July 21, 2024

Taste of Travel Theatre at WTCE 2023

This year the Taste of Travel Theatre at the World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) took attendees on a three-day journey through some of the most pressing and fascinating issues in the airline and travel industry.

Taste of Travel – Day One

The first day of Taste of Travel opened with my session, Anxiety at 35,000 Feet, which explored anxiety for those travelling with severe food allergies. It dissected the nuances of allergy anxiety, from people who live with them, including Juliane Ponan MBE from Creative Nature. We also heard from Mel Berry, Director of Inflight Customer Experience at Iberia and Simon Soni, a member of the International Flight Services Association (IFSA) Foundation board.

They provided perspectives on what airlines are doing and can do to help food allergy passengers. We also discussed the lounges and airports themselves, along with what is and what is not offered currently.

IFSA initiatives

Kimberly Guanci, Chair of IFSA, and Lauren Costello, Executive Director of IFSA, offered insights into what they are doing as an organisation to make changes. That includes liaising with International Air Transport Association (IATA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others for airlines and passengers to make the changes necessary and bring modernity to the outdated special meals system.

I presented results from the largest-ever global passenger survey of those travelling with food allergies. It highlights the rise in food allergies and the steps that the entire travel industry needs to take to safeguard those passengers.

We offered strategies that can help to alleviate food allergy passenger concerns. That includes providing better and more detailed menu and ingredient information, assurances about the special meals being ordered plus allergen-guaranteed or allergen-free options. We also need suitable products in lounges and buy onboard menus and should incorporate mindfulness practices into inflight entertainment.

Filming at the 2023 Taste of Travel Theatre
Filming at the 2023 Taste of Travel Theatre.

The Burnt Chef Project

The spotlight turned towards the mental wellbeing of hospitality professionals during the session Supporting Mental Health in the Hospitality Industry through the amazing Burnt Chef Project, which began the second day of Taste of Travel.

Four out of five hospitality professionals report having experienced at least one mental health issue during their career. The Burnt Chef Project is a globally recognised not-for-profit social enterprise. Participants in the session discussed the industry’s high stress levels, encouraged open dialogue and outlined sharing initiatives to support mental health.

Mental health is something that was rarely discussed in bygone times but, in these changing times, addressing this subject and providing resources that are meaningful is important. Those with mental health issues have opportunities to speak to people who can offer help, coping strategies and advice on how to manage their health. Learn more about the project’s amazing work at burntchefproject.com – it’s not just for chefs.

Discussing The Burnt Chef Project at the Taste of Travel Theatre.
Discussing The Burnt Chef Project at the Taste of Travel Theatre.

Other Day One sessions

Moderated by Maryann Simson, Digitising Onboard Retail looked at the potential of digital tools to personalise shopping experiences, streamline logistics and increase revenue.

It was followed by Innovating Supply Chains – How to Overcome Barriers to Embrace Circularity, which tackled the pressing issue of supply chain sustainability. It showcased successful examples of circular supply chains and how airlines could overcome hurdles to their implementation.

Day One at the Taste of Travel Theatre ended on a high note with the 2023 Onboard Hospitality Awards. Celebrating excellence in the onboard hospitality industry, the session was so well attended it offered standing-room only.

Panel sessions such as this one ensured Taste of Travel delivered expert insights
Panel sessions such as this one ensured Taste of Travel delivered expert insights.

Taste of Travel – Day Two

The Challenges of Growing Sustainable International Rail Catering in Europe session provided an in-depth discussion on the unique obstacles that rail services face in implementing sustainable practices. The session presented potential solutions, emphasising local sourcing, waste reduction and renewable energy.

The Future of Plant-Based Onboard session revealed the increasing demand for plant-based food offerings in air travel. Panellists showed how airlines could offer creative and satisfying plant-based meals without compromising on taste or nutritional value.

There are many reasons that people are starting to move to eating more plant-based foods, not only due to animal welfare but also for better health.

Industrialised farming methods used in meat production mean many people are consciously choosing to either adopt a plant-based diet or reduce their meat consumption. Knowing how to cook plant-based dishes can open a world of new flavours.

Next up was Bringing the Fun Back into Air Travel, a session which sparked a lively discussion on the importance of joy in the journey, highlighting the potential benefits of game-based inflight entertainment and of creating a more sociable environment.

Led by Steve Walpole, Conscious Cooking: A Culinary Look at Sustainability, Biodiversity and Natural Foods, proved to be an intriguing session. He demonstrated how airlines could incorporate sustainable cooking practices, focusing on biodiversity and seasonal, natural foods.

It was followed by How to Drive Inflight Retail for the Next Generation of Passengers, exploring how airlines can appeal to the tech-savvy, environmentally conscious new generation of flyers.

Mike Pooley of The Hayward Partnership moderated the session Is Sustainability Increasingly Relevant in Recruiting and Retaining Talent? Intervine Inc. then hosted The Ryder Cup of Wine! May the Best Win!, comparing wines, before the WTCE Official Drinks Reception sponsored by Heineken.

Attendees during at Taste of Travel session during the 2023 edition of WTCE in Hamburg, Germany.
Attendees during at Taste of Travel session during the 2023 edition of WTCE in Hamburg, Germany.

Taste of Travel – Day Three

Day Three began with a session named Winning Tactics for Boosting the Passenger Journey, a riveting discourse on enhancing passenger experience from booking to landing.

The final session Taste of Travel in 2023 was Living the High Life: What Commercial, Private and Executive Aviation Can Learn From Each Other, a session sharing best practices across the sectors to elevate the passenger experience.

During the closing session, I interviewed Daniel Hulme, CEO of OnAir Dining, about what the private jet sector can offer scheduled carriers and vice versa. We discussed how traditional long-haul users of private jets are now frequently taking scheduled carriers as their carbon emission information is now in the public domain and under scrutiny.

Daniel talked about how he now works with scheduled carriers to introduce aspects of the private jet experience. We discussed the experience of being onboard private aircraft against flying on scheduled airlines. This included the significance of attention to detail and anticipating every second of the passenger journey and experience. We discussed working more closely with airports, short check-in times and faster aircraft and what that means for passengers – saving time.

Innovating Supply Chains - How to Overcome Barriers to Embrace Circularity on Day One of Taste of Travel
Innovating Supply Chains – How to Overcome Barriers to Embrace Circularity on Day One of Taste of Travel.


Marc Warde, the author of this post, is a restaurateur, Director of Niche Food and Drink and Niche Free-from Kitchen (home of the Libero Special Meals, Bare Food, Cub Food and Noot brands).