A visit to the World Travel Market was the perfect remedy to the dismal daily global news that erupts into incendiary internet headlines and spews out of the TV. While atrocities exist in every nation, there is more to every culture than negative attention-grabbing stories. At the event, ambassadors from many countries, filled with pride and hospitality, acted as small counterpoints – and collectively, as an antithesis – to the unflattering media portrayals of tourism destinations. Sure, some of the pomp and splendor were over-the-top-hokey, and though the entire market was created for financial reasons, the event felt like a small world festival.
Fern leaves adorned the top of the Costa Rica tourism area, housing free coffee samples, and the regal architecture of Japan was surrounded adorned with soft pink sakura blossoms. Sweeping crimson and saffron curtains had been draped from the high ceiling of the “Incredible India” booth and a yoga pavilion featured live practitioners, ironically none of Indian descent. Large paper lanterns seemed to float near the top of Taiwan’s stand, representing their Pingxi lantern festival, and welcoming hut structures greeted visitors at the Rwanda station, where dancers energetically shared their traditions. Impressive temporary castles were constructed to represent the countries of Oman, Abu Dhabi and Ireland.
While most of my day at the World Travel Market was occupied with business meetings, I enjoyed the offering of snacks from around the world and hot tea. At lunch and after work I darted around to gain information on interesting destinations and to snag a few freebies. A Southern India stand handed me a “Mysore Pak,” a dessert whose primary ingredient is ghee, while the Mongolian stand fed me an enjoyable pellet of tangy Mongolian cheese. Peru graciously offered a Pisco Sour at lunchtime along with a sample of quinoa (that I missed out on), and I tracked down some a “concept chocolate” from Belgium, where I picked out a shell (dark chocolate), a filling (blackcurrant) and topping (cuberdon). Lastly, I scored a magnificent ice cream come from the Philippines, half-filled with delectable ube purple yam ice cream and creamy Macapuno coconut ice cream. When I departed the wine and beer were flowing heavily and the Malaysian satay was ready to be served, but I was satiated and finished with large crowds. Hopefully I’ll have more energy to hang around London’s World Travel Market next year!