High on travel

ITB Berlin 2004 left visitors feeling optimistic about the mid-term future of the industry
The ITB Travel Technology segment displayed commercial applications

THERE was one feeling everyone at ITB Berlin 2004 shared: optimism about the growth of the travel industry.

Like Dr Christian Gbke, chief operating officer of organisers Messe Berlin, says, “Not only is optimism in the industry undiminished following ITB Berlin 2004, but it appears stronger than ever: more exhibitors, more trade visitors and a fantastic atmosphere in the halls all provide a clear reflection of the current situation.”
Events at ITB Berlin 2004, held from March 12 to 16, showed that forecasts by tour operators, airlines, hotels and destinations were correct: there is still a growing interest in travel. Conferences and congresses alike, such as the ITB Tourism Barometer and the ITB Berlin Message, only underlined the belief that the future offers prospects for more growth, a view reinforced by independent market research studies.
A total of 10,023 exhibitors from 178 countries and territories attended ITB 2004, representing every sector of the international tourism industry.
Visitors totalled 141,139, including 75,019 trade professionals, nine percent up from 2003. Thirty-five per cent of these came from outside Germany, increasing international representation at the event by an equal nine per cent.
This year more than ever before, ITB served as the marketing and communication forum for the entire international tourism industry. This was clearly apparent from the increase in the level of business activity. More than 90 per cent of trade visitors at ITB positively assessed the commercial results of their visit. Twenty-two per cent even signed contracts during the fair. Almost two thirds were able to establish new commercial contacts and more than half said they expected further negotiations or actual business transactions after the fair.
Among the general public visiting ITB 2004, over half revealed their reliance on the event to help them with their travel plans. More than four in every ten members of the public came in search of ideas for new destinations. And compared with 2003 many more of them were considering more distant destinations.
For this group of visitors the most popular vacation regions were: Germany and Southern Europe, (48 per cent each), Northern, Eastern and Central Europe, (around 17 per cent each), Africa (15 per cent) and Asia (13 per cent).
The public were especially attracted in great numbers to the stands of the Disneyland Resort Paris and the Europa-Park Rust.
At ITB 2004, the various market segments devoted to selective target groups provided an outstanding forum for direct discussions between experts, for conducting PR and cultivating contacts, and for signing deals.
The Cultural Tourism section featured 55 main exhibitors and over 300 cultural facilities and institutions. Says Kai Geiger, GM, Art Cities and initiator of this segment of the market, “ITB 2004 exceeded my most optimistic expectations. All our exhibitors are more than satisfied with the fair.” There were also excellent responses to the Cultural Tourism Forum and the Nature Experience Hall.
The ITB Travel Technology market segment, too, attracted high numbers. The mood was positive, many specific enquiries were received, and the items and services on offer were more clearly defined than before, with technology having been transformed into value-based modules whose utility can be easily identified and represented. In almost all cases the innovations displayed are already being tested in real conditions by customers. The emphasis was on commercial applications. A total of 98 government officials and 74 diplomats attended the International Tourism Exchange ITB Berlin 2004.
The International Tourism Exchange ITB Berlin 2005 will take place from March 11 to 15 on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds.