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ITB Asia

Rich crop of exhibitors at ITB Asia
September 2010 1796

AS ITB Asia prepares to return for its third edition with up to 30 per cent more exhibitors, NINO GRUETTKE tells SHALU CHANDRAN he is confident of meeting the target of 21,000 buyer-seller meetings at this year’s event.

How successful was ITB Asia 2009? Were exhibitor/visitor numbers affected given the global economic recession? How much bigger will this year’s event be?

ITB Asia in 2009 held stable despite the recession. There were 6,149 attendees joining the three-day event, compared to 6,208 in 2008.The number of exhibiting organisations increased to 679 in 2009 compared to 651 in 2008.

Now, the question really is ‘how much better will this year’s ITB Asia be?’ Our exhibitors are more diversified and international than ever before. Our hosted buyers represent a very broad spectrum of leisure, corporate travel and Mice interests. For exhibitors and buyers, the question is not, how many sq m more have we sold this year? But rather how many relevant high-quality partners will I do business with this year? On that front, we’re very confident.

On size, we’re looking at single digit growth this year. Our ambition is to grow incrementally and focus on enhancing the quality of the buyer-seller experience each year.

Which exhibitors will debut this year? Will we see any/more Middle East exhibitors this year?

Between 20 and 30 per cent of exhibitors are new participants. Guangdong Tourism Authority, Bhutan Department of Tourism and the Moscow Exhibition and Convention Agency will exhibit their destinations for the first time.

From the private sector, Hyatt, the Chilean carrier LAN Airlines and the Small Luxury Hotels of the World have joined for the first time, along with travel companies from Kenya, Uzbekistan and Armenia.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has more than doubled its floor space and the Czech Tourist Authority, Sentosa Leisure Group, Frasers Hospitality, Fairmont Raffles Swissotel, Furama Hotels International Management and the German Tourism Board (DZT) have all booked larger floor space this year.

Exhibitors from the Middle East include Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development, Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, Qatar Airways and Egypt Tourism Office which has substantially increased its booth presence by almost four times from 2009. Also, Qatar Tourism has organised a roadshow in this region beginning the second week of October and it will conclude its campaign at ITB Asia. Qatar Tourism is also the exclusive sponsor of the ITB Asia 2010 buyers lounge.

Has there been an increase in hosted buyer participation?

Our priority is quality more than quantity. At the same time though, we have received more applications for the hosted-buyer programme than ever before. We decided to bring in the best buyers from the last two years but also to welcome nearly 50 per cent new hosted buyers. New filtering techniques were introduced. The aim was to ensure that only high-quality buyers would enter the pre-scheduled appointment system to meet exhibitors.

From the Middle East, there has been substantial interest with confirmed buyers from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

This year you have also introduced Association Day – is this in collaboration with Singapore’s efforts to attract Mice events to the city?

Yes, Association Day is supported by the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau – as well as the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).

Our Association Day session means that there will be more exhibitors and destinations ready to talk about Mice business compared to the previous two years. It was created by experts in the convention field. Ace:Daytons Direct, ASAE, which is the professional membership association for association staff, the Centre for Association Leadership and Suntec Singapore are all key collaborators.

What is the aim of the day?

Annual and bi-annual association meetings for doctors, insurance experts, dentists, scientists and other professions are increasingly important because they take place regardless of global economic conditions. Before, during and after these events, association members spend large amounts of money on shopping, travel, dining and entertainment.

ITB Asia wants to help destinations get their fare share of that steady business – which is relatively recession proof. That’s why we have a fantastic line-up of expert speakers – Robin Lokerman, CEO, institutional division, MCI, Nancy Green executive director, National Association for Gifted Children, Greta Kotler,  chief knowledge officer, ASAE, Dr Alfred Loh, CEO, The World Organisation of Family Doctors, Helga Severyns, senior director, (UITP) The International Association of Public Transport, Mike Williams, senior consultant, Gary Grimmer & Company, Oliver Chong, director, conventions and meetings, STB, Pieter Idenburg, CEO, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Noor Ahmad Hamid, regional director Asia Pacific, ICCA, Quirine Laman Trip, group director of business development, Kenes Group and Marcel Vissers, editor in chief, Headquarters and MIM Magazine, to name just a few.

What are the other new initiatives lined up, this year?

The thought-leadership element of ITB Asia is once again being provided by Web in Travel, the sister event to ITB Asia which takes place simultaneously alongside ITB Asia in Suntec. Specially-priced tickets entitle ITB Asia participants to join Web in Travel – which is the best event in Asia for people dedicated to the latest trends in marketing, distribution and online technology in travel. Web in Travel this year will be focusing on the Asian customer – and how they are fast adopters of mobile technology and use technology and online to find, research, book, pay for and criticise travel.

How has the region’s meetings industry fared post the economic recession?

There is a new passion to justify every penny spent on a business event. Professional conference organisers (PCO) are being told ‘Here is our budget, what can you offer for that price? We don’t have a dollar more’.

Because Asian economies have returned very quickly to growth compared to Europe, the Middle East and North America, Asian business events and companies are now much more sought after. It’s a trend we’ll see continuing over the next two or three years.

We see companies also a lot more concerned about green meetings. They don’t want to pay extra for a green meeting, but they now push the PCO to be smart on things such as plastic bottles, wasteful distribution of brochures and so on.

With Asia leading the global travel industry recovery – what kind of travel trends do you see developing out of this region?

The continued rise of mobile smart devices and applications in iPad, iPhone and BlackBerry. The new technology empowers the traveller. They can now read reviews of restaurants as they stand outside and decide whether to go in or not.

The show completes its three-year deal with Singapore as host this year. Will you continue your commitment with Singapore?

Yes. ITB Asia is delighted to be continuing its partnership with Singapore. We’ve just signed a new deal with the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Messe Berlin (Singapore) has an excellent strategic relationship with the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau. Praise for Singapore and how easy it is to do business there keeps coming up in all our feedback from buyers and exhibitors.

As the new director for ITB Asia, what are your key objectives from this show?

The key objective is to establish and grow ITB Asia as ‘the trade show for the Asian travel market’. We will do this by listening to our stakeholders and delivering a consistent high-quality show that grows incrementally in quality year on year. Quantitative growth will then come naturally.

Asia will be the driving force of growth in the travel industry in many parts of the world and in many segments of the travel industry. That is why we decided to bring the ITB brand to Asia. On the consumer side, as more people travel and connect, authenticity – real or perceived – will come at an increasing premium.

ITB Asia takes place from October 20 to 22 at the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition centre.

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