – both financially and time wise – to meet such a diverse group of operators who can potentially sell St Helena to their clients, clients they already know and who they can match to fit with what St Helena has to offer.”
St Helena Tourism is the only destination to be a member of both LATA (Latin American Travel Association) and Atta (African Travel & Tourism Association) and will be attending the Atta summer networking and media event in London on 27 June.
“Last year ELA was the first travel show I took a member of the island’s tourism team to. Now after attending a number of other events, such as World Travel Market, Pure and Destinations, it is really pleasing to hear the tour operators and media asking about the team, sending their best wishes and looking forward to seeing them again soon. Long may it continue, and nobody should doubt the impact this personal and very real interaction has and will continue to have in building a sustainable tourist industry for St Helena.”