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Travel industry focuses on refugee debate at ITB Berlin

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

refugee crisisFor many months the refugee situation has been the focus of debate not only in politics, but in the travel industry as well. The industry will examine the various aspects of this topic at the ITB Berlin Convention.

Scientists and experts will provide in-depth accounts and tourism professionals will relate their practical experiences, for example of integrating refugees at the workplace.

On Wednesday, 9 March, day one of the ITB Destination Days at the ITB Berlin Convention, Interjections – powered by Studienkreis für Tourismus will be asking the question ’Old Europe, new borders?’ Following an introduction by Prof. Dr. Dietmar Herz, chairman of the board of Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung e.V., Andreas Stopp, a journalist at Deutschlandfunk, will talk about the impact of the refugee crisis on tourism and how the industry has become involved in political events. Father Frido Pflüger, director of the Jesuit organisation Flüchtlingsdienst Deutschland; Jasmin Taylor, managing partner of JT Touristik GmbH and founder of the refugee organisation Strong Independent Sisters (SIS), as well as Düzen Tekkal, a TV journalist, author, editor and war zone correspondent, will relate their experiences.

On Thursday, 10 March, day two of the ITB Destination Days, the latest international research findings in connection with flight, migration and tourism will be revealed. The influx of refugees across Europe also poses major challenges for tourism destinations such as Jordan, Turkey, Greece and Italy. After an introductory paper by Prof. Dr. Harald Pechlaner, president of the AIEST Department of Tourism at Katholische Universität Eichstädt-Ingolstadt, the participants will talk about feelings of hostility versus the possibility of new kinds of hospitality emerging. The event will be hosted by Verena Papke, an expert on regional strategy development and tourism. Taking part in the panel discussion will be George Drakopoulos, president and CEO of tourism generis and special advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Dr. Dirk Glaesser, director of the Sustainable Development Programme, UNWTO; Prof. Dr. Harald Pechlaner, president of the AIEST Department of Tourism, Katholische Universität Eichstädt-Ingolstadt; and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schmude, president of DGT e.V., Department of Economic Geography and Tourism Research, Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München. An official collaboration agreement between the DGT and AIEST will also be signed at the event.

On Friday, 11 March, day three of the ITB Destination Days, as part of a discussion on ’Tourism and security in the light of recent events’, the panel members will look at how the increased threat to security in many regions, terror attacks and stricter border controls could affect tourism. Following an introductory paper by Dörte Nordbeck, head of Travel and Logistics Germany GfK, experts will debate what conclusions can be drawn from early airline bookings made for 2016 and how destinations can be made safer in these times of crisis. The event will be moderated by Eike Otto, advisor, sustainable-tourism.com. Panel members include Dr. Marwan Abou Taam, expert on international terrorism, homeland security and Salafism, BIM Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Alexander Karapidis, senior researcher / consultant, Fraunhofer Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO; Christian Schmicke, head of Corporate Communications, Central Europe Thomas Cook; and Jörg H. Trauboth, an expert on crisis management and security.

ITB CSR Day: integration and peace through tourism

At the ITB CSR Day On Friday, 11 March, experts will be discussing ’Specialists needed – the refugees are coming. What does this mean for the tourism industry?’. After giving an introductory paper Matthias Beyer, managing director of mascontour GmbH, will talk with Dr. h.c. Burkhard Scholz, managing director of Inselhotel Potsdam-Hermannswerder, and one of his employees who arrived in Germany as a refugee. At the subsequent panel discussion Norbert Fiebig, president of DRV Deutscher ReiseVerband e.V. and acting patron of Futouris; Dr. Kay Ruge, deputy, Deutscher Landkreistag; Dr. h.c. Burkhard Scholz, managing director of Inselhotel Potsdam-Hermannswerder; and Christian Wiesenhütter, deputy managing director of IHK Berlin, will be discussing the opportunities and challenges facing the tourism industry and refugees and highlighting a number of positive examples. Afterwards, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai will introduce an event organised by the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) which honours women who promote peace in tourism. The ITB CSR Day will be concluded with the award-winning keynote speaker and tour operator Aziz Abu Sarah taking a look at the future on the topic of ’Travelling for peace’. He will be looking at how tourism can help to prevent violent conflicts and illustrate how peace initiatives and business success can be combined in the travel industry.

Hall 4.1: focus on ’flight and migration’

Featuring several panel discussions and an interactive event, Hall 4.1 will also be debating the refugee situation. On Wednesday, 9 March, a discussion round will examine how development work influences migration flows. Taking Albania as an example, the discussion will illustrate how German involvement has helped to develop tourism, how creating a wide range of tourism products can potentially boost the country’s economy, and will ask whether this has any influence on migration tendencies. After giving an introductory paper Hans Jürgen Cassens, regional director, Albania, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), will talk to Arben Ahmetaj, Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Commerce and Entrepreneurship in Albania, and other guests.

On Friday, 11 March, under the heading of ’Flight and migration – shaping intercultural youth travel’ a discussion round will take place on the big stage in Hall 4.1. Taking part will be Maximilian Gens, national chairman of Jugendpresse Deutschland, Gunnar Grüttner, Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk, Helge Maul, chairman of Reisenetz, and Jan Vieth, managing director of Camp Adventure. The event will be moderated by Jana Pieper, a trainer with Youth Incoming Germany (YIG).

On the small stage in Hall 4.1 examples of best practices will be given in order to illustrate how refugees can be integrated in the tourism industry. Rika Jean-François, in charge of CSR at ITB Berlin; Gabriela Sonnleitner, founder of Hotel magdas in Vienna, Katrin Elseman, co-founder of Hotel Utopia in Berlin; and Monika Demler, research assistant, Training, Placement, Visitor Services at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, will talk about the opportunities and challenges that result from absorbing refugees on the German employment market. The event will be moderated by Susanne Ceron Baumann, proprietor of Culture Instinct and founder of German Now!. In order to illustrate the situation, Razan Nassreddine, project manager, and Rita Albahri, guide, will present the project entitled ’Multaka: museums, a meeting place – refugees as guides in Berlin museums’, which provides museum guide training courses for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, so that they in turn can offer asylum seekers tours in their own language.

On Saturday, 12 March, a panel comprising practically the same members will answer questions from the audience and give tips on how people in Berlin can get involved. Furthermore, on Saturday the German Now! project will have information for visitors about its German courses for refugees. On Sunday, 13 March, on its live ’Sonntagsspaziergang’ programme, Deutschlandfunk will examine the impact of Islamist threats on tourism.

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