Pilgrimage and low budget hotel sectors destined to grow

ITB Berlin is the first show to devote a platform to the booming low budget hotel sector. Another important part is the ITB Berlin Convention Market Trends & Innovations sector - it’s the think tank of the travel industry. David Ruetz, senior manager ITB Berlin, talks to TTN’s Shalu Chandran
Reutz: ITB 2008 will live up to its expectations as the industry’s international platform

How big was ITB 2007? How about this year?
ITB Berlin was fully booked last year and will be fully booked this year.

Overall around 11,000 companies from 180 countries and territories will be exhibiting at the ITB Berlin 2008, and more than 100,000 trade visitors are expected to attend. Last year close to 70,000 members of the general public thronged the 26 halls on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds. This year exhibitors showing everything the tourism industry has to offer will again be occupying a display area around 160,000 square metres in size.

What are your estimates for 2008?
The world’s largest travel trade show will live up to its reputation as the industry’s leading international platform. The markets in Asia, the Arab countries and several Eastern European states are particularly dynamic. A substantial number of exhibitors from these regions will be present at the ITB Berlin this year. For several years the Arab nations, in particular the United Arab Emirates, have been experiencing a genuine boom in demand.
At the ITB Berlin 2008 the display area of Emirates Airline will be double in size.They will be bringing with them a spectacular new stand in the shape of the globe that is three storeys high. The size of the Abu Dhabi stand will be 25 per cent bigger (all exhibitors in Hall 22b). Egypt will also be setting up a larger stand (Hall 21b).
The level of international participation in the travel technology section is higher than ever. Exhibitors from eleven countries, including several from India, will be offering a global overview of the market. Among those new to the fair are the booking portal from Italy and the hotel booking engine from Spain.

What has been the growth strategy for ITB over the years?
Until 2006 our growth objectives were quantity and quality. Since last ITB Berlin we are sold out and can only grow when exhibitors grow tents outside the gardens. That´s why we are looking for new markets within ITB Asia. ITB Berlin will expand in quality through stronger selection of exhibitors who are on the waiting list.

Which countries will be making their debut at the ITB this year?
Among the countries which visitors will encounter for the first time are Palau and Yap from Micronesia, and the island of Zanzibar. Tourism in Germany is expanding at the ITB too. For the first time the State of Hesse will be exhibiting in its own display hall (7.1c).

What percentage of exhibitors are from the MENA region?
We are expecting about eight per cent exhibitors from the MENA region.

What can exhibitors and delegates look forward to this year?
The ITB Berlin Convention Market Trends & Innovations offers an attractive programme comprising high ranking speakers and panel guests from business and politics. Among the main highlights attracting the public will be keynote speaker Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate, prince of Ethiopia, author and management consultant for Africa and the Middle East.
A panel will devote itself to a current and much discussed trend, “The new luxury markets”. Guests who have registered their attendance to date include Proffessor Thomas Druyen, from the Sigmund Freud Private University in Vienna, Klaus-Dieter Koch, founder and owner of Trust Brand Strategy Consultants, and Jürgen Maier from American Express. The ITB Hospitality Day and the ITB Aviation Day will also underline their role as leading industry forums.
What are the specific markets that have benefited from the ITB? And how?
Not only the European markets, but also the Americas and Asia in particular have taken advantage of ITB Berlin. The world´s leading travel trade show is an international platform which provides business contacts at the highest level.

What sectors of travel do you expect to see grow in 2008?
We are convinced that pilgrimage is a very interesting market segment which will grow in 2008. Look at the events in 2008: Lourdes in France will celebrate its 150th anniversary and in Germany we are preparing the decade of Martin Luther and the reformation.  Another promising sector is the low budget hotel sector. It offers big saving opportunities on business trips and for young travellers. ITB Berlin is the first show to devote a platform to this booming segment of the market. Budget hotel chains, hostels, budget design hotels, youth hostels, internet portals and associations will be presenting their products and services in Hall 4.1

What will be the key initiatives at the show this year?
The Dominican Republic will be prominently featured as the partner country of the ITB Berlin. The repositioning of this destination will be a great chance for the island which looks forward to showcasing their large scale of tourist products including ecotourism and luxury travel.

What are the seminar programmes lined up at ITB 2008?
As a think tank of the travel industry the ITB Berlin Convention Market Trends & Innovations has become an important part of the ITB Berlin. From March 5 to 8 the ITB Berlin Convention Market Trends & Innovations will take place for the fifth time, with leading figures discussing the latest topics.
Representatives of the worldwide travel industry will meet on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds to debate issues concerning the future of travel at the ITB Future Day, The ITB Hospitality Day and the ITB Aviation Day. This four day convention offers about a hundred events with more than 200 speakers.
CNN’s Richard Quest will inaugurate the ITB Business Travel Days, which will also be taking place alongside the forums mentioned above. This event has firmly established itself at the ITB as a platform for business travel managers, and offers practical workshops, national forums, and a suppliers’ day. The same can be said of PhoCusWright@ITB. This leading travel technology conference organised by a US consultancy takes place on Thursday, March 6. 

Last year, climate change drew widespread attention from the industry. How will you address this at the ITB 2008?
A total of twelve events on climate protection and sustainability will be taking place at this year’s ITB Berlin Convention. International experts and politicians discuss climate protection and sustainability.
The UNWTO heads the programme of events, with ministers and international travel industry decision makers. We look forward to celebrity speakers including Prof Dr Norbert Walter of Deutsche Bank and scientist Dr Bertrand Piccard, the first person to circumnavigate the world non stop in a balloon.

Over the years, how has the industry shaped up?
The European markets are mature markets. The future growth of tourism will come from the Asian continent. Travel volume will remain on a constantly high level from the classical outgoing markets line Germany. But it will be only a matter of few years until India and China will have taken the number one position as travel world champions.

What are you expecting at ITB 2008?
Our customers’ success is our success. Last year ITB Berlin registered more than 100,000 trade visitors and about 11,000 exhibitors. We hope to see further growth in the number of trade visitors and expect to bring together an even larger number of international buyers and exhibitors.