- Özgür Töre
From 8 to 12 March 2021, the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show - ITB Berlin - gathered the industry on its new and entirely virtual platform at ITB Berlin NOW.
Took place digitally due to the pandemic, during the five-day event, around 65,700 users visited the online platform, of whom around two-thirds (64.5 percent) were from other countries.
Taking as its slogan ’The digital Meet-up for the Travel Industry. Anytime. Anywhere.’, the trade show gave participants a unique virtual meeting place in surely one of the most challenging times in recent decades.
3,513 exhibitors representing destinations, hotel chains and tech companies from 120 countries made use of the new format to present their products and services. There was also keen media interest. Over 1,000 media representatives and travel bloggers from 54 countries covered the event live.
80 percent of the participants made use of the networking features, which included business meetings via individual and group calls, chats and searching for business partners.
During ITB, the programme of events over a total of 265 hours registered around 52,600 participants: Some 700 speakers at more than 400 discussion rounds at the convention, who held lectures, interviews and took part in exhibitor presentations and press conferences and gave their views on how the industry can overcome the effects of the pandemic and initiate a successful recovery. Many companies were creative at their events, the Balearic Islands for instance, which held a press conference live from the port of Palma de Mallorca.
Martin Ecknig, CEO of Messe Berlin said, “The last 12 months have shown how important it is for the travel industry to have a platform in these difficult times, in order to be sure of a specialist meeting place after months of uncertainty and in such an exceptional situation. In particular, there was keen interest in the many networking opportunities, which reflected the quality of ITB Berlin NOW users. Four out of five contact requests led to a successful business match. The successful conclusion to a week of live events showed the additional benefits of this virtual solution. For ITB Berlin NOW is not over yet. Even after the event, meetings can be scheduled and content and other functions will remain online until 31 May 2021. For the period of this service, all users can expand their reach even further, find important information and contacts, network with each other, evaluate their results and access programme items. At the same time, customers are keen to be back in Berlin again next year as usual.“
Looking ahead: next ITB Berlin 2022 from 9 to 13 March
Next year, ITB Berlin is scheduled to take place as an in-person event in Berlin from 9 to 13 March 2022. “The experience gained at ITB Berlin NOW will influence our planning for March 2022. We will take the lessons learned and combine them with our decades-long experience of organising in-person events“, said David Ruetz, head of ITB Berlin.
“At the same time, we are keeping all options open to expand ITB Berlin’s content and dates with a virtual event. For us, planning a hybrid trade show means combining the essential elements of an in-person and virtual industry event in the best possible way. That gives every audience the best possible chance to take part in the trade show and convention – regardless of where they are in the world.“
For the CEO, another reason for optimism was the positive mood among consumers which the Statista institute confirmed by releasing a joint survey at ITB Berlin NOW. According to the analysis, 70 percent of respondents plan to travel in 2021 or intend to plan a trip soon. 37 percent of those polled in Germany are making actual plans. The findings of a global survey by IPK International from January of this year are also a reason to be optimistic about travel in 2021. 62 percent of travelers worldwide intend to travel abroad this year. For the majority of those currently not aiming to travel abroad, the risk of Covid infection outweighs financial reasons. A combination of vaccines now being available and a high willingness among outbound travelers (90 percent) to be vaccinated has nullified the main reason for not wanting to travel, meaning that nothing stands in the way of a rapid and widespread recovery of the industry. “How the tourism industry could successfully recover from the crisis was the main topic these past few days. After all the bad news of recent months we are delighted to note that people want to travel again“, Martin Ecknig added.
Trade show experience continues until May: new After-Event ticket costs 29 euros
All members of the industry who were unable to take part in ITB Berlin NOW from 8 to 12 March can still access online content by purchasing an After-Event ticket, available from the Ticket Shop at 29 euros. This provides meeting schedules, access to all videos on demand, as well as press releases and exhibitor presentations plus the Show Floor, Brand Cards and the press section. The ticket is valid from 15 March to 31 May.
This year the entirely virtual event targeted trade visitors only, while consumers were able to get inspiration for their upcoming vacations from livestreamed evening events at the Berlin Travel Festival, a partner event. The programme for the public was very well received. Parallel with the running time of ITB Berlin NOW, four different episodes were broadcast at 7 p.m. on each day. The last one is due today, Friday at 7 p.m. The most popular to date has been about Maggie Haselwanter, who attempted the journey to New Zealand on her moped Sunny at 30 kph, but who stranded in Turkey because of the pandemic. Also high in the ratings were the panel moderated by Charlott Tornow (Travel Joys), Carlo Speth (Holday Pirates, Luise Morgeneyer (blogger), Timo Kohlenberg (CEO America Unlimited) and Bruno Marti (25hours Hotel) asking the question “Take a trip. But How?” Brandenburg, a session partner, also offered valuable tips every day on trips in the greater area of Berlin.
Visions and new ideas for the industry at the ITB Berlin NOW Convention
The parallel ITB Berlin Convention, which featured high-profile participants and was videostreamed live on several channels from two broadcasting studios on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds, provided comprehensive orientation for the industry. Under the heading ’Rethink, Regenerate, Restart – Tourism for a Better Normal’, numerous leading representatives of airlines, the hotel and cruise industries offered insights into best practices, forecasts and visions for the future in lectures, interviews and at discussions rounds. The global travel industry’s leading think tank also examined important topics such as sustainable tourism, the changing face of luxury travel, sales strategies and scenarios for a recovery, especially where tourism destinations were concerned. Not least, the convention addressed the most important trends and developments in the fast-growing Technology, Tours & Activities (TTA) market.
Virtual Show Floor is the platform’s hub
The focus of ITB Berlin NOW was the Show Floor featuring exhibitors who along with their co-exhibitors were able to present their products and services on so-called Brand Cards. At a total of 13 themed ITB cafés, participants were also able to exchange their views on various industry trends in technology, CSR and LGBT+. With the innovative Discovery Graph and Leadfinder tools, participants were able to make widespread use of smart matchmaking technology. Turn up the speakers and dance – that was the message on Thursday evening, when thousands of ITB users followed the exclusive appearance of the internationally celebrated DJ Paul van Dyk via a livestream on the ITB Berlin NOW platform.
First ITB Berlin Travel & Tourism Declaration
In the run-up to the show, the convention organisers had asked CEOs to address policymakers with calls for action against the backdrop of the challenges facing the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. ITB Berlin will summarise them shortly in the ITB Berlin Travel & Tourism Declaration and publicise them.
The trade show also gave a positive assessment of two exclusive partnerships which each celebrated a debut in their respective roles. Thus, the federal State of Saxony was represented as the first official cultural destination at ITB Berlin NOW 2021 and was able to promote itself at the show as an outstanding destination for cultural and city tourism, as well as offering a unique nature experience and adventure holidays. Next year, Saxony will be the official host country of the World’s Largest Travel Trade Show. With Georgia, the show also welcomed its first Digital Adventure and Sustainability Partner. It heralds the beginning of a multi-year partnership. Georgia will be the official cultural destination in 2022 and the official host country in 2023.