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ITB Berlin provides strong economic boost to calm fears

Over the last half-century ITB Berlin has had a decisive impact on tourism, and on the eve of its fiftieth anniversary it enjoys an excellent standing. From 9 to 13 March 2016 around 10,000 exhibitors from 187 countries and territories will be exhibiting the latest products and trends of the global tourism industry on 1,069 stands. Over two-thirds of the exhibitors are from abroad. The organisers expect around 100,000 international trade visitors and public attendance to reach tens of thousands on the weekend. They will be able to obtain an overview of the industry’s wide range of products in 26 halls. The ITB Buyers Circle gathers travel buyers from Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia, more than 40 per cent of whom do business in the order of about 50 million euros each. Exhibitors will be able to meet new buyers at the ITB Speed Networking event, or international bloggers at the Blogger Speed Dating event on 10 and 11 March respectively in the CityCube.

The Maldives is the official partner country of ITB Berlin 2016. With its glistening white beaches, turquoise lagoons and unrivalled diving opportunities, this island nation is a nature paradise, and one of the last on the planet. Situated in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has been exhibiting at ITB Berlin since 1984 and is a model of eco-friendly and carefully controlled tourism development. The country will host a spectacular reception at the opening ceremony on the eve of the show. During the event around 260 exhibitors will be presenting the many products and services of this year-round sunshine destination on an enlarged stand in Hall 5.2 which now occupies 200 square metres.

Dr. Christian Göke, CEO, Messe Berlin GmbH: “We are delighted with the consistently high numbers of exhibitors, particularly from abroad, at the anniversary edition of ITB Berlin, which once again will provide outstanding opportunities for global business. In the face of terrorist attacks at popular travel destinations and palpable consumer fears the industry needs a strong boost to kickstart the travel season. ITB Berlin is the industry’s leading marketplace and as the meeting place of the global travel industry can set the tone for change. Over the next three days one thousand of the world’s most senior buyers will gather for the ITB Buyers Circle in order to negotiate deals and do business. At the ITB Convention we will be discussing the challenges currently facing us and providing some initial answers. Thus, under the heading of Travel 4.0, debate will not only focus on the digital transformation of business processes in travel enterprises. Experts will also be highlighting the impact the global flow of refugees will have on tourism and how they can be integrated as a workforce and with their skills into many areas of employment.“

Near the south entrance visitors to ITB Berlin will be able to gain a glimpse of the future of travel. Dressed as an elegant trade fair hostess, Toshiba’s humanoid robot will be providing information at the ITB Berlin help desk. This is ChihiraKanae’s first appearance in Europe. Since April 2015 her “sister“ has been welcoming visitors daily in Tokyo. The question as to whether customers approve of robots was analysed by an exclusive, representative and global study by Travelzoo that will be presented on Friday, 11 March 2016 at the Marketing and Distribution Day of the ITB Berlin Convention. Society is likely to accept this new technology. The majority (77 per cent) of those polled in nine countries were convinced that robots will play an important role in the near future. 73 per cent said it would improve their lives, and the majority said they would approve of robots if they did the job well, at help desks in tourism information centres, hotel check-ins, airports, or serving customers in restaurants. At an onstage live demonstration of Toshiba\'s ChihiraKanae, trade visitors will be able to make up their own minds about humanoid robots in the travel industry. Afterwards, one of Toshiba\'s experts managing the project will have more information about the technology giant\'s future plans.

The challenges and prospects arising from the digital transition will be discussed on all days of the convention. On Wednesday, 9 March 2016, Günther H. Oettinger, the EU Commissioner responsible for the digital economy and society, will deliver a keynote speech on ’shaping a mega trend in Europe’. In an ITB CEO interview Philip C. Wolf, the founder of PhoCusWright, will be talking to Darren Huston, the president and CEO of the Priceline Group and Booking.com, about ’recipes for success in times of complex markets and rapid global expansion’. In a keynote interview on the topic of ’Google View: from micro moments to a seamless travel search and booking process’, Prof. Dr. Roland Conrady, the science head of the ITB Berlin Convention, will be speaking to Dr. Oliver Heckmann, vice president of Travel and Shopping, Google Inc. Ministers from countries pioneering the digital transition will be taking part in the ITB Ministers‘ round table discussion on new business models in the age of digitalization. Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of UNWTO, will moderate the session. On Thursday, at the ITB Hospitality Day, Mario the hotel robot will have his say and be in action at all the panel discussions. The most recent staff member of the Ghent Marriott Hotel in Belgium speaks 19 languages. His inventor and hotel manager will be explaining his hotel duties and how he came into being. Overall, 25 of the 200 events taking place at the convention will examine the topic of digitalization.

The programme of events features even more leading names and important topics. The focus of a lecture by Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Dr. Gerd Müller will be on tourism as a success factor in developing and emerging countries. Among his discussion points will be the tasks facing politics and the travel industry, and how to successfully coordinate the work of state-sponsored development and the tourism sector. Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Sinn, president of the ifo Institut – Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Universität München e.V., will present the latest data on global economic developments in 2016. He will also explain the consequences of a weak Chinese economy, the growth outlook for the other BRIC countries, and the impact on consumer demand and tourism. The ITB Marketing and Distribution Day will analyse the future of luxury tourism and the actual needs of the premium travel market. In Hall 9, at the ITB Buyers Circle Hospitality Lounge, the findings of the ITB Luxury Lab 2015 will be presented. Summarised as the ’ten commandments’, they will be available on the internet at www.itb-berlin.com/luxury .

Demand by exhibitors remains unabated at the fiftieth edition of ITB Berlin. ITB was able to secure a newcomer with the participation of the Vatican Museums from the Vatican City. Last year, the Turkish Village made its first appearance. This year, for the first time, Turkey will be represented in its own hall and will be showing its colours despite turbulent times.

For many years, growth and dynamic expansion have been the hallmarks of the Travel Technology Halls and the eTravel World. Every year, international attendance increases. Around half of the exhibitors in Hall 6.1 are newcomers, which is reflected by recent market developments. At the same time, this section also features the biggest booking platforms, including Booking.com, HRS and Skypicker (all in Hall 9). Concur and Skypicker are newcomers (Hall 5.1), as are Snapshot and Tripadvisor (both in Hall 8.1). As well as on the stand of its subsidiary Booking.com, Priceline can also be found on its own stand in Hall 6.1.

Travel Technology companies from China will be well represented at the show. A number of Chinese online services providers, including Baidu, the newcomer Tuinu, Marco Polo Travel and Hotel Consolidator Shenzen Dida Travel will be appearing at ITB Berlin. This corresponds with more and more Chinese companies registering for independent stands in Hall 26, the hall featuring China. Thus, China Southern Airlines and several Asian tour operators are represented with their own stands for the first time. In order to attract attention to the Chinese travel market, this year ITB Berlin is organising a networking event, the ITB Chinese Night. The show itself also aims to increase its presence on the Asian market. Following the successful 2008 launch of ITB Asia in Singapore the brand is to be exported for a second time. Starting in May 2017, ITB China will take place annually in the pulsating mega city of Shanghai. The world’s leading travel trade show will provide China’s fast-growing travel market with its own platform, which is the combined product of strong partners. Corresponding agreements will be signed on 9 March, day one of ITB Berlin.

In Hall 25, a number of tourism companies will be exhibiting at ITB Berlin for the first time. They include the online portal Urlaubspiraten, the Mouzenidis Travel Group from Greece, and the airline Germania. Newcomers to ITB Berlin will also be represented in the Hall featuring Spain. In Hall 2.1, Canada, the USA and Central Asia will also be present in larger numbers. Arab nations will be strongly represented, as in every year. The airline Emirates will be taking part with a brand new stand at ITB Berlin.

Among the exhibitors representing Africa and Central America there will be several newcomers as well as companies returning after a break. Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Burundi and Sierra Leone, which is promoting itself as a safe destination after the ebola crisis, are all back following an absence, as are St. Lucia and the Turks and Caicos Islands from the Caribbean. Now hosting larger stands, Cuba and El Salvador will be even more strongly represented at the show.

Another growth area is the LGBT Pavilion, where the focus is on the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). India and Moments, an operator from Mauritius, Quiiky Gay Tours from Italy and mCruise, a gay cruise organiser, will all be taking part for the first time.

For trade visitors and members of the public interested in culture the Culture Lounge in Hall 16 is the place to go. 70 exhibitors will be represented there, including a dozen European cities, among them Aarhus 2017 – the European City of Culture. This year, the Business Travel and MICE section will be occupying a larger display area in its own hall (Hall 7.1c), where trade visitors can find out more about travel business developments, conferences and meetings. The ITB Career Center in Hall 11.1 is the place to head for tourism industry newcomers. For the first time, Emirates and Sixt will be represented as employers with their own stands. Numerous tourism enterprises, including Accor Hospitality Deutschland, Booking.com, Expedia and DER Touristik will be looking for potential employees. 50 exhibitors from around the world will have advice on degree courses and advanced training in tourism. A vacancy board, and an employment agency for jobs in catering, the hotel trade and cruise industry, as well as numerous advisory services will round off the displays in this section.

ITB Berlin is not just a place to kickstart one’s career. This is where, by taking only a few steps, members of the public can switch from one continent to another, find out about almost any country in the world, and get inspiration for their next trip. Launched in 1966 as a minor exhibition, ITB rapidly became the world’s largest travel trade show. This success is being celebrated with a campaign that brought about emotional travel encounters, relived important moments in the history of tourism, and can provide inspiration for one’s own trip for anyone who is interested. In collaboration with its partner airberlin the world’ largest travel trade show sent 50 Berliners as ambassadors to 50 travel destinations around the world, where they met local representatives with whom they shared a common interest or experience. The ambassadors presented them with a Berliner Buddy Bear and thanked the various figures representing tourism for their commitment and major contribution to the industry. The story of these encounters can be found on the website at www.itb50.com, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and by reading the book about the show’s anniversary on the stand of ITB in Hall 4.1. Travel tips and local recipes round off these fascinating stories. 

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