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ITB Preview

Travel trade comes out in force
February 2011 2196

As the world’s biggest international travel fair opens its doors in Berlin this month, TTN finds out what’s in store for visitors and buyers at this year’s ITB, including conferences and events, while profiling some of the exhibitors who will be at the show

THE 45th edition of ITB Berlin is set to open doors from March 9 to 13 with 11,000 exhibitors from more than 180 countries at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds.

With significant growth in exhibitor numbers from Central America, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East as well as the Travel Technology section, DAVID RUETZ, head of ITB Berlin, tells SHALU CHANDRAN how the show will live up to its industry leading reputation.

How are bookings looking for 2011, are figures up or down on last year?

The outlook is exceptionally good for ITB Berlin 2011. Overall, Messe Berlin expects around 11,000 exhibiting companies and organisations from more than 180 countries to be present in the 26 halls on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds. Compared with 2010 the number of bookings at ITB Berlin 2011 has remained consistently high. Among other topics the ITB Berlin Convention has decided to make the political unrest in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, a key issue on its agenda.

What percentage of exhibitors is from the Middle Eastern region?

About four per cent of the exhibitors at ITB Berlin come from the Middle Eastern region.

What new exhibitors and countries will debut at ITB 2011?

Iraq (Hall 3.2) as well as Pakistan (Hall 7.2b) with the local Gilgit-Baltistan region will be exhibiting for the first time. It is also the first time that Iran (Hall 7.2a) will be represented directly next door to the ‘Countries of the Silk Road’ in (Hall 7.2b) at the ‘Silk Road Pavilion’. The products and services on display at ITB Berlin reflect the current demand for travel. More Asian countries will be represented than ever before. India also reports strong growth and will be occupying an entire hall. Exhibitors from Central America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe will have significantly larger stands. The booming tourism regions of Eastern Europe are increasingly making their way onto the market.

Tell us more about this year’s seminar programmes and speakers? What will be the key topics of discussion?

This is the eighth time the convention will be addressing key topics such as hospitality, destination marketing, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and futurology. The ITB Future Day will open the convention on March 9 presenting the latest findings of leading futurologists on demographics, climate change, natural resources, technology and customer behaviour.

Leading international experts will put forward future scenarios and analyse their effects on the world’s tourism.

One of the highlights of the ITB Berlin Convention is the session on March 11 at which experts will discuss the topical issue of eco-mobility.

At the ITB Hospitality Day, the convention will discuss the challenges confronting the hotel industry, which is currently facing massive change.

Leading figures and practical experts will discuss current developments affecting the industry, from luxury to budget hotels. Sustainability will also be a key topic on the agenda. Topics at the ITB CSR Day will reflect the trend towards ecological sustainability in the hotel industry and examples of best practice will be given.

By hosting the ITB Eco-Mobility Day, ITB Berlin is the world’s first tourism trade fair to explore the topic of climate-friendly transport, a potentially innovative trend. In his keynote, which he will deliver in front of an audience of invited guests, André Borschberg, CEO of Solar Impulse, will give a talk on the future of transportation. Afterwards, together with Louis Palmer, he will discuss spectacular, pioneering solar projects.

Both are eminently qualified. Along with balloonist and aeronautic enthusiast Bertrand Piccard, Borschberg is planning the first circumnavigation of the world in a solar-powered aircraft. Palmer, meanwhile, is currently travelling around the world in 80 days in a renewable-energy-powered vehicle.

Other  topics  will   include  international  tourism  projects reporting on their initial eco-mobility experiences.

At the Ministerial Summit on Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific Region, Deepak Bohara, the Nepalese Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation and Luimed Gansukh, the Mongolian Minister of the Environment and Tourism, will discuss the approach taken by politics to biospheres in this part of the world. At the last panel discussion of the day Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), will give an insight into the CSR practices of the world’s tourism industry.

The ITB Asia Panel on March 9 takes a look at one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. At a panel discussion entitled ‘Focus on China: how China’s outbound travel market is changing’, representatives of leading research institutes and outbound travel agencies will debate the challenges and opportunities for those travel destinations most popular with the Chinese. Visitors attending the Social Media in Asia panel discussion will be taken on a virtual tour of the region’s social media landscape and will be able to find out about current trends in Asia.

What new initiatives can visitors and exhibitors expect to see at this year’s event?

The eTravel World section promises to draw a great deal of attention. Travel technology is a topic of the future. In Hall 7.1c trade visitors representing the business travel and tourism industry can find out about the latest mobile computing, augmented reality and social media trends from talks due to be held on the eTravel stage. At the eTravel Lab opinion-formers and practitioners will invite visitors to workshops and seminars for an in-depth exchange of views about the mobile solutions of tomorrow. I look forward to the presentation of the findings of the survey entitled ‘Web 2.0 in the Tourism Industry – the status quo in 2011’.

What new trends do you expect to emerge in 2011?

We note that a shift has taken place from product innovation towards process innovation. Nowadays the emphasis is less on travel products and instead more on all the areas responsible for creating and marketing this product.
That is why the travel technology section is becoming more and more important at ITB Berlin and is expanding all the time. We have now combined travel technology, mobile travel service and the social media lounge because they are rapidly converging. The eTravel World, a new section, will stimulate the discussion on how to shape the future of travel.

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