ITB Berlin remains the leading platform for the global travel industry – in a virtual format and in the year of the pandemic 2021. From 8 to 12 March 2021, the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show gathered the industry on its new and entirely virtual platform at ITB Berlin NOW.
During the five-day event, around 65,700 users visited the online platform, of whom around two-thirds (64.5 per cent) were from other countries. Taking as its slogan ’The digital Meet-up for the Travel Industry. Anytime. Anywhere.’, the trade show gave participants a unique virtual meeting place in surely one of the most challenging times in recent decades. 3,513 exhibitors representing destinations, hotel chains and tech companies from 120 countries made use of the new format to present their products and services. There was also keen media interest. Over 1,000 media representatives and travel bloggers from 54 countries covered the event live. 80 per cent of the participants made use of the networking features, which included business meetings via individual and group calls, chats and searching for business partners. During ITB, the programme of events over a total of 265 hours registered around 52,600 participants: Some 700 speakers at more than 400 discussion rounds at the convention, who held lectures, interviews and took part in exhibitor presentations and press conferences and gave their views on how the industry can overcome the effects of the pandemic and initiate a successful recovery. Many companies were creative at their events, the Balearic Islands for instance, which held a press conference live from the port of Palma de Mallorca.
Martin Ecknig, CEO of Messe Berlin, says: “The last 12 months have shown how important it is for the travel industry to have a platform in these difficult times, in order to be sure of a specialist meeting place after months of uncertainty and in such an exceptional situation. In particular, there was keen interest in the many networking opportunities, which reflected the quality of ITB Berlin NOW users. Four out of five contact requests led to a successful business match. The successful conclusion to a week of live events showed the additional benefits of this virtual solution. For ITB Berlin NOW is not over yet. Even after the event, meetings can be scheduled and content and other functions will remain online until 31 May 2021. For the period of this service, all users can expand their reach even further, find important information and contacts, network with each other, evaluate their results and access programme items. At the same time, customers are keen to be back in Berlin again next year as usual.”
Looking ahead: next ITB Berlin 2022 from 9 to 13 March
Next year, ITB Berlin is scheduled to take place as an in-person event in Berlin from 9 to 13 March 2022. “The experience gained at ITB Berlin NOW will influence our planning for March 2022. We will take the lessons learned and combine them with our decades-long experience of organising in-person events”, said David Ruetz, head of ITB Berlin. “At the same time, we are keeping all options open to expand ITB Berlin’s content and dates with a virtual event. For us, planning a hybrid trade show means combining the essential elements of an in-person and virtual industry event in the best possible way. That gives every audience the best possible chance to take part in the trade show and convention – regardless of where they are in the world.”
For the CEO, another reason for optimism was the positive mood among consumers which the Statista institute confirmed by releasing a joint survey at ITB Berlin NOW. According to the analysis, 70 per cent of respondents plan to travel in 2021 or intend to plan a trip soon. 37 per cent of those polled in Germany are making actual plans. The findings of a global survey by IPK International from January of this year are also a reason to be optimistic about travel in 2021. 62 per cent of travellers worldwide intend to travel abroad this year. For the majority of those currently not aiming to travel abroad, the risk of Covid infection outweighs financial reasons. A combination of vaccines now being available and a high willingness among outbound travellers (90 per cent) to be vaccinated has nullified the main reason for not wanting to travel, meaning that nothing stands in the way of a rapid and widespread recovery of the industry. “How the tourism industry could successfully recover from the crisis was the main topic these past few days. After all the bad news of recent months we are delighted to note that people want to travel again“, Martin Ecknig added.
Trade show experience continues until May
All members of the industry who were unable to take part in ITB Berlin NOW from 8 to 12 March can still access online content by purchasing an After-Event ticket. This provides meeting schedules, access to all videos on demand, as well as press releases and exhibitor presentations plus the Show Floor, Brand Cards and the press section. The ticket is valid from 15 March to 31 May.
This year the entirely virtual event targeted trade visitors only, while consumers were able to get inspiration for their upcoming vacations from livestreamed evening events at the Berlin Travel Festival, a partner event. The programme for the public was very well received. Parallel with the running time of ITB Berlin NOW, four different episodes were broadcast at 7 p.m. on each day. The last one is due today, Friday at 7 p.m. The most popular to date has been about Maggie Haselwanter, who attempted the journey to New Zealand on her moped Sunny at 30 kph, but who stranded in Turkey because of the pandemic. Also high in the ratings were the panel moderated by Charlott Tornow (Travel Joys), Carlo Speth (Holday Pirates, Luise Morgeneyer (blogger), Timo Kohlenberg (CEO America Unlimited) and Bruno Marti (25hours Hotel) asking the question “Take a trip. But How?” Brandenburg, a session partner, also offered valuable tips every day on trips in the greater area of Berlin.
Visions and new ideas for the industry at the ITB Berlin NOW Convention
The parallel ITB Berlin Convention, which featured high-profile participants and was videostreamed live on several channels from two broadcasting studios on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds, provided comprehensive orientation for the industry. Under the heading ’Rethink, Regenerate, Restart – Tourism for a Better Normal’, numerous leading representatives of airlines, the hotel and cruise industries offered insights into best practices, forecasts and visions for the future in lectures, interviews and at discussions rounds. The global travel industry’s leading think tank also examined important topics such as sustainable tourism, the changing face of luxury travel, sales strategies and scenarios for a recovery, especially where tourism destinations were concerned. Not least, the convention addressed the most important trends and developments in the fast-growing Technology, Tours & Activities (TTA) market.
Virtual Show Floor is the platform’s hub
The focus of ITB Berlin NOW was the Show Floor featuring exhibitors who along with their co-exhibitors were able to present their products and services on so-called Brand Cards. At a total of 13 themed ITB cafes, participants were also able to exchange their views on various industry trends in technology, CSR and LGBT+. With the innovative Discovery Graph and Leadfinder tools, participants were able to make widespread use of smart matchmaking technology. Turn up the speakers and dance – that was the message on Thursday evening, when thousands of ITB users followed the exclusive appearance of the internationally celebrated DJ Paul van Dyk via a livestream on the ITB Berlin NOW platform.
First ITB Berlin Travel & Tourism Declaration
In the run-up to the show, the convention organisers had asked CEOs to address policymakers with calls for action against the backdrop of the challenges facing the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. ITB Berlin will summarise them shortly in the ITB Berlin Travel & Tourism Declaration and publicise them.
The trade show also gave a positive assessment of two exclusive partnerships which each celebrated a debut in their respective roles. Thus, the federal State of Saxony was represented as the first official cultural destination at ITB Berlin NOW 2021 and was able to promote itself at the show as an outstanding destination for cultural and city tourism, as well as offering a unique nature experience and adventure holidays. Next year, Saxony will be the official host country of the World’s Largest Travel Trade Show. With Georgia, the show also welcomed its first Digital Adventure and Sustainability Partner. It heralds the beginning of a multi-year partnership. Georgia will be the official cultural destination in 2022 and the official host country in 2023.
Veronika Hiebl, managing director of Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen mbH: “Saxony made every effort at the first virtual edition of ITB Berlin to win the hearts and minds of trade visitors as the official cultural destination of the show. Despite minor difficulties at first, we experienced four fascinating and eventful days. With our show combining emotive films, inspiring presentations of topics and products as well as interviews with experts in over 80 sessions, some in several languages, we were able to reach a large audience. The two livestreams devoted to Saxony at the show contributed decisively to this success. In spite of the wide range of virtual events that ITB Berlin NOW offered, we long for a “real“ ITB again in 2022 when, in front of a global audience, Saxony will be the official host country.”
Marek Andryszak, CEO TUI Deutschland: “ITB Berlin has always been a focal point for the travel industry. Berlin is where we have been able to meet numerous business partners and experience the best travel destinations. Even if in 2021 we see that it can be done virtually, the format cannot replace face-to-face meetings. This year, the format offered an adequate solution and I am optimistic that we will come together again next year in Berlin.”
Sir Tim Clark, president, Emirates: “ITB Berlin remains the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show and there is no other platform for the travel eco-system of a similar size and global dimension. Especially in these testing times for our industry, ITB Berlin NOW offers a unique opportunity for exchange and inspiration.”
Tobias Woitendorf, managing director, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Tourismus: “The show is an enormous challenge that requires a high level of coordination between everyone involved. We did everything we could to generate a positive effect for the industry in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and naturally also for ITB. With this year’s virtual event, the show has clearly set the stage for the future. Let us hope that in addition to what are definitely sustainable virtual elements, face-to-face meetings will be possible again from 2022 in Berlin.”
Dr. Anna Bialk-Wolf, Institute of Research & Development of Medical Tourism: “Faced with such an exceptional situation it is important to experience a community feeling and continuity. ITB Berlin NOW was an important platform for fulfilling those needs.”
Sandiaga S. Uno, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia: “In this pandemic we have to be able to adapt to the situation. As a result, we were unable to exhibit at a live event. The virtual format was a good solution in the current situation. It enabled our industry to promote our tourism potential and destinations. This coincides with our strategy to adopt technology in the tourism and creative sectors. We encouraged our actors early on to make use of digital technology to promote their products.”
Peter Strub, COO Studiosus Reisen: “ITB Berlin NOW 2021 was an excellent opportunity to meet all partners from around the world on a virtual platform. It was even more important than in previous years, as there was so much more to talk about than simply tourism products. In addition to hotels, activities, sightseeing and new attractions in various countries, the focus was on getting a feeling for when a country will open and under what conditions travelling may be possible.”
Michael Frauen – CEO, The Pearls of Africa (Buyers Circle): “I can only congratulate the organisers on their ITB Berlin NOW platform. From what I have seen, they have invested huge time and effort. With this platform and the existing cost structure, a large number of smaller companies also had the chance to take part in this world-class trade show.”
Frank Straka, Director Idea Spa Travel (Buyers Circle): “There is still a lot of uncertainty and I have no idea how things will ultimately turn out. Whatever the case, the team at ITB Berlin NOW did a fantastic job – just like in the previous 25 years I attended ITB Berlin.”