ITB Berlin 2017 confirms what we need to hear in the travel and tourism business, that hiccups are temporary and the industry as a whole is in good health, and getting better looking by the day.
At the world’s leading travel trade show, there was no sign that people’s lust for travel has waned.
Once again, the 26 halls on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds were fully booked. Over the course of five days more than 10,000 companies from 184 countries were represented on 1,092 stands covering 160,000 sq m and showcased the global tourism industry’s latest products and trends.
Dr Christian Göke, chief executive officer of Messe Berlin GmbH, summed up, “As the world’s most important gathering place for the tourism industry ITB Berlin above all brings people together. A million face-to-face meetings at ITB Berlin will do one thing in particular, and that is build trust, trust on which we increasingly depend in our business dealings, in a digitalised and globalised world that has become more and more difficult to understand.”
Botswana, the official partner country, was an apt candidate to showcase sustainable tourism, this year being designated as the Year of Sustainable Tourism by UNWTO. Taking the theme forward was the focus on key topics ‘Safety & Security’ and ’Artificial Intelligence’. Among emerging trends and content seen at the event, Medical Tourism, a new segment stood out, while engagements around Travel Technology reached an ever-widening audience.
Among upcoming events and previews, delegates were given a glimpse of ITB China that will debut in Shanghai in May 2017, as well as standout features of the 2018 event.
Despite a number of tourist destinations such as Turkey and France experiencing a sharp decline in tourism due to political unrest and terrorist attacks, global tourism in 2016 increased by four per cent.
This is one of the findings of IPK International’s World Travel Monitor survey, which was presented at the ITB Berlin Convention. Rolf Freitag, CEO IPK International, forecast a further four per cent rise in global tourism in 2017. Goes back to our rhetoric that global tourism defies terrorism and unrest in the long term.
Looking ahead at 2018, the Berlin Travel Festival will take place next year for the first time and is intended to be a complementary event to ITB Berlin, not competition.
A preview of the event was hosted under the motto "People, Places and Memories." Experts from around the world who have something to say to representatives of the target group are invited to the programme items presented on the trade days, such as "New Ways of Traveling" or "Wednesday is the New Saturday."
The Berlin Travel Festival’s target group is clearly defined: it is millennials who have grown up with digital media, who have travel needs different from the conventional holidaymaking classes, and "whose online world we want to bring into reality," explained Bernd Neff, one of the three partners of the newly founded I love Travel GmbH.
One of the trends which has taken hold everywhere in the travel industry was evident in each of the 26 display halls at ITB Berlin. Digital transition has taken over the business of selling tourism at great speed.
Positive forecasts for the European economy and in particular for Germany as one of the biggest source markets for international tourism have also given the sector a boost.
The travel industry’s high expectations for 2017 have been significantly helped by a resolutely favourable mood among consumers, while unemployment has sunk to historically low figures.
One topic that occupied exhibitors and visitors throughout was consumers’ increasing concern for their safety.
Dr Göke summarised, “Even in these uncertain times people refuse to be put off from travelling. They are prepared to adapt to the new situation and bring their personal holiday needs into line with the changes taking place in society. They now carefully think their holiday plans over and afford a great deal of consideration to their personal safety.”
This year both exhibitors and visitors at ITB Berlin will return home with a message that is just as strong as it is clear, that racism, protectionism, populism and barriers between nations are not compatible with a prospering tourism industry.
The travel industry is one of the biggest branches of the global economy and one of its most important employers. It promotes international understanding in many ways and contributes to long-term economic growth.