WTCE proves to be top destination for onboard travel operators in 2017
The World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE®) proved why it is the number one exhibition in its field when it took place in Hamburg from April 4-6 this year. The show, which was part of Passenger Experience Week 2017, comprised three leading events that covered the full spectrum of the industry – WTCE, Aircraft Interiors Expo and the Passenger Experience Conference. They welcomed hundreds of senior air and rail operators, all looking to source the latest onboard products and services, network with likeminded travel professionals and update their industry knowledge.
Inspiration for the year ahead came in the form of an expanded education programme, complete with a new Airline Forum and extended Passenger Experience Conference, which took place the day before the show opened. The leading one-day conference focused on ‘defining the future of the passenger experience industry’ and provided insights into the latest trends making waves on board. On the show floor at WTCE 2017, exciting live demonstrations from well-known chefs, TV personalities and experts in the Taste of Travel Theatre attracted the attention of attendees. Meanwhile, thousands of innovative products and services, all competing for a place on board, were on display throughout the event.
Teresa Smith, Supply Chain, British Airways, said: “WTCE was excellent. I attended the exhibition to find new products, talk to current suppliers and generally assess the latest in the market. I found many of the products I was looking for, as well as several that were new to me. The event offers fantastic networking opportunities with others from the industry under one roof, meaning I met lots of relevant people and went home with plenty of useful contact numbers.”
Attendees from the industry’s top air and rail companies including American Airlines, KLM, Delta and Airbus from countries across the globe descended on the Hamburg Messe to see hundreds of suppliers showcasing their products spanning sectors including food, beverages, uniforms, hygiene/personal care, travel retail and onboard retail, food service equipment, toys & games. With more than 130 new exhibitors appearing at the show for the first time, the New Exhibitor Village proved to be a particularly popular addition to the show highlighting a selection of new exhibitors and attracting visitors in search of unique products that can help shape the passenger experience and deliver that all-important point of difference to their business. With passengers now more demanding than ever before, operators are looking beyond the tried and trusted mechanisms to enhance their offering, as Robert Rona, Director of New Products and Services at NutriPot Nutrition Limited explains:
“We’re a first-time exhibitor and our products offer complete nutrition in one product – perfect for onboard consumption. Consumers want healthier meal alternatives and are willing to pay more for premium products with added benefits. The NutriPot range has been developed to deliver great taste, health and convenience and provides the travel industry with a lucrative opportunity to provide a solution that their customers are willing to pay for. We’ve been able to meet the right people at WTCE and have had some high-quality visitors stop by our stand interested in our product.”
Other new products showcased at the show include the first ever PET sparkling wine bottle from exhibitor Ratcliffe & Brown and Oryx Desert Salt – a natural, crystal-white salt sourced from a pristine, remote, unpolluted salt pan in the vast Kalahari Desert of South Africa.
Improving the travel retail offering is one way that air and rail companies are looking to increase revenue while providing an improved experience for customers. The Focus on World Travel Retail feature was introduced for the first time at this year’s event to enable visitors to browse new and relevant product displays from companies specializing in this sector. A host of companies including Bottega S.p.a, Fartan Group, gategroup and The Belgian Chocolate Group & Starbrook Airlines recognized the importance of this sector for the onboard industry and showcased their products in the area this year.
Another popular feature within the Focus on World Travel Retail was the Gebr. Heinemann Networking Bar. Attendees and exhibitors came together to network and discuss the latest industry trends at a range of happy hours from brands such as Campari, Jägermeister and Lanson.
Helping visitors to pinpoint the exhibitors that they most wanted to see, two useful trails were set up around the WTCE halls. The Buy Onboard Trail highlighted more than 80 exhibitors that supply products for Buy Onboard menus, while the Rail Trail featured more than 180 companies – marking the biggest rail presence to date – offered solutions to improve passenger comfort on board trains. Both designated trails won favor with visitors who were able to plan their time at the show and efficiently visit those exhibitors of most interest.
Reinforcing the importance of innovation in this industry, the What’s New Onboard feature was invaluable to visitors by highlighting new products to market. As a result, the display attracted air and rail operators keen to diversify their product offering.
This year’s Passenger Experience Week also offered the most extensive educational programme ever seen, with speakers and experts from all corners of the industry sharing their experiences and advice with air and rail delegates. The event kicked off with the new and exclusive Airline Forum, featuring a keynote presentation from Jeff James, Vice President and General Manager of the Disney Institute, inspiring airlines to expand their customer service horizons. He offered advice to delegates to focus on their employees so that they could concentrate on passengers. He also shared insights into the areas key to improving the passenger experience from leadership, quality service and customer engagement. This was followed by the one-day Passenger Experience Conference which focused on ‘Defining the Future of the Passenger Experience Industry’, and featured over 20 sessions spanning Revenue Generation, Comfort and Wellbeing and The Connected Journey.
Popular sessions saw speakers including John Baumgartner, Sales Director, Inflight & Catering, Gebr. Heinemann, Nigel Duncan, Chief Executive Officer, STG Aerospace and Jan Blanchard, Head of Sales, Travel, Aviation and Payment Technology, Retail in Motion offer advice on how travel retail and buy-on-board trends could be used to boost revenues. John Baumgartner advised delegates that it was important to motivate crew to sell onboard – but they would need the time, space and tools to improve sales successfully. He cited examples such as Finnair and Lufthansa, both of which were moving to pre-order services to ensure retail goods could be picked up on arrival, on a passenger’s return or delivered to a nominated address.
Another popular session included Dr. G Clotire Rapaille’s keynote address on why the ‘reptilian brain always wins’. The session received a great reaction from the audience and provided delegates with insights on the unconscious triggers experienced by passengers and how airlines can tap into these to improve the travel experience.
Conference delegate, Kara Nishida, Customer Experience Manager for Delta Airlines, said, “I really enjoyed the session on the reptilian brain and will be looking to share the insights gained with my team. I also attended the Hawaiian Airlines session – it was really interesting to hear new content and the change of thinking when it comes to premium leisure. It’s great to have everyone in one place, sharing new ideas – it’s been really valuable.”
As ever, the Taste of Travel Theatre proved to be one of the most popular features at the exhibition. Routinely overflowing with visitors, the sessions were led by some of the best-known faces in the industry. Among those drawing the crowds were Jamaican reggae musician and celebrity chef Levi Roots, who took to the stage to discuss how spicy flavours can work in the air. The session, entitled “Put some music in your food!” showcased new products for onboard consumption. Also appealing to air and rail operators was development chef consultant and TV presenter James Strawbridge, who examined the impact and value of serving high quality meals and products onboard.
A new workshop added to the Taste of Travel Theatre programme this year proved a hit with attendees. Getting a Product Onboard, run by Lance Hayward of The Hayward Partnership, featured a panel of air and rail suppliers discussing why they want to get their product on board and the barriers to entry. The debate was subsequently opened up to the audience, with delegates providing useful insights around the importance of brand, communication, procurement and innovation.
Kate Edwards of Franklin & Sons attended several of the Taste of Travel sessions. She commented: “The sessions were really useful – especially Lance Hayward’s advice on getting onboard listings for products. There was also some helpful advice around relationship-building with buyers. I’d definitely go back next year.”
Continuing to prove popular with exhibitors and visitors alike were the wealth of networking opportunities available at the show, enabling attendees to meet new contacts and strengthen existing relationships. The Industry Networking Party, held after the Passenger Experience Conference saw the who’s who of the industry come together to enjoy live entertainment and Bavarian cuisine. Exhibitors and visitors also gathered at the WTCE Welcome Drinks Reception following the first day of the show.
Archana Sharma, Exhibition Director, commented: “WTCE was a huge success and the level of innovation displayed by our exhibitors was second to none, enabling visitors to leave with plenty of ideas and inspiration. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, which is brilliant to hear following the addition of new concepts this year and a first-class speaker line up. It was another fantastic event in Hamburg that saw the travel industry come together, build new contacts and secure mutually beneficial business deals.”
As part of Passenger Experience Week 2018, WTCE will again be co-located with Aircraft Interiors Expo and will take place on April 10-12, 2018 at the Hamburg Messe, Germany. The Passenger Experience Conference will return to the Hamburg Messe, taking place on April 9, 2018.
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