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ITB Berlin 2017: Positive economic forecasts give the global travel industry a boost

Theodore Koumelis - 14 March 2017, 00:09

One of the trends which has taken hold everywhere in the travel industry was evident in each of the 26 display halls: the digital transition has taken over the business of selling tourism at breathtaking speed.

As the world's marketplace and the trendsetter of the global travel industry ITB Berlinonce again impressively underlined its standing as the World's Leading Travel Trade Show. International trade visitor numbers increased significantly and at 28,000 delegates (an increase of 7.7 per cent) participation in the 14th ITB Berlin Convention reached a new record. However, at 109,000 overall trade visitor numbers were down on last year due to strike action at Berlin's airports.

Now that the five-day show of industry products has come to an end the conclusion one can draw is this: face-to-face meetings between business partners from around the world have become increasingly important, especially at a time of uncertainty and geopolitical challenges. One of the trends which has taken hold everywhere in the travel industry was evident in each of the 26 display halls: the digital transition has taken over the business of selling tourism at breathtaking speed. Positive forecasts for the European economy and in particular for Germany as one of the biggest source markets for international tourism have also given the sector a boost. The travel industry's high expectations for 2017 have been significantly helped by a resolutely favourable mood among consumers, while unemployment has sunk to historically low figures. One topic that occupied exhibitors and visitors throughout was consumers' increasing concern for their safety.

Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin GmbH: "Even in these uncertain times people refuse to be put off from travelling. They are prepared to adapt to the new situation and bring their personal holiday needs into line with the changes taking place in society. They now carefully think their holiday plans over and afford a great deal of consideration to their personal safety."

According to Dr. Christian Göke, this year both exhibitors and visitors at ITB Berlin will return home with a message that is just as strong as it is clear: "Racism, protectionism, populism and barriers between nations are not compatible with a prospering tourism industry. The travel industry is one of the biggest branches of the global economy and one of its most important employers. It promotes international understanding in many ways and contributes to long-term economic growth. In many countries tourism is vital to people's livelihoods and ultimately guarantees economic stability."

From 8 to 12 March 2017, over the five days of the show, more than 10,000 exhibiting companies from 184 countries and regions displayed their products and services on 1,092 stands to visitors. The global tourism industry exhibited its latest products and trends on an area covering 160,000 square metres. At the 51st edition of ITB Berlin the number of buyers in a decision-making capacity was impressive. Two-thirds of trade visitors said they were directly authorised to buy travel products. 80 per cent of the Buyers Circle members were able to make direct decisions and had more than half a million euros at their disposal. Over one-third of the buyers present were able to spend more than ten million euros.

The spotlight was on Botswana as the Official Partner Country of ITB Berlin. On the eve of ITB Berlin Botswana hosted a spectacular opening ceremony, whetting the appetites of the tourism industry for more. With its sustainable tourism, safaris and wildlife conservation projects, its impressive flora and fauna and its rich cultural heritage, this fascinating landlocked country in the southwest of Africa has positioned itself on the market as one of the most attractive holiday destinations on the African continent. As a green destination in the heart of Europe Slovenia, the Convention & Culture Partner of the show, presented sustainable tourism concepts and a wide range of cultural attractions at ITB Berlin.

The digital transformation of the entire industry continues to move forward apace. Due to high demand the eTravel World featured an additional hall. In addition to Hall 6.1 visitors found many newcomers in Hall 7.1c. The eTravel World attracted even more international exhibitors and in particular startups from around the world. The increasing presence of payment system providers also underlined the growing importance of travel technology. Representing a new fast-growing market, Medical Tourism celebrated its debut. Among other exhibiting nations, Turkey, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Belarus provided a concentrated display of information and the latest medical tourism products at the Medical Pavilion.

Featuring 200 sessions and 400 speakers over a period of four days, the ITB Berlin Convention underlined its role as the world's leading event of its kind. The latest topics ranging from geopolitical crises and catastrophes to artificial intelligence proved to be a fascinating attraction for visitors. 28,000 visitors (2016: 26,000) attended the 14th edition of the ITB Berlin Convention which took place in eight auditoriums on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds.

The world's largest display of the tourism industry had been booked up for months beforehand and benefited from the new hall layout. David Ruetz, Head of ITB Berlin: "The reorganisation of the halls was very well received by exhibitors and visitors. Compared to last year we were able to offer our partners nearly 2,000 more square metres of floor space." Due in particular to the recent sharp increase in demand from Arab countries the layout of a number of display halls had been changed.

According to preliminary figures, on the weekend around 60,000 participants came to find out about the latest trends on the exhibition grounds. As in previous years, it was possible to book tours directly at ITB Berlin.

Even while ITB Berlin 2017 was under way preparations were gathering pace for the next networking event of the international travel industry: ITB China, which is due to be launched in Shanghai, will build on and strengthen ITB's market position in Asia. From 10 to 12 May some of China's leading travel companies will be represented at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Conference Center where the display area is already booked up. A new and successful chapter has already been written by Messe Berlin in another part of Asia. Launched ten years ago, ITB Asia, which takes place annually in Singapore, has established itself as the leading B2B event for the Asian travel market. With just under 800 exhibitors from over 70 countries and around 9,650 participants from 110 countries, this trade show and conference points the way forward for Asia's tourism industry.

Tshekedi Khama, minister of tourism of Botswana, the Official Partner Country of ITB Berlin 2017: "For us, as Botswana we are really honoured to have been able to partner with ITB Berlin. It is just unbelievable how this relationship between Botswana and ITB Berlin started. How far we got to where we are now, and obviously the exposure that Botswana received. We obviously came here with every intention to get as much out of it for our country as possible and to share with other countries and participate with ITB Berlin. It was a wonderful opportunity and ITB Berlin was more than what I could ever have imagined. I think that was also demonstrated by the presentation on Tuesday night and how our team performed, they really felt that they had received the warmth of Germany, Berlin and especially of ITB Berlin. That was such an emotional performance, you made us really proud and we have been really pleased to partner with ITB Berlin. We could go on and say that we are so happy and honoured to have been ITB Berlin partners for 2017. This is only the beginning."

Dr. Michael Frenzel, President of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW): "This year ITB Berlin was once again the tourism industry's main platform for doing business, gaining inspiration and exchanging knowledge, as well as for close dialogue and getting to know each other even better. The world came together in Berlin, and here at ITB Berlin there were no borders or walls. There was a natural mingling of different nations and cultures, and that is exactly the message we have to take home and pass on to the world. Walls must be torn down and not new ones built, both in people's minds and on the ground. Travel and tourism promotes international understanding, and in order to do so our customers must continue to be able to travel freely. Naturally governments must protect their citizens. However, total security does not exist, which is why one must seek to create and maintain a balance between security and freedom."

Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV): "The prospects for 2017 are very good. The lust for travel among Germans remains unbroken. Many people have already decided on a destination and booked their summer holiday. Others are busily planning their holidays for the best time of the year. ITB Berlin is not only a well-known marketplace for travel destinations. It is also an indicator of booking trends for the upcoming travel season. This year ITB Berlin reflected the German nation's lust for travel and the generally positive mood among consumers. As the German Travel Association our attention at ITB Berlin was especially focused on digitalisation, a mega trend, for this is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We must find new ways to exert greater influence on the direction this trend is taking".

High level of media attention and political interest
Over 5,000 accredited journalists from 76 countries and around 450 bloggers from 34 countries reported on ITB Berlin. Politicians and diplomats from Germany and abroad were present at the show. In addition to 110 delegations, 72 ministers, 11 state secretaries and 45 ambassadors from around the world visited ITB Berlin.


 

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