Etoa’s Global European Marketplace should prove a virtual GEM, says association chief executive Tom Jenkins

European tourism trade association ETOA stages its flagship event, the Global European Marketplace (GEM), online this week – on Friday October 30.

GEM has become the largest European tourism workshop of its kind, attracting hundreds of trade buyers and suppliers who do business through tens of thousands of pre-set appointments.

This year’s online event is set to be the biggest ever with the format enabling buyers to join from throughout the world.

For the first time, in addition to buyers from Europe, buyers from global origin markets such as China, Japan and North America will be logging into appointments with suppliers across Europe.

ETOA’s appointment-management system Celestina performed well during the association’s online European City Fair in July, with delegates agreeing it was an enormously efficient way of networking.

The GEM event will build on this with more than two people from each brand able to join meetings simultaneously.

Of course, nothing can replace the interaction and chance meetings made at a real event, and tourism is built on the validity of live experiences.

But mass live experiences are not feasible in the current situation.

We look forward to the time when such events can take place again, but what we are offering online is of unique value and can be taken advantage of without any of the players incurring the time or cost of travelling to London.

There is much to discuss. The year 2020 will go down as the industry’s Annus Horribilis. But it is in such circumstances that intermediaries add value – they help sell when sales are hard.

Next year will be a year of recovery – a huge proportion of the clients who had to cancel this year have rescheduled for next year.

And 2022, for which GEM is the start of the planning process, will be the year of real returns to volume.

All the surveys ETOA has conducted indicate that the desire to holiday in Europe remains as strong as ever both in European and other origin markets.

The buyers attending GEM have a record of converting such impulses to travel into billions of euros in spending. GEM will be the place to plot the recovery.

Tom Jenkins is chief executive of ETOA.