The World Travel Market in London has always been an important event for the tourism industry in Malaga and Andalucía. This year's fair, however, which starts next Monday 4 November, will be vital.
Out of all the international visitors to Andalucía, the British are the most important for the tourism industry. Now though, cracks are appearing on all sides of what has always been a strong, resolute and loyal origin market, due to the uncertainties it is going through.
They might be in a mess in the United Kingdom, but we've got one ourselves here in Spain, so we can't talk. This WTM, which is in its 40th year, arrives in the middle of a storm called Brexit, which is a headache not just for Andalusian tourism and the Costa del Sol in particular, but also for the Spanish economy in general (not to mention that of Gibraltar, which extends to the towns on the other side of the border).
What's more, the ExCeL centre will open its doors for the WTM barely a month and a half after Thomas Cook went bust. The collapse of the former tour operator giant did not affect the Costa del Sol directly, but it did bring some tremendous collateral damage, as well as affecting numerous firms individually or as a collective. In these companies there are a lot of people working; that's a lot of jobs and they all do their bit to help the local economy, our Malaga economy where the services sector is a support without which it is impossible to even think how we would live today.
The World Travel Market, in itself, has no magic potion, but it does put us in our place, warn us, advise us and lays down the goalposts for the immediate future. It always has done, but more so this year.
However there is another problem, and that's us. You see in consulates in the US there are posters with details of all the countries that Trump's compatriots are not advised to travel to. Catalonia, with Torra, Guardiola and company, have already managed to put Spain on those lists.
But Catalonia is a long way away, you might say....Do you know how far Berlin is from Munich? No? So if anyone sees on the TV news that in Bavaria or Saxony there are events similar to those in Catalonia, a region of Spain that once was part of the Kingdom of Aragon, what would you think if you had to travel to Germany? Especially if your trip was for pleasure and not an obligation.
That's why this World Travel Market is so important for us. This year a new tourism team (political and technical) from the new Andalusian government will be heading the delegation, and they will have to be ready to face the challenge ahead.
The Andalusian tourism industry has a lot riding on the fair next week in London, and no one can ignore this unquestionable reality, especially not the Andalusian tourist authority.