ITB Berlin: Refund nightmares begin

BERLIN, 3 March 2020: One leading tour operator called ITB Berlin’s cancellation last Friday a nightmare as he tries to reach airlines and talk to the show organiser to secure a refund.

Phoenix Voyages Group’s president, Edouard George, told TTR Weekly “we have wasted the weekend trying to reach airlines and cancel flights for seven of our staff who were supposed to attend the show.”

Claiming there was ” absolutely no information if we are going to get a refund or what so ever from the ITB Berlin organisation,” he said the company had invested around EUR25 000 to attend ITB, and now we are “hoping it will not be wasted.”

The good news for Phoenix Voyage came from a cooperative hotel that lifted most of the cancellation fees. However, bookings for staff from the group’s European offices have since been maintained to enable them to conduct sales meetings as most of the short-haul flights were nonrefundable.

Noting there was considerable pressure from the German authorities to cancel the show George said ITB Berlin should have kept the professional part of the show and cancelled the days when it opens to consumers.

“We have all been fighting hard to explain to our clients that they had to travel, and our destinations are safe etc. ….but cancelling the biggest travel show in the world will, of course, send a very negative wave to the public, and we may now need several months to recover from the strong economic, social and human negative impact.”

HPL Hotels & Resorts vice president sales & marketing, Michael Chua said the last-minute cancellation caused considerable stress.

“My colleague and I are still waiting to hear from the hotel in Berlin if they will refund the hotel costs,” he explained, “As for the air tickets we can keep them for one year or get a refund.”

HPL sales teams that attend the annual trade fair in Berlin do not have their own booths but work out of country pavilions that the destinations rent directly from ITB Berlin with participants paying a joining fee to the national tourism offices.

“Our guys are in the individual country booth, but it must be  very stressful for those who have invested in rentals and the constructing of booths.”

Trade dailies survive

Meanwhile, two travel trade media groups, fvw and TTG Media, who publish daily print editions at the ITB Berlin are going ahead with digital editions published live in Berlin instead.

TTG Media Group’s managing director, Darren Ng, said three days of e-daily editions would commence as scheduled on 4 March.

“TTG was disappointed to learn of ITB Berlin’s cancellation last weekend, but we fully empathise with its necessity given Covid-19’s rapid spread globally within the last few days,” he told TTR Weekly.

“Our editorial team is already in Berlin, ahead of the cancellation announcement. I can confirm the digital versions of the TTG Show Daily: ITB Berlin will go ahead with live reporting at sideline events such as the Safe Travel Seminar co-hosted by PATA at the Grand Hyatt that are on-going in Berlin.”

The German trade media groups fvw is adopting a similar approach publishing its fvw Daily, from Wednesday to Friday as an e-paper.

“Many tourist boards and companies have already prepared their press conferences or press releases about their ITB news. We will publish this information in our fvw Daily”, said editor-in-chief Klaus Hildebrandt.