ITB Berlin tots up more exhibitors

BERLIN, 13 March 2017: ITB Berlin closed last week on a high note claiming a record turnout of exhibitors and signs that the demand for travel continues to grow despite travel consumers’ “profound safety concerns”.

Credited with being the world’s largest travel trade show it is now routine for the event to annually surpass turnout figures for both trade and consumer visitors.

But at this year’s show, Messe Berlin was keen to highlight its latest venture in Asia the inaugural ITB China that will open in Shanghai this May.

ITB Berlin claimed its ‘international’ trade visitors  increased 7.7%. Also, attendance at the 14th ITB Berlin Convention, held on the sidelines of the trade fair hit a new record of 28,000 delegates.

There was a one negative number to cast a shadow over the halls of the trade fair. Trade visitor numbers were down to 109,000 blamed mainly on strike action at Berlin’s airports during the show week that discouraged trade visitors from other German cities and in the EU.

Over the five days of the show, more than 10,000 exhibiting companies from 184 countries displayed their products and services at 1,092 stands.

Commenting on the outcomes, Messe Berlin noted that “one of the trends, which has taken hold everywhere in the travel industry was  evident at all of the 26 display halls: the digital transition has taken over the business of selling tourism at breathtaking speed.”

In the long-run the digital revolution will continue to disrupt the traditional channels used by the travel industry to conduct its business and that includes trade fairs and travel agents. Digital disruption will challenge the travel agency sector the most probably ending the careers of most enterprises except those in specific niche markets that still demand a personalised expertise, or rely on complicated itineraries beyond the online channel capabilities. But it is only a matter of time. Travel agents are boxing back to the corner ropes.

Ultimately, the attendance of an army of trade visitors that events like ITB rely on to sell exhibition space will decline as consumers take command of their travel decisions mainly using their mobile devices. The business of selling tourism will no longer be in the hands of  travel agents, but in the hands of consumers. The ease of researching, booking and buying travel direct on a smart phone, will make travel consultants a dying breed and those who do survive will be digitalised to the hilt and connected without the need to attend trade shows to connect with their partners.

Positive forecasts for the European economy and in particular for Germany as one of the biggest source markets for international tourism was noted by Messe Berlin as a positive trend this year.

However, one topic that occupied exhibitors and visitors was consumers’ increasing concern for their safety.

“Even in these uncertain times people refuse to be put off from travelling,” said Messe Berlin GmbH CEO Christian Göke.

“They are prepared to adapt to the new situation and bring their personal holiday needs into line with the changes taking place in society. They now carefully think their holiday plans over and afford a great deal of consideration to their personal safety.”

Now in its 51st edition, ITB Berlin continue to attract trade buyers of which two thirds were were directly responsible for contracting.

According to preliminary figures, on the weekend around 60,000 travel consumers visited the show. As in previous years, it was possible to book tours directly at ITB Berlin on Saturday and Sunday.  The mid-week days, Wednesday to Friday, were open only to trade visitors, and any slowdown in this  visitor segment should in the long-term concern Messe Berlin, although this year the strike at Berlin airports was blamed as the main culprit.

Messe Berlin also used the show to promote its latest project in Asia, ITB China, which is due to be launched in Shanghai, 10 to 12 May at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Conference Centre with around 600 exhibitors booked.

Messe Berlin launched ITB Asia 10 years ago in Singapore and is now the leading B2B event for the Asian travel market. It attracts 800 exhibitors from over 70 countries and around 9,650 participants from 110 countries. It is also involved in plans to launch ITB China to give it two national shows in Asia.

The 52nd ITB Berlin will take place from Wednesday, 7 to 11 March 2018.

(Source: ITB Berlin)