Personal Encounters, Authenticity & Honesty

David Ruetz – Head of ITB Berlin – sets the stage for this year’s “big event”

What is the general sentiment in the tourism industry as we arrive at ITB Berlin 2017? We put this leading question to the Head of ITB Berlin (Exhibition Director) David Ruetz…

The global travel industry is currently facing a number of challenges. More than ever, regional crises and terrorist attacks are influencing tourists, who have now become unsettled, in their choice of destination. This ITB Berlin is really decisive. The situation around the world, with its lack of order and certainties, is impacting massively on the travel industry. In tourism terms, and geopolitically, everyone is living in very uncertain times. The use of artificial  intelligence,


chatbots and virtual assistants has opened up hitherto unforeseen possibilities for travel organisations. For me, ITB Berlin is this sector’s biggest annual family reunion. We are all motivated by a desire for personal encounters, for authenticity and honesty. As an open marketplace,we bring supply and demand together. I am repeatedly impressed by the solidarity that is in evidence here. All countries and operators, including those stricken by crises, are welcome here, and all of them will be treated with respect. The character of the innovations has also changed, and nowadays they tend to be apparent more in the processes than in the products of the travel industry. ITB Berlin has expanded along with the destinations, and today experts congregate here from all over the world and from the entire added value chain of tourism. Our main task is to take some of the complexity out of the world’s largest travel trade fair, and to reveal the phenomena that can be seen in the tourism firmament. Travel Technology 4.0, security and the paradigm change in luxury travel are for me the brightest stars. This is where experts assemble in person, to an extent never seen at any other venue.

This year’s partner country is Botswana. That’s an interesting choice! 

In 2016 Botswana celebrated 50 years of independence. 50 years ago, the very first ITB Berlin was held, so last year was a special year for both of us. I am very delighted to announce Botswana as the first partner country ever from Southern Africa. Botswana is special for so many reasons: It is especially popular with travellers keen on safaris and animal spotting. In the Okavango Delta, with a bit of luck, safari tourists can spot the rare white rhinoceros. Besides the socalled ’big five’, numerous bird species, giraffes, hippos and zebras are among the animals thattourists can observe here from close range. Two contrasting natural features characterise this African nation: the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Basin with its many animal species, large forests, and innumerable streams that empty into small lakes. Botswana is also a destination where the naturally dark night-time skies are free of artificial lighting and pollution. In this African country, well-known for its diverse flora and fauna, astro-tourists have a clear view into space and can observe wildlife by night. Botswana truly is Africa’sbest-kept secret and simply  a paradise for animal lovers, astro tourists and nature lovers.The hospitality sector is again very important as a key ingredient in the show.

We’ve seen a very dynamic year in the sector, and a further emergence of luxury resorts as a “stalwart” of the industry… What will we see at ITBBerlin ?

In Hall 9 this year, visitors can find even more hotels, including the enlarged stands of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Hilton, Accor Hotels, Jin Jiang International, Expediaand E Tour. Deutsche Hotel & Resort Holding is a newcomer this year and can also be found in Hall 9. On Thursday, 9 March, at the ITB Berlin Convention at the ITB Hospitality Day topics will include how meta-searching influences booking behaviour, new hotel safety concepts and food and beverage challenges