Industry needs to find middle path

ITB Berlin senior manager David Reutz tells KEITH J FERNANDEZ that as the gap between luxury and budget travel increases, the are fewer mid-priced deals
Reutz: hates taking his shoes off at airports

So what’s new this year?
In response to requests from exhibitors and visitors, we have moved the official opening ceremony to the eve of the first day, on March 6.

Trade visitor days have been extended to include the Friday afternoon as well, and the general public is now admitted on the weekend. There are a number of new services, such as a helicopter-shuttle to the fairgound, fast lanes for those who registered in advance online, and a pack station for visitors to ship materials and brochures directly home. An entirely new location has been added, the Kultur-Palais, where the segments Book World and Cultural Tourism are located. The ITB Holiday Real Estate segment in hall 2.1 presents holiday real estate and second homes and is accompanied by a one day expert congress. Several new exhibitors will be presented at this year’s ITB Berlin, along with a top-class convention programme.
What’s new for the Middle East in particular, then?

Dubai has once again increased its exhibition space and will be presenting new products such as Dubailand, the Jebel Ali Airport and The Palm. Lebanon has doubled its exhibition space. The number of senior buyers and trade visitors from the Middle East is steadily increasing.
What spurred the new Holiday Real Estate section?
The market for holiday real estate is becoming increasingly important. Around three-quarters of all foreign properties owned by German households are in Europe. Real estate in Spain leads the rankings at 17 per cent, followed by Italy (10 per cent), and France (seven per cent).
Overall, what broad industry trends can you identify?
UNWTO statistics show that the industry is facing consistent growth. Four trends are especially important in this development: today’s travellers are time poor and money rich. Tour operators’ offers are thus expected to meet these criteria. The gap between luxury travel and bargain offers is intensifying; the medium is far less attractive. Tourists forget terror attacks faster than expected, yet they often have several destinations in mind when planning and seem to move to other alternatives almost unconsciously. Customers are becoming increasingly independent in their booking behaviour. Thus they prefer the possibility of modular, flexible online booking over all-inclusive offers. 
In your job, you’re in a position not just to track trends, but often to set them, or nudge the industry along in a particular direction. What direction do you think ITB has pushed the industry towards in the past few years?
With the Business Travel Days, ITB Berlin has emphasized that in most countries, business travel encompasses the same spending volume as leisure travel. With the Business Travel Days we want to continue to contribute a linkage of both areas and thus create a platform for high-quality networking.
Interest in India is at an all-time high – however, the country has a fair way to go on the tourism front. What issues of the India market will the partner country conferences examine?
On the first day of the show, the Partner Country Forum will focus on religious tourism and medical tourism. Experts and high-ranking politicians will present examples of tourism and discuss which mistakes to avoid. Other interesting topics include a Business Travel Day seminar looking at the outlook and potential for growth of the Indian business travel marketplace. Participants include Werner Heesen, general manager, Passenger Sales India and director, South Asia, Lufthansa German Airlines; Ashwini Kakkar, executive vice-president, Mercury Travels, and Bernhard Steinrücke, director of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce. The presentation of the latest PhoCusWright survey at the Travel Technology Congress [email protected], entitled The Emerging Online Travel Marketplace in India, will be one of the high points of the convention.
Environmental concerns are now a big talking point. In your opinion, has the industry done enough – or is it doing enough – to address these? What more can be done?
In the past, this topic has been addressed and discussed rather ideologically. Fortunately this has changed and ITB Berlin will be contributing to the realistic exchange. As part of the ITB Convention Market Trends & Innovations, experts from Great Britain and Germany will be discussing this topic at the ITB Future Day.
In the time of the internet and increased connectivity, are trade fairs losing out?
No, since the personal contact will always remain an important factor in the business world, trade shows will never be obsolete,
What changes have you personally brought to the show?
Over the past five years, the number of exhibitors and trade visitors has substantially increased. Restructuring the supporting programme of ITB Berlin and bringing it together in one convention has been a substantial success factor. Today, the ITB Convention Market Trends & Innovations is the largest tourist convention worldwide, and free to all trade visitors of ITB Berlin.
As a consumer, what’s the best part of a trip?
To be able to catch the spirt of a country.
What’s the worst part of travel?

Taking your shoes off at the airport.
Finally, what places are on your wishlist to visit?  
The Baltic costline – only two hours to drive, but I never have time to spend holidays with my family.