The world’s largest tourism trade show is finally back in Berlin
ITB Berlin Exhibition Director, Deborah Rothe, gives a glimpse of what’s to come in an exclusive interview with ITB Berlin News.
You recently took over the management of ITB Berlin, which is back this year as an in-person event for the first time since 2019. How significant is this moment for the tourism and travel industry?
It feels quite a relief mixed with great anticipation. For the past three years, we’ve had to hold both the trade show and convention in a digital format only, so strictly speaking this year’s ITB Berlin really is a new beginning. We took the opportunity during the pandemic to noticeably enhance the event format, by augmenting both the trade show and ITB Berlin Convention with digital elements. In addition there are lots of other changes on the exhibition grounds which visitors and exhibitors can look forward to. 2023 is the first time we are focusing exclusively on the B2B audience with the show taking place from Tuesday to Thursday.
What are the key highlights that visitors can look forward to at this year’s show?
Monday, 6 March, will for the first time feature the ITB Media Monday with the opening press conference at 10 am, followed by European Travel Commission (ETC), World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and Saudi Tourism Authority press conferences and presentations. Visitors can also look forward to our Official Host Country Georgia, which together with us is organising the festive opening gala on the eve of the show (6 March) and will be represented with a large stand in the new multi-purpose hall, hub27 in hall 4.1 and the South entrance. At the trade show itself we are offering the benefits of additional new services and products, including the premiere of HOME OF LUXURY by ITB at the Marshall Haus for everyone interested in the luxury tourism market or our new ITB Buyers Circle Lounge in Hall 7.2a for our top 1,000 senior buyers. For the first time during the event our customers can make use of our modern hybrid studio in Hall 5.3 to host their own press conferences and product presentations. This year, the “Business+ Lounge” in Hall 7.2a and the “Business Satellites” in Hall 20, Hub27 and 6.2b will be available to all participants, trade visitors, journalists or exhibitors to reserve tables on an hourly base, in advance or directly onsite on itb.com – moreover, ticket sales this year are exclusively online. This year, participants who wish to attend ITB Berlin digitally can purchase the “fully digital ticket“. Last but not least, in 2023 our popular Best Exhibitor Award is making a comeback, which honours the best exhibitors in 11 categories. Alongside the event we offer a new online platform, ITBxplore, which is already open for networking and arranging appointments between attending exhibitors, trade visitors and media.
What are the main trends influencing the tourism and travel industry?
In fact, we can derive quite a few trends based on the exhibitor portfolio of ITB Berlin. Thus the cruise industry is strongly represented for instance. The same applies to the Travel Tech segment where growth was already above average before the pandemic. We are also seeing a large number of exhibitors from Greece, the Maldives, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the Arab countries including Morocco and Saudi Arabia. The major trends are reflected in the programme of the ITB Berlin Convention, which this year features a total of 200 sessions, 400 speakers and 18 theme tracks.
How will these be addressed during ITB Berlin?
Under the headline ’Mastering Transformation’, ITB Berlin Convention is examining the major topics concerning our industry, including digitalisation, the skills shortage and the energy crisis. Our industry will continue to change dramatically in 2023. We are in an age of profound challenges that extends far beyond the pandemic or the skills shortage in certain areas. In addition to climate change and energy supply issues we are on the threshold of a new global security architecture with wide-ranging implications for travel and tourism.
At the theme tracks mentioned we will be examining topics under a wide range of headings including Travel Technology, Marketing & Sales, Future Travel, MICE, Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Hospitality, Business Travel, New Work and Digitalisation. Key sessions and panels are being streamed and afterwards will be available to participants as videos on demand.
Why is the new three-day format more conducive to doing business?
It enables a focused target group approach. Even before the pandemic many exhibitors have expressed a strong interest in a B2B focus. One positive side effect among others, is that our customers can significantly save costs – in particular travel expenses. Accordingly, this change was well received in the industry. It was a spot-on decision which satisfied a demand many had had for a long time.
Why is it so important for the industry to meet face-to-face?
During the pandemic many of us were already experiencing the dreaded Zoom fatigue. For a short time it looked like video calls might actually replace meetings to a large extent. We all know now that this is not the case, which is why it is the more important to maintain personal relations. Meeting people offers inspiration and is a crucial part of our work. Nobody would surely deny that after these last few years.
Do you have a message that you would like to share with the industry?
Yes, that the industry has proven to be strong and able to adapt. Naturally, there is a lot of disruption and consolidation taking place now. Nevertheless, the industry has proven itself to be resilient. Now we have to face the emerging challenges with flexibility, innovative spirit and willingness to take risks. Then we can turn the challenges into major opportunities.