You know you work in the field when you’re the only one in jeans

A friend invited me to join him at the World Travel Market event in London yesterday.

He didn’t bother to tell me that I had to be a tourism professional to attend (even though I guess I actually am) – instead he just made up a job title and a travel agency and sent in my registration. This was all fine and well.

He also didn’t bother to tell me that this is a event of London hobnobbing culture. The moment we arrived I was surrounded by a mass of black suits.

Yesterday was my day off and I’d been thinking of this as a day sightseeing… so I’d dressed for fun. Jeans, crocs, old jumper. Yeah, totally casual.

But sure enough, at the entry, there was a sign saying that visitors not wearing business dress would be barred entry.

I was not barred entry, however. In fact, I caught at least two people on different occasions drop what they were doing to try to take candid shots of me. Well, I’m assuming it was of me, since my colleague was very properly dressed. As I said to him, tourism professionals in the field don’t wear business dress! Tour guides are the floppiest dressers I know.

So I think my attire validated my credibility. No, I’m not a wannabe Londoner who pretends to know a thing about tourism. No, siree. I’m from the field.

Anyway, off my soapbox, now… there were two memorable encounters I had during this event. First was for a company called “3 Sisters Adventure Trekking (P) Ltd”. They’re in Nepal. Their stand was entitled “Community-Based Tourism”, so I popped my head in to find out if this was another twist on the ongoing Voluntourism debate. Well, it sort of was – they do receive volunteers visiting for everything from 1 week to 1 year. But their main gig is training Nepalese women who otherwise wouldn’t have a shot at self-reliance to be tour guides: female guides for female trekkers. It’s an income-generating activity, and a social justice-equity activity. So, if you’re thinking about going on a tour of Nepal anytime soon, I think probably they are worth checking out. I can’t vouch for them – I just met them at the WTM yesterday – but worth checking out: 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, A Women-Owned Company, www.3sistersadventure.com

Second memorable encounter was with a hotel chain called Corinthia. This is new-ish chain of very posh hotels…  my friend wanted to visit their stand because apparently they just opened a hotel in London with a 4000 m2 spa with 20 treatment rooms. Just because they could. Well, the named sounded vaguely, ever so vaguely familiar… then the representative we were talking to told us that he works for the Corinthia hotel in Khartoum, that used to be called Bourj al-Fattah. Oh yeah! We were all wondering why the famous fancy hotel had changed to such a strange name. Well, now I’ve met the owners of the new name. While the arrival of new management was not related to the Arab Spring, the re-branding was: The Bourj (Corinthia Khartoum) was built by Ghaddafi and his Libyan money, so it was time for a change. So it was fun to meet someone who lives in Khartoum, and to learn a little more about the nicest hotel in town.


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