Gates Are Open, Arms Are Open

ITB Berlin 2017 maintains its strong appeal as the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show opens its doors for the 51st time!

This year’s edition of ITB is under way – signalled by the official opening press conference, where the show’s organisers, Messe Berlin, along with industry leaders and key representatives of the official partner country, Botswana addressed the world’s media.

The show opens at a time when the international tourism industry faces many challenges. Amid the latest geopolitical situation there are concerns by some in the business that holidaymakers have become unsure about how safe it is to travel. But at the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show, there is no sign that people’s lust for travel has waned. Once again, the 26 halls on the B e r l i n Exhibition Grounds are fully booked. Over the course of five days more than 10,000 companies from 184 countries will be represented on 1,092 stands covering 160,000 square metres and will be showcasing the global tourism industry’s latest products and trends.

Dr Christian Göke, Chief Executive Off cer of Messe Berlin GmbH told journalists at the opening media event, “As the world’s most important gathering place for the tourism industry ITB Berlin above all brings people together. A million faceto- face meetings at ITB Berlin will do one thing in particular, and that is build trust, trust on which we increasingly depend in our business dealings, in a digitalised and globalised world that has become more and more difficult to understand.” Over 80% of our exhibitors are from abroad. The organisers again expect more than 100,000 international trade visitors as well as tens of thousands of German public visitors on the weekend, who will be able to book their holidays directly at the show. “ The international tourism industry currently faces many challenges,” echoed Dr Göke. “For example, the current geopolitical situation raises questions about travel safety, while everincreasing digitalisation opens up undreamed-of possibilities.”

“We network the whole world of travel” is the ITB claim for 2017, and a new promotional film, “True Emotions”, was shown at the opening press event. “As the world’s most important tourism industry network, ITB Berlin does one thing: it connects people. Millions of personal meetings at ITB Berlin also create one other thing above all else – trust. We rely on this trust that more than ever when doing business in a world that is more difficult to understand through digi t i sat ion and globalisation. The protagonists in the film are, moreover, not actors, but exhibitors, trade visitors and employees of ITB Berlin or Messe Berlin,” Dr Göke told ITB Berlin News. The film ends with the slogan, “ITB Connects – In Real World”, which says it all. And the event is more international than ever! This year, 82% of exhibitors come from abroad, as opposed to 78% in 2016. Furthermore, Dr Göke announced that over 5,000 accredited journalists from 80 countries (including 800 TV and 300 radio journalists) and 400 top travel bloggers are due to attend the 2017 edition, and the travel trade are not hesitating to use ITB Berlin as a key source for inspiration: “We are expecting more than 100,000 international trade visitors and, on weekends, tens of thousands of private visitors who can also book their holiday on the spot.”

Dr Göke spoke about the development of the Buyers Circle, including Speed Dating. He said the concept has been accepted very well, but what’s new this year is the travel blogger speed dating, where more than 1800 meetings will be made in this way. With numerous changes to the Hall layout, Dr Göke explained that this was primarily due to pressure from Arab countries and the technology sector, with many now wanting bigger two-storey booths.

BOTSWANA OFFICIAL PARTNER COUNTRY

Dr Göke cited a recent survey that showed that 3% of German population said they would like to travel to Botswana: “That makes 600,000 extra tourists”, smiled the Messe Berlin CEO. Botswana, which has been a regular exhibitor at ITB Berlin since 1983, this year will be represented with 39 companies. They will have information on its wide range of products and services in Hall 20, and place a focus on ecologically sustainable tourism. Visitors can also admire traditional dances as well as handicrafts from Botswana in Hall 4.1.

Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama II, spoke at the opening press event, strongly underlining the nation’s dedication to wildlife protection, and explaining why this is so. The minister called on the rest of the world to stop the greed for ivory and hunting. “As I’ve said before, the poaching is done by Africans, but there is a reason why that happens”, said the Minister. “It’s because there is a value on the animal. Botswana’s position on the elephants is that we don’t put a value on the animal. Because if you have the ivory it means you’ve lost the animal. We see the value in the ivory and the animal as one, so it is in our interest to protect elephants so that our children and future generations may appreciate these wonderful species.”

“We are currently also relocating rhinos from other countries, and there is a pledge to bring 220 rhinos into Botswana,” explained the Minister, adding that while South Africa lost 1012 rhinos last year, Botswana lost one, and even that, he said, was too many.

“Communities need to appreciate that there is a livelihood through tourism”, underlined the Minister. “35,000 direct jobs come from tourism. Currently consistently growing – thanks to ecotourism. 228,000 people benefit from tourism in Botswana – around 10% of the population.”

Getting back to the topic of wildlife – and poaching, the Minister went on: “We haven’t had this success by being nice. And we are not particularly nice to people who don’t want to be nice to the species we are protecting. When poachers are armed, we deal with them in the same manner as they have come with the intention to use their weapons, and sometimes they lose their lives.

The message is that “If we don’t protect the species, who is going to protect them? Unfortunately, some of our neighbouring countries are not showing that willingness to go the extra mile. We are serious about conservation and we need the world’s assistance. But we can’t do it alone.”

“The opportunity of being at ITB Berlin is to say to you, ‘This is what we have done as a country, and this is what we are demonstrating as the way for sustainable tourism and development. This is the message we want to give in our attendance this year and in future years in our attendance at ITB Berlin’,” stated the Minister. “Being partner country of ITB is something you could never ever imagine what it means to Botswana. It’s so profound and important to us that our President is attending the events tonight and tomorrow. That demonstrates the commitment from the highest office in our country all the way through us, to say ‘This is our commitment to tourism. This is our commitment towards wildlife protection. And it is also our commitment towards eco-tourism, and that communities also benefit from everything we are doing to protect these particular species’.”