Taking place from March 4 to 8 this year, ITB Berlin will have a distinct Middle Eastern flavour, featuring Oman as its official partner country and marking the debut of Saudi Arabia on its show floor, with an impressive 450 sq m, two-storey pavilion
The focus of this year’s event is Oman, the official partner country. At the opening ceremony on the eve of ITB Berlin, Oman will take the audience on a tour of its many-faceted 5,000-year-old history. As the partner country, Oman is making the most of its role centre stage, and for the first time is represented in two halls and at the south entrance.
As emerging tourism destinations, the other Arab countries are also strongly represented in Hall 2.2, where all the UAE emirates can be found. Saudi Arabia is making an impressive debut and occupying a 450-sq-m, two-storey pavilion on the outdoor display area between Hall 2.2 and the CityCube. After suffering a massive decline in visitors, Egypt is back as a tourism destination and represented by numerous hotels and resorts in Hall 4.2.
We spoke to David Ruetz, head of ITB Berlin, for more insight on this year’s show, upcoming trends and challenges.
Is this the first time a country from the Middle East is the main country sponsor of ITB Berlin?
Our partnership with Oman is indeed a first. With Egypt, we previously had a country from North Africa as our partner. This is the first time that it will be a nation from the Middle East.
What does this mean for Oman?
For Oman the partnership means it will be centre stage, and we are promoting it with the most powerful marketing and PR instruments at our disposal.
“Connecting with real people, making real business face to face is still and, in these uncertain times, even more impactful”
– David Ruetz
What are the special privileges that Oman enjoys as the main country sponsor of ITB Berlin 2020?
The sultanate will play an important part in organising the opening event on the Tuesday before the show as well as the grand finale on the Sunday. Oman will have information on a wide range of products in a number of locations, including Halls 2.2 and 4.1. The sultanate will present itself as a modern, successful and extremely diverse holiday destination.
Specifically, from the Middle East perspective, could you tell us about key first-time exhibitors?
Following the introduction of electronic visa applications by Saudi Arabia in 2019, the country will be represented with its own pavilion on the patio opposite Hall 2.2 and occupy a total of 450 square metres and two storeys. This year, Saudi Arabia will have the largest booth in the Middle East.
Will Germans be heading to the Middle East and North Africa region this year?
For Germans, countries in this region are very popular travel destinations – the reasons are plain to see: beautiful weather, low crime rates, good value for money and excellent flight connections.
What are the key themes of ITB Berlin this year?
In 2020, CSR and digitalisation will be the two main topics. It is no coincidence that the show’s heading is ‘Smart Tourism for Future’. The entire industry realises that we cannot continue with ’business as usual’. That is why at the ITB Berlin Convention in particular experts will put together forward-looking concepts and possible solutions for the future. With digitalisation we are also placing the emphasis on yet another topic of global importance. In that context AR, VR and AI also play an important part. At the enlarged ITB Virtual Reality Lab in Hall 10.2 companies and startups will present trendsetting AR and VR developments and how they can be used in the tourism industry.
What’s new this year at ITB Berlin?
We have created the Home Of Luxury by ITB to cater for the luxury travel market and contemporary attitudes to it and are presenting it inside the Marshall Haus in the style of an apartment in several rooms. Hub27 is brand new, too. The state-of-the-art pillar-less, two-storey hall will be home to a whole range of exhibitors and provides strategic access with its passageways connecting Halls 1 and 25. Among other things we are also featuring a Travel Box on our new ITB Global Stand in hub27 where, with the help of AR visitors can take a virtual look at our trade fair spending abroad – including in China, Singapore and India. At the CSR stand in Hall 4.1 interested visitors can find out how companies are able to realise their exhibitor concepts while complying with CSR guidelines.
What are some of the white papers and trends reports that will be launched at ITB Berlin this year?
As every year, a whole range of industry studies will be presented at the ITB Berlin Convention. In cooperation with the IPK World Travel Monitor, the largest travel survey in the world, with data based on ca. 500,000 interviews, ITB Berlin will presenting the latest forecast data on worldwide and European travel behaviour at the ITB Future Day, March 4. It serves as an indispensable basis for decision-making for the entire tourism industry. At the Marketing & Distribution Day on March 5, Travelzoo, in cooperation with ITB Berlin, will exclusively announce the latest results on the study about “Customer attitudes on sustainability and climate protection”. It deals with the importance of sustainability and climate protection in luxury travel and customer readiness for limiting trips, price increases and changes in travel.
What are the new trends that you see in travel and tourism, based on your exhibitors?
Sustainability, digitalisation and new attitudes towards luxury are aspects addressed by the ITB Berlin Convention, which are important to our exhibitors too. The Home Of Luxury by ITB has attracted huge demand, which shows that our concept hit the mark. Customers are being attracted to new forms of luxury – where the focus is on social awareness and seclusion. As regards the big topics of CSR and sustainability, we look forward to Fridays for Future, taking part for the first time as exhibitors near the ITB Berlin CSR stand. Ultimately, exhibitor levels also show how important digitalisation is. Overall, our technology segment has been growing for many years. This year, for example, we are welcoming Airbnb and Agoda as exhibitors for the first time. Launched in 2019, the TTA segment has expanded again and this year continues to strongly attract the tours and activities market.
What is the future of trade shows – is ITB Berlin ready for the future? How?
Doubts are often raised as to how valid trade shows are. We can genuinely say that in our sector they remain as popular as ever. We will be welcoming 10,000 exhibitors from 180 countries again. Some exhibitors have even enlarged their displays. Connecting with real people, making real business face to face is still and, in these uncertain times, even more impactful. As a concept the trade show is so well received that we are expanding the ITB brand’s global reach all the time. In addition to ITB in China and Singapore, ITB India will be celebrating its April 2020 debut in Mumbai.
CORONAVIRUS IMPACT LIMITED
DAVID Ruetz, head of ITB Berlin, said: “Our fully booked halls are proof that even in the age of flight shame, over tourism, climate change and the coronavirus, ITB Berlin is still the focal point for the travel industry and radiates an international aura. For the global travel industry participating in large numbers and face-to-face meetings are important. For us, responsible decision-making and success in business are directly linked, which is why the slogan of the ITB Berlin Convention is ’Smart Tourism for Future.”
“At present the effects of the coronavirus are very limited. To date, two Chinese exhibitors have cancelled. A large number of Chinese stands are run by staff from Germany and Europe, and are thus not affected by cancellations. Overall, the percentage of exhibitors from the People’s Republic of China is low. The safety of our visitors and exhibitors has the utmost priority. We are in permanent contact with the public health authorities and will take all recommended measures as and when they become necessary.”
ITB Berlin is already independently taking active measures. Thus, there are additional medical specialists and first responders as well as English-speaking staff on the grounds and the sanitary facilities are being cleaned and disinfected at more frequent intervals.
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