The founder of South Africa-based Pearls of Africa gives his tips and ideas for navigating ITB Berlin NOW
German-born Michael Frauen is CEO of The Pearls of Africa – a South African based agency which he founded in 2007, having lived in South Africa since the mid-80’s. We asked him what he hopes to achieve at this year’s ITB Berlin NOW.
Most important for me is to get an overview of who is participating in this year’s ITB Berlin NOW… Who has changed to the “digital mode” and how will the platform be able to present destinations, properties, and activities as close to the physical exhibition? What I wish to achieve is to exchange opinions within the industry and discover how the different destinations feel about their recovery plan for reactivating the travel industry. I most probably will spend more time on the congress then in previous years.
Due to our current situation, I kept contact with partners via video meetings during the year, as one can no longer just exchange a “Hello” or “How are you doing” by stumbling into each other on the fairground. A digital exhibition is much more organised and time tacked than a physical exhibition.
What are your thoughts about the way ITB has organised the event?
I can only congratulate the organisers to the platform ITB Berlin NOW. From what I have seen so far, they have put in a lot of effort and investment. With this platform and the cost structure, a large number of smaller companies have the chance to participate in this world class exhibition. I am excited to see all the hard work paying off at this event.
Do you feel communication by exhibiting companies and organisations is more important now?
Yes, I believe so. It is important for buyers to have the newest and updated information at their fingertips. Only in that way can the itineraries and product portfolios be accurately and correctly communicated to the customers. As in these times, changes can happen so quickly, it is even more important to be able to communicate the information instantly. Again, digitalisation should be implemented even more swiftly. It will be of utmost importance to be in contact with your clients at any given time. It is good for your image and gives the client the security he is looking for while traveling to different destinations on the globe.
MICHAEL FRAUEN – LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE PANDEMIC
The most important lesson that should be learnt is that a catastrophe can hit at any given time. Therefore, the digitalisation process must be enforced further – being it at the check in / check out or in using robots for simple serving tasks. We must be aware that we cannot ignore the developments of technology; that tourism has been standing behind digitalisation for years and it shows that the communication channels like Zoom are playing a very important role. Travellers will inform themselves more and more on the internet. Travel agents will have to look into doing digital consulting and digital customer evenings, instead of having customers coming to their offices. Tour Operators and Travel Agents must do their marketing with more digital and innovative ideas to be competitive in their markets. However, personal service and face-to-face meetings will still play an important role. During a customer’s trip, he or she must always be able to contact their agent. For this purpose, communication apps like WhatsApp or Telegram will play an important role.