Jane Larcombe, the former head of PR for World Travel Market, has died of cancer aged 74.
She is credited with devising many of the features that remain on the exhibition programme and was renowned for her innovations and an ability to remain unflustered in crises.
Larcombe pitched to run the WTM account in 1991 while running the travel division at public relations company Charles Barker.
She helped launch the move of the show from London Olympia to Earl’s Court, exploiting the venue’s hidden swimming pool by imaginatively turning it into scenes such as Venice, a lakeside ski resort and Caribbean beach.
Larcombe set up her own company after leaving Charles Barker, hired a small team and masterminded WTM communications operation from her East Sussex cottage.
In her 60s Lady Larcombe, as she was nicknamed, did a five-day trek to Machu Picchu and visited Uganda projects in aid of the Just a Drop charity, which she was involved in creating.
She started her journalistic career in local and then national newspapers, switching to PR when joining P&O Ferries and at Charles Barker ran accounts for Butlin’s, Rank Organisation, Reed Exhibitions and also worked on the Liverpool Docks regeneration programme and the White Cliffs Experience at Dover.
Former WTM chair Fiona Jeffery said: “Jane was a friend for whom I had enormous respect. She was a force of nature, fun, energetic, passionate, enthusiastic, professional, creative, had her finger on the pulse and, when she wanted, could be quite formidable.
“Jane’s other asset was being a great strategic thinker as well as communicator. She added tremendous value to my vision,” said Jeffery, who wanted to champion world environmental and responsible tourism policies.
Larcombe was also instrumental in setting up WTM’s ministerial summit.
“She developed seminar content, briefed royalty, prime ministers and presidents and such was her authority they all listened and remarkably did as they were told, including, surprisingly, current prime minister Boris Johnson,” Jeffery added.
“The travel world expected us to cancel WTM scheduled only six weeks away after 9/11.
“Jane and I met in a dingy London pub in Victoria and re-wrote the entire programme because we felt it was critical for the industry to go ahead. The result of bringing people together was testament to Jane’s PR and crisis management skills.
“Another initiative where Jane became crucial was my desire to launch a travel industry charity. I was pregnant with my daughter Lauren and Jane and I identified that a child died every 17 seconds from dirty water and that £1 could provide a life-saving supply for nearly 10 years.
“Jane came up with the name Just a Drop which is still going strong after 22 years.”
Larcombe’s PA Karsalie Fane Hervey said: “I absolutely loved working for her. She was totally inspiring for me.
“One high point is a drinks reception on a luxury Thames cruiser during World Travel Market where there were government ministers from around the globe including Iran, Palestine, Israel and Egypt with their armed bodyguards hovering nervously at the entrance. Jane engineered and planned that get-together and somehow we pulled it off.”
She will also be remembered for having helped her local village by establishing Wadhurst U3A.