THE BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
Events & Marketing Director
Over the last ten years, the ACCESS Luxury Travel Show (ALTS) has grown into a truly exclusive, highly prestigious boutique event. This year, on September 21st some prominent representative of luxury tourism came together again and met on the highly anticipated event that this time has taken place on digital platforms. We, as media partner of the event wanted to know more about the history of ALTS and present it to our readers and the travel profession, as well, so asked Ms. Margarita Orlova, Events & Marketing Director of the event.
Interview by Szeszler Szilvia
- May I ask you about the history of ALTS? How came the idea to launch such an exclusive series of events?
- The history of ALTS began more than 10 years ago. Our company director, Kira Malysheva, was then living in Prague and at that time was working in the tourism sector. Due to her rich international background and deep knowledge of the travel industry, she saw a niche and a potential on the CEE market to start luxury B2B events. At that time there were some travel shows but none of them specialised in the luxury segment. But there was already a potential and the demand on the market for the luxury experience, luxury holidays and lifestyle.
- How was the beginning? Was the scenario of the event the same as it is today?
- That is how the first ALTS came to life. It took the form of a B2B workshop where exhibitors could meet face to face with tour operators, agencies, airlines and concierge companies, all followed by presentations and informal networking afterwards. During the event there was a dinner and at the end we hosted a raffle with some entertainment. The format works very well as it helps to not only to build business connections with potential partners but also to deepen and create lasting relationships through informal networking.
- Can we hear more about the details of a certain event?
What is the characteristic of ALTS is that it has started as a small boutique event with maximum of 15-20 participants, and it remains so till this day. We intentionally keep the number of exhibitors small as most of all we value a personal approach and attention to detail. By personal approach I mean that for every exhibitor we create an individual meeting schedule for the evening. Through our experience and knowledge of the market and the partners we are striving to find the right fit and schedule only meaningful meetings.
We do not want to become another big roadshow as then we might lose the personal touch – a quality that we value most in our company.
When organising our events we also pay a lot of attention to details. We carefully check the venues, catering, and we spend hours choosing the presents for our exhibitors and buyers trying every time to come up with something interesting, useful and memorable Even our welcome letters are hand-written.
- Nowadays we can say it is an annually recurring, highly-prestigious show. Tell me about the progress of ALTS!
- Through the years ALTS has become an annual tradition, and we host at least 2 events per year. One in March – this is our traditional ALTS Prague event and one roadshow in November in Warsaw, Budapest and last year we expanded and added Romania to the list. We hope with time to increase our portfolio and involve more and more partners from different countries of the CEE. In 2018 we also had a first event in Turkey and we intend to resume the events hopefully next year.
Now since the pandemic has started, we have been forced to postpone our offline events and moved to the sphere of online. We saw that there was a need for information from both sides (exhibitors and buyers), for some activity and future plans. We were very happy when we finally found a way and created our online platform that allowed us to recreate our offline events. We kept the same format of the B2B meetings and instead of our usual presentations we hosted webinars that allowed our exhibitors.
- What is your target and aim with ALTS?
The goal of ALTS is to bring the key representatives of the travel industry with the right suppliers and contribute to the growth of the CEE tourism segment. We believe that our events are productive and beneficial for the both exhibitors and buyers who come to meet new people. We value our participants’ time, and thus we invite everyone for one day to get together for a productive workshop and enjoyable networking afterwards.
- May I know more about your work in this project and the company?
I started almost 5 years ago with the company in the position of assistant, and gradually grew to become event manager. Right now I oversee the preparation of the events and I am responsible for the development strategy. We always want to keep moving forward, and that is why at the beginning of 2020 together with our team we had complete rebranding of the ALTS. We changed the logo, and the design of all our materials and the web, our events got even more personalised and we have introduced a new format which was a bit more vibrant and fun. However, due to the starting pandemic at that time we were forced to again rethink the whole strategy and readapt quickly to our new reality. However, we do hope to continue with the new events format in 2021.
- How did your strategy and target change during the years, why is ALTS else than the classic big tourism events?
I think what distinguishes us from the big tourism events is our personal approach. We want to make each exhibitor feel valued and an important guest of honour during the events. That is why, for example, we send to all our exhibitors a list of pre-scheduled meetings one week in advance, so that they too can be involved in the process. For everything we do we try to add a personal touch and I think that our partners value it as well. This is why I think we have so many returning exhibitors.
- Just that’s what I wanted to ask - do the participating companies come back regularly and if yes why?
- We do have partners that come back for a few shows in a row. Some have been with us for few years already. I think that our partners trust us and as I mentioned earlier, we do value their time and commitment. From the side of TOs (Tourism Authorities – a szerk.) and Tas (Tourism. Agencies – a szerk.) as well, we have companies that regularly attend our shows. We value each one of them and are always grateful and happy to see them at all of our events.
- What is their feedback about the shows?
We are happy with the feedback that we get from our events. Many TOs and TAs are grateful that we are inviting great exhibitors and buyers, in turn, are happy to meet many key decision makers relevant to their business in one place. Feedback is very important for us, and we always listen to and read all the comments we get after the show. They help us to constantly improve our events and make them better.
- Which actors of the Travel Business are you working with here (tourism boards, hotel chains, etc.) and why?
The exhibitors list is constantly changing. We invite Tourism Boards, Hotel Chains, DMC and service companies that specialise in the luxury segment. We always strive to find a good balance of companies and see that they are relevant for a specific market. We always talk with our exhibitors before the events to see what they specialise in and to advise them on the best event to take part in.
- What are your targets with the event in the next years?
Right now we do hope that we would be able to get back to offline events. We greatly miss the atmosphere and the thrill of the real-time events. Online events are great, as they do help us to keep in touch with all the key decision makers, although nothing compares to real face-to-face communication. We are planning right now to have our big event in Prague next March and to have a roadshow in Warsaw, Budapest and Bucharest in November. Maybe we will keep some of the online activity as they have proved to be successful and will create a good balance of online and offline events.
- How were digital events different to the previous ones, and what special efforts did it require from you as organiser?
The online events forced us to come out of our comfort zone a little bit, as even though they resembled our offline events in the format they were very different when it came to organization. The pandemic has forced us all to become more technologically savvy, and we have spent a lot of time thinking of a way to make it both easy and effective for exhibitors and buyers. We have been testing and improving the system throughout the whole June. Also in terms of the creating individual schedules it was very different. We managed it well and at our partner TOs and TAs had private B2B meeting with exhibitors and we had a good turnout on our webinars.
- All your life is about travel, especially luxury travel. Can we know where you like to spend your holiday most and what are your favourite destinations, countries, cities? What was your most interesting journey?
- One of my favourite places to travel to is Spain. I think that it is my place of power. I have been to Spain many times, visited different cities, and even lived for three months in Valencia. Something about the atmosphere, people, culture and music really entices me. I like their leisurely lifestyle, openness and friendliness. The food is simply amazing! Even though I have been to Spain so many times, there are still many places and regions on my list to visit such places as Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum or visit Tenerife's black sand beaches.
If I was asked to name one most memorable trip of my life so far, I think that I would have to say that it was Zanzibar, Tanzania. This was an absolutely different eye-opening experience. There I visited Zanzibar's second biggest island- Pemba. Pemba is a big island close to Zanzibar and it is still not very popular among tourists. There are few hotels and locals are still not very used to seeing many foreigners, so everytime we met someone their reaction was priceless. The island itself is beautiful, covered in green lush with exotic fruits growing just along the road, the ocean waters were pristine blue and the beach was almost crystal white. When locals go fishing they use their traditional Ngalawa boats to sail and it is surreally beautiful to see the fishermens' boats with their big white sails on the horizon. An eye-opening experience for me was to meet the locals, who seemed very happy living on the island. They didn't have much and lead a very simple life, but when I met them they were radiating happiness and it helped to understand that sometimes you just need to take a break from work or some mundane tasks and really enjoy the moment.