ITB Asia secures its space

SINGAPORE, 18 October 2019: Now in its 12 annual edition, you could conclude ITB Asia has arrived at a tipping point at least as far as technology and security goes. 

Entrance to ITB Asia exhibition floors required facial recognition and that involved delegates uploading a photo during the registration process managed by a mobile app before they left home.

Gone are the days when badges swapped from one person to the next to allow companies to boost attendance at the booth beyond the paid-up registered delegates.

But confusion persisted as some delegates showed their registration details and QR displayed on their mobile phones believing it would do the trick and they would not need to wear a badge. It worked on the first day, but as the second day dawned, the security officers supervising the facial recognition units closed that loophole and insisted the badge was an essential item to gain access.  The badge has survived for the time being.

Due to the success of facial recognition, it won’t be long before the familiar badge, lanyard and plastic sleeve will disappear to be replaced by mobile screen data displaying the registration and photo identity. ITB Asia is still playing catch-up on that item.

The ban on plastic water bottles appeared to be almost universal on the exhibition floor. There were a couple of exceptions, and some exhibitors offered coffee or tea served in styrofoam cups believing it was an acceptable alternative.

But it was still environmentally a show that has a long way to go to be truly green friendly. Standout negatives included 3,000 delegates wearing plastic badges and throwaway cups stained with residue coffee, tea and sugar that drop into the dirty waste category.

Then add the knock-down of booth decoration and exhibits that leave tons of construction waste behind. I would give Genting Cruises the award for creating a mountain of construction waste when workers dismantled the elaborate foam and plaster-board replica of a cruise ship the length of six booths.   

Add to the construction material waste the official printed daily newspaper published by ITB Asia as well as two pirate versions published by stubborn, recalcitrant publishers created a mountain of paper trash piled-up at the Marina Bay’s service entrance.

It is quite remarkable that ITB Asia believes it needs to publish a printed daily to serve exhibitors. Most delegates happily read the digital version on their mobile phones, so why bother printing 10,000 copies over three days?

It becomes even more remarkable that TTG Asia and Travel Weekly Asia also printed 10,000 copies each over the three days. They were essentially pirate editions barred from distributing in the ITB Asia exhibition and lobby areas by Messe Berlin (Singapore) the show owner.

The two trade publishers managed to sneak in a few copies but for the first time in the 12 annual ITB Asia events that I have attended I saw a security officer swoop on a Travel Weekly Asia’s hired-hand and snatch a pack of 500 copies. They were unceremoniously confiscated. The hired-hand retreated as she reported the scary incident to her boss.

Obviously having three print dailies circulating is highly damaging for an event that wants to present a green image.  ITB Asia needs to be more than a thought leader. It needs to lead the way in deeds and ensure future official dailies are the digital type that we can quickly read on our mobile phones. If exhibitors need a real-time copy, then they should print-on-demand when they return home.

In the exhibition space, pasted over a line of garbage bins, a quote from author Robin Swan reads: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

We can all play our part when we attend shows. Perhaps we need to reduce the number of shows we attend but if we really need to be at a trade fair, let’s ensure we cut waste to the minimum.