May 20, 2024

Jo Austin discusses Taste of Travel

Taste of Travel sessions will be held at the Taste of Travel Theatre in hall A1 of the Hamburg Messe from June 6 to 8 2023. 

Jo Austin, who has many years of experience in the onboard hospitality industry and is a former editor of Onboard Hospitality magazine, is the curator of Taste of Travel. 

“It was really a natural move for me when I retired from publishing, as I’m well known in the industry,” says Jo, about why she became involved. 

“I thought, what a great opportunity to stay in the industry and get all my mates and those who are in the know to join me on a great show,” she adds. 

“It’s an integral part of WTCE. We’re in a corner of the show. We’re well marked, so you can’t miss us,” says Jo about what a World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo first-time attendee, such as myself, should know about Taste of Travel. 

What is Taste of Travel? 

“It’s a place where people congregate to learn about industry topics over all three days of the show. It’s important that people go to the exhibitors and see what’s new but this programme that I run is educational and it’s bursting with talent and innovation,” she adds enthusiastically.  

“The idea is to be instructive and educational. It’s also a fun way to get together. We have got wi-fi, so attendees can come and sit down and relax for a bit to get away from their stand,” says Jo of Taste of Travel’s informal vibe. 

This year there will be 13 sessions. Each is typically between 45 and 60 minutes long.  

“We’ve got debates and cooking demos with fab chefs. We really encourage audience participation and welcome loads of questions. So it’s an interactive, three-day event and there’s so much variety,” explains Jo. 

“I think the important thing for attendees is to go to the WTCE website, look at the Taste of Travel programme and find out what’s going on. And before you come to Hamburg, put the sessions that you want to attend in your diary,” recommends Jo, in order to make the most out of opportunities at the annual trade show. 

A discussion at the Taste of Travel Theatre.
A discussion at the Taste of Travel Theatre.

Taste of Travel sessions 

“One of the leading topics this year is on allergens. They can cause real problems once you’re in the air because it’s very difficult getting somebody with an allergy problem down quickly. So we’re talking to three airlines and one sufferer about how they’re dealing with this challenge,” says Jo of Anxiety at 35,000ft. Taking place between 10.30 a.m. and 11.45 a.m. on Tuesday, June 6, the session will be moderated by Marc Warde. 

“For those interested in technology, we’ve got a digitalisation session, talking with easyJet about how they’ve managed to increase onboard sales dramatically through portable technology. It’s a really good and useful session,” she adds about the Digitising Onboard Retail session from 2.00 p.m. to 2.45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6, which Maryann Simson will moderate. 

“We’ve got Matt Crane, who many people in the industry know from his days at Monty’s Bakehouse. He’s the founder of the Aviation Sustainability Forum and he’s going to tell us how we ought to be reaching zero waste – through an in-depth discussion with circular economy expert James George,” says Jo about Innovating Supply Chains – How to Overcome Barriers to Embrace Circularity, taking place between 3.00 p.m. and 4.00 p.m., also on June 6. 

A debate during a Taste of Travel session at WTCE.
A debate during a Taste of Travel session at WTCE.

Food at Taste of Travel 

“Foodwise, we’re always popular because you can sniff the special tastes across the show. This year we’ve got Adam Simmonds, who some attendees might know from his London restaurants,” says Jo, referencing one of the speakers in Supporting Mental Health in the Hospitality Industry through the Burnt Chef Project. That session will be from 12.15 p.m. to 1.00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6. 

“Gerard Bertholon, from Cuisine Solutions, has been in the industry for what seems like forever and is an expert in sous vide cooking, which is a great way of preparing food that looks and tastes delicious onboard,” she says of the speaker in The Future of Plant-based Onboard, between 11.00 a.m. and 11.45 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 June. 

“We’ve also got Steve Walpole, who’s a lively, great chef. He’s going to cook his favourite lunch,” says Jo about Conscious Cooking: A Culinary Look at Sustainability, Biodiversity and Natural Foods from 1.00 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7. 

People can get reminders on their phones as sessions approach and announcements will be made over the public announcement system. 

“I feel very lucky. I’m sitting there, day after day, listening to experts talk about what they know best. Both airlines and suppliers come along, in the audience and in the panels,” answers Jo, when asked about the rewards of being involved in Taste of Travel.   

“I really feel that Taste of Travel helps improve everybody’s knowledge of the industry. I feel pleased that we can teach people something new and show knowledge,” she adds.

A chef at work during a Taste of Travel session.
A chef at work during a Taste of Travel session.

Developing Taste of Travel ideas

Jo starts the process of coming up with ideas for Taste of Travel around six months before WTCE. 

“I write a few of my well-known mates who have supported Taste of Travel for many years and have a chat with them and they come up with ideas and current topics. And, of course, I read Onboard Hospitality so I get to know all the topics that really matter and then I follow up on that,” reveals Jo. 

“It’s hard work getting the sessions together but I’m really well supported by everybody who moderates. They are all volunteers. I want to thank everybody who’s giving me the time to moderate and sit on the panels on the sessions,” she adds. 

So what is the most challenging thing about involvement in Taste of Travel?  

“Trying to stop the sessions on time. Around 45 minutes is not a lot because sessions include questions and answers. Every question matters and no one ever wants to stop. So my challenge is always keeping to the schedule, which is important to fit it all in,” she answers.  

“I think attendees take away topical information from the industry’s leading specialists. It’s a great opportunity to meet those people and chat with them after each panel session. The takeaway is vital for people who want to progress in this great industry,” says Jo when asked about what attendees tend to get out of sessions. 

I think the important thing for attendees is to go to the WTCE website, look at the Taste of Travel programme and find out what’s going on. And before you come to Hamburg, put the sessions that you want to attend in your diary.

Jo Austin, Taste of Travel’s curator

The Taste of Travel Theatre is also going to be the location for the Onboard Hospitality Awards on Tuesday, June 6 from 4.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.