The first stab at taking trade shows online

SINGAPORE, 22 October 2020: ITB Asia opened its doors, Wednesday, for the first-ever virtual trade show but how many trade visitors, buyers and sellers will visit the virtual space remains to be seen.

Messe Berlin (Singapore) the organiser of the three-day event says 900 buyers and 400 exhibitors from around the world will network, conduct business, and share knowledge.

Hosted on the newly established platform —  ITB Community in Asia (ITB Community) — this year’s ITB Asia event also plays host to sub-shows; MICE Show Asia and the brand new Travel Tech Asia.

The virtual ITB Asia is viewed as a major experiment testing the waters to see if the trade can conduct business successfully without physical meetings and negotiations. If it works, it could save billions in marketing dollars and help to reduce the carbon footprint created by constant business travel in the name of travel trade sales.

Messe Berlin (Singapore) managing director, Katrina Leung commented: “We are proud to have quickly pivoted to a fully virtual format that has enabled us to maintain our position as the leading travel trade show in the region. It is now more important than ever before that we provide this opportunity for industry leaders around the globe to come together virtually to share insights, knowledge, and experience, to pave the way for the future of the travel trade. Over the next three days, we look forward to closely collaborating with international exhibitors, travel companies and international buyers to unveil a strong, engaging, and contextually relevant programme.”

Other show organisers will scrutinise the ITB Asia’s outcomes to ascertain if the business model could be applied to hundreds of travel shows that remain in jeopardy if the Covid-19 pandemic impact continues unabated in 2021.

It is understood that the ASEAN Tourism Forum is under review. Due to be hosted in Phnom Penh Cambodia, 17-23 January, reliable sources say its postponement is under consideration as Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism reviews options.

It is now almost certain that the Mekong Tourism Forum, due to be hosted by Myanmar in the World Heritage town of Bagan, will not be held in February 2021. The country’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism postponed the event last March to dates in February, but since then Covid-19 infections have spiked in Myanmar.

In Singapore, ITB Asia’s virtual exhibition line-up attempts to keep the trade show concept alive by facilitating business appointments, digital exhibition booths, a business matching platform and 24/7 chat and call functions for almost 400 exhibitors in a virtual space.

The virtual exhibition will continue to highlight new destinations including Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Monaco and Sapporo. Exhibitors from hospitality and travel groups include Meliá Hotels International, Radisson Hotel Group and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

Over the 12 past editions, ITB Asia’s business matching took place on the exhibition floor. This year, the business matching plays out on a dedicated business matching portal. Available throughout the three days of ITB Asia, sellers will be able to upload company brochures and collateral, and buyers may upload proposal request briefs to replicate virtually business negotiations that were the core components of physical ITB Asia shows in the past.

Conference line-up

Now in its 13th year, the theme of this year’s event, set against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, is “Reinventing Travel in the New Normal”. The over 100-session themed agenda, led by more than 160 international speakers, has been specifically curated to support the travel industry in navigating the current challenges and prepare for eventual recovery.

On Wednesday it kicked off with a line-up of speakers from across the industry discussing topics such as the future of travel, and building recovery for travel and tourism. They included leaders from global organisations such Maribel Rodriguez, senior vice president, membership & commercial at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), and Anita Mendiratta, special advisor to the secretary-general at UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

On Thursday, Alexandre de Juniac, director general & CEO International Air Transport Association (IATA), will make a presentation.

CrescentRating will continue to present its annual “Halal in Travel Asia Summit” at ITB Asia with key findings from their Mastercard CrescentRating Travel Readiness Report.

Cruise Lines International Association will focus on preparing for resumption in its session and will answer questions on what the travel trade can do to combat misperceptions and raise awareness of the strict regulations that govern cruises worldwide.

MICE Show Asia

Highlights of the event will include a series of MICE destination talks with global participation including Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), German Convention Bureau (GCB), Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB), Russian Convention Bureau (RCB), Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) and more with MICE associations including IAPCO, MPI Academy and SITE Africa also in attendance.

Travel Tech Asia

Travel Tech Asia will share the latest technologies, trends, tech travel brands and innovative start-ups, during a brand new three-day show introduced by Messe Berlin under ITB Asia’s banner.