The hustle and bustle of London is certainly different to the tranquility and quietness of the Falklands, but for 4 days the vibrant district of Canary Wharf is the center stage for hosting the Experience Latin America Event (ELA) 2018.
ELA is an exciting back to back travel event bringing together key suppliers from across Latin America and The Falklands with buyers from the United Kingdom and Europe.
My colleague Izzy and I met at Waterloo station and together battled the London crowds to find our hotel. The rooms overlooked the London skyline and the hotel’s restaurant gave some of the best views in London. After a long journey from the Falklands to reach our destination and with a full on 3 days ahead of us, we thought it would be best to do as Londoners do, and enjoy a sundowner overlooking London city before the real work began in the morning!
Monday morning was our first day of representing International Tours & Travel Ltd (ITT), the Falkland Islands and meeting key suppliers. We arrived at Bank Street early to have our stall set up. There was a whole mix of diversity and it felt like we were in the vibrant continent of Latin America. We were sat amongst suppliers from Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia and Mexico and made many friends early on. We had our brochures and business cards at the ready not knowing what the day would bring.
The first appointment came – they knew little of the Falklands but were interested in knowing more about the wildlife and thought their clients would like the uniqueness of what we could offer. It was perfect! We spoke about the wildlife, the homely lodges, home cooked food, traditional way of life and how ITT could tailor everything to the client’s individual wants and needs to really make this a trip of a lifetime.
Lunch time was a buffet of South American treats – we had traditional style fish, Brazilian rice dishes, delicacies from Belize and fresh fruit for dessert which was just what the doctor ordered after a busy morning.
By the end of the first day Izzy and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had out spoken ourselves to ensure everyone left our table with as much information as possible, so we treated ourselves to a ‘Waggamama’s’ and had a browse around the shops (which were mostly Gucci, Prado, Michel Kors, Aldo and Tiffany & Co) before an early night ready for the next day.
Day two - we arrived at the ELA center early, prepared and with preconceive ideas of how the day would go (day one went well and so why wouldn’t day two?) – but we were in for a shock! Tuesday seemed to go at much more intense pace and there was an HUGE influx of buyers who had arrived – many more than the day before. It was literally nonstop. Each appointment was full on from the moment the client sat down until the moment they left – it was like a stockbroker’s floor at its peak! We even had buyers swoop in during the odd intervals, so we sold what we could in the time frame we had with a queue of people wanting to see our hidden gem known as the Falkland Islands.
At the end of the day (which seemed to go in a flash) it was time for the ELA fiesta. Izzy and I wandered down to the river bank where we found West 21. Belize Tourism Board were this year’s sponsors for ELA and certainly provide everyone with a party atmosphere- we had traditional cocktails, drummers from Belize, salsa dancing – everything you could think of to make a good fiesta! Fortunately we took a pile of business cards with us as we certainly did our fair share of networking. It always amazes me how many people are fascinated by the Falklands and know so little of it so it is great to showcase the islands at an event such as ELA. By the end of the night, after making lots of friends and trying to learn the samba - Pedro and Carlos were trying to show us how to samba, tango, samba and cha cha cha and helped everyone on the dance floor leave with that ¡VIVA LA FIESTA! spirit.
Day three – this morning seemed quiet compared to the first two days. A few empty seats (although some suppliers had trains/planes to catch to attend other trade shows) were around us today but it didn’t stop buyer’s eager to learn about the Falklands. Our first 3 appointments were all people who knew about the Falklands - the first was someone who lived in Stanley for a few years in his younger days, the second was ex-military and led a platoon of men on exercise around the mountains Tumbledown, Two Sisters and Mount Harriet which all became household names during the 1982 conflict. The third was an ex-sailor who was on a round-the-world expedition when their yacht suffered some damage around Cape Horn and they had to take shelter in Stanley while they waited on repairs. One of the deckhands also suffered an injury whilst on board so they were resting in Port Stanley while waiting for a new member of their team to join. All three said how welcoming and friendly the Falkland Islanders were and they didn’t realise how large the islands were and what we could offer although they had all been here before.
The Falkland Islands are a hidden gem in the South Atlantic - full of history, mountains, sleepy settlements and an abundance of wildlife. It was a pleasure to be able to showcase what we have to offer to so many people in such a short space of time and it certainly made me proud about our not so little islands. We have an unspoilt beauty which can’t be explained unless you visit. Nature is very much still in charge in the Falkland Islands.
For further information and assistance in preparing your holiday to the Falkland Islands please contact me, Anna Connolly, on email email@example.com