Tourism in the Caspian Region: What We Learned from WTM 2022
London’s World Travel Market is a window into the heart of the global tourism industry. This year, the Caspian Region was better represented than ever before.
All images by Mark Elliott
Meeting annually in London, the World Travel Market (WTM) is one of the planet’s most important trade fairs for the global tourism industry. Essentially, it’s a chance for countries, service providers and national tourism brands to open a ‘shop window’ for travel professionals. It’s also a fundamental way the industry shares ideas – with a particular emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly travel that makes sense given that the fair coincides almost exactly with the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP27) at Sharm EL Sheikh.
As in 2021, the single biggest presence this year was that of Saudi Arabia, a country whose relatively sudden opening to international visitors in 2019 signals a very radical change from decades of being essentially closed to non-Islamic tourists. For countries of the Caspian Region, however, WTM 2022 couldn’t have been more different than WTM 2021. Last year a rather hidden Uzbek stand and a single travel firm from Armenia were essentially the region’s only representatives. In contrast, most nations were back in force this year, suggesting a major refocusing on tourism across the region.
For Georgian tourism, there was a host of accolades. The Georgian port-resort city of Batumi featured particularly prominently with a major spread in the WTM Yearbook, celebrating its World Travel Award as Europe’s leading “emerging tourism destination” of 2022. Georgia also took gold in the same category at the parallel Wanderlust Travel Awards, hosted off-site in a very special venue: the Tower of London.
At WTM, Georgia had two different stands. One specifically showcased the incoming travel agency Visit Georgia, this year celebrating its 25th year. Another stand, acting as an umbrella for a series of Georgian Tourism companies, was keen to underline the country’s credentials as a food and wine destination and a place for winter sports and history.