A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, says a Chinese proverb. The ITB China travel trade show took that important step last month, a huge stride indeed.
Some 600 exhibiting companies from nearly 70 countries and regions from across the world took part in the debut ITB China, a B2B event that was sold out months in advance.
A total of over 10,000 attendees and buyers jostled for time and attention in the 12,000-sq-m exhibition space at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Centre in Shanghai during the three-day show.
ITB China is an off-shoot of annual ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel trade show and its sister show, ITB Asia, in Singapore.
Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin, the show organiser, said: “I am extremely delighted with the way our first edition went. Our new Chinese ITB brand was the focus of general interest to a great degree, especially amongst Chinese buyers. ITB China marked a special milestone with 10,000 attendees participating in this significant premiere and also showed how important face-to-face meetings remain in the digital age. We can look back at a very successful trade show and set the stage for ITB China 2018.”
The number of China’s outbound tourists reached 122 million in 2016, increasing by 4.3 per cent compared to 2015. The number is expected to hit 150 million by 2020. Total spending by Chinese travellers overseas reached $109.8 billion and $900 per person on average last year.
As the dragon casts its shadow over the global tourism market, there is not an opportunity to be missed for the world’s travel trade.
Over 10,000 pre-scheduled appointments between exhibitors and more than 600 hosted Chinese buyers were realised during the show. The hosted buyers programme came in for praise from exhibitors who said the quality of visitors contributed to strong business outcomes. The spotlight was on the partner destination Europe, which featured a multitude of national pavilions along with strong individual attendances of major European destinations.
If you thought Chinese come in groups, think again. The market is becoming more fragmented and individual traveller numbers are rising and Chinese are also seeking authentic experiences, said many exhibitors.
What do Chinese travellers seek abroad? Shopping continues to be the main draw for the Chinese. While they are willing to spend more on shopping, Chinese travellers are cost-conscious when it comes to hotels and food, said a report.
The ITB China conference was a big draw with many of them registering high levels of attendance. A total of 2,700 attendees took part in the lectures, discussions and keynotes, given by 70 industry speakers. The changing technology scenario and their impact on the industry was discussed by many of the speakers.
Messe Berlin, the organiser, and its partner Travel Daily went the extra mile in ensuring the success of the debut show with several initiatives. They made it easier for show participants to conduct business by offering translation services. The show provided complimentary bilingual stand hostesses for each exhibitor.
Following the success of the debut show, ITB China 2018 will be held in the bigger Hall 1 of the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Centre from May 16 to 18.
The Middle East was in full force at the debut ITB China in Shanghai seeking to draw more Chinese tourists to the region. Tourism authorities and companies from the UAE emirates of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah and Jordan and Egypt made a strong presence at the show, putting up impressive stands and showcasing a range of facilities and destinations.
The Middle East exhibitors accounted for almost 15 per cent of the exhibition space, said officials.
Chinese are the second largest group of travellers to Abu Dhabi and the first quarter of 2017 witnessed a 48 per cent growth in visitor numbers from the country compared to the same period last year, said Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cultural Authority (TCA – Abu Dhabi) China country manager Tina Luo.
Abu Dhabi received 238,000 Chinese visitors in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, 138,747 visitors arrived from the country.
The emirate promoted its shopping attractions, islands (Yas Island and Nurai Island), beach experience and cultural diversity to the Chinese market at the ITB China.
“We are going to focus on China for the next five years to develop this market. Apart from the big cities, we are focusing on the tier-2 markets as well, which are showing huge potential,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sharjah also reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the emirate.
Sharjah is an ideal destination for price-conscious travellers and offers a range of top-class facilities, apart from being a cultural centre in the region, said officials from Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. It is also attracting a lot of business visitors to its industrial parks and free zones.
The emirate’s proximity to neighbouring cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi is also an attraction for Chinese tourists.
“ITB China has good buyer programme, which is very important and we are very happy to take part in the show,” said a spokesman.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.