Taking a Peak Around the Corner

What’s coming up @ ITB Berlin 2018? Details from exhibition director David Ruetz

What are the main trends in the industry as we head into ITB Berlin 2018? We put the question to the “man in the know” – David Ruetz – head of ITB Berlin.

In terms of content, as always, the show remains strongly in touch with the latest trends. We provide a forum for pressing issues such as overtourism, transportation and digitalisation as well as topical themes such as luxury travel, technology and sustainability. Especially ITB Berlin Convention will reflect this year’s trend topics. Also, sustainability will be an essential topic, with panel guests discussing overtourism that more and more cities have faced recently and hall 4.1 focusing on the protection of the world’s coastlines.

What are the main themes of the ITB Berlin Convention?

In particular focus are revolutionary ways of travelling in the future, among them, driverless cabs and hyperloops which soon will completely change the face of transport. In addition, the ITB Berlin Convention will take a close look at digitalisation and artificial intelligence and their potential impact on travel in the future. Another topic which the convention will focus on is overtourism. In recent times, rapid growth in tourism has begun to stretch accommodation and hospitality limits, particularly in major cities. As a result, the industry needs to find solutions for the future and minimise the effects on the environment. Visitors to the show can attend ITB Berlin Convention free of charge.


Can you tell us about this year’s ITB Berlin official partner destination, as well as the convention partner?

Have you ever heard of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern? It is the land of 2,000 fairy-tale castles, a paradise for water and landlubbers and offers 1,900 fascinating kilometres of Baltic coast. For the very first time, ITB Berlin has been able to secure a German federal state as the Official Partner Region. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern places special emphasis on sustainable tourism, one of the reasons it was able to make the case for a wideranging partnership. ITB Berlin occupies a pioneering role in this sector and is strongly committed to promoting sustainability concepts. In collaboration with Mecklenburg- Vorpommern, and for the first time in the history of ITB, the opening ceremony on the eve of the show will leave a zero-carbon footprint, thereby setting an important example for the future. Further to this, ITB Berlin is involved in a comprehensive reforesting programme for Mecklenburg- Vorpommern.

Zambia is a jewel in the heart of Southern Africa and this year’s Convention & Culture Partner. Sustainability is also one of the guiding principles of Zambia, which will be the official Convention & Culture Partner of ITB Berlin 2018. Zambia is one of the world’s most popular destinations for luxury tourism and safaris and possesses a wealth of cultural and nature attractions. Wildlife protected areas occupy around 10 per cent of the country’s total area. The country is also well known for its lakes and waterfalls, which make up around 35 per cent of open waters in southern Africa. At ITB Berlin 2018, Zambia will be showcasing its many cultural and nature attractions in the foyer of Hall 21.

What trends are you noting, prior to the show, when it comes to attendance figures?

The countdown to the 52nd ITB Berlin from 7 to 11 March 2018 has begun. We will see a high attendance again with more than 10,000 exhibitors from a total of 180 countries and expect approximately 110,000 trade visitors from all over the world. It is in particular the countries from Asia, Latin America and the Arabic region that will show growth – among them Brazil, Vietnam, Laos, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. The Travel Technology segment is booming and the waiting list is long. Unfortunately, for capacity reasons we have been unable to meet every request for floor space.


(l.t.r.) Wolfgang Waldmüller, Chairman of the Tourism Association of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern David Ruetz, Head of ITB Berlin Dr. Martin Buck, Senior Vice President Travel & Logistics of Messe Berlin GmbH Harry Glawe, State Minister of Economics, Employment and Health

What are the key trends with exhibitors/halls?

The outstanding number of bookings this year once again underlines ITB Berlin’s role as a driving force and the event mirroring the global tourism industry.

Travel tech exhibitors including eNett, Traso, Triptease and Paymentwall, which have increased their display areas, returning exhibitors, among them Travelport, as well as the Hospitality Industry Club, a newcomer, will be highlighting the excellent prospects of this fast-growing segment. Chinese exhibitor numbers are growing especially fast. The online portal Ctrip will be exhibiting its products at ITB Berlin for the first time. Other newcomers from China will include Flightroutes, Ucloudlink, Letsfly, Qyer and Qup. Demand for places is also particularly high from Arab countries, Asia and South America. European destinations will be attracting more attention with larger stands at ITB Berlin.

Adventure tourism and sustainable travel are important for the younger generation. This trend is reflected by the fact that Hall 4.1 is now fully booked. Last but not least the demand for two-tier stands has never been so high.


What new “zones” or segments can we find at this year’s show?

Luxury travel is booming, while general attitudes towards this market are changing. These challenges, as well as the opportunities, concern the industry and will be key topics at ITB Berlin who will be collaborating with Loop, a unique trade show for luxury products. Loop will be the place to head for buyers of luxury products at the entrance to Hall 9. On the Thursday of the show the first ITB Luxury Late Night will represent an opportunity for visitors to cultivate contacts in this industry segment. This exclusive networking event will enable providers to discuss topics at length with leading buyers from the luxury travel market in a unique atmosphere.

The huge prospects that medical tourism has to offer the global tourism industry will be highlighted at ITB Berlin. Due to high demand this segment, which was introduced only last year at ITB Berlin, is moving to a larger hall (21b). A growing number of international exhibitors will be represented here. The Health Tourism Industry Conference, the number one event in Europe, is also the official partner of the Medical Tourism segment. Taking place on Gendarmenmarkt on Friday, 9 March, the ITB Medical Night sponsored by Tuscany will provide an exclusive networking opportunity.

Booming travel tech segment: eTravel Startup Day will be taking place for the first time, providing newly formed companies with a platform, as well as the Special Hospitality Tech Forum as a new feature at the eTravel Lab.

What are you most looking forward to?

The first highlight will be the opening show on Tuesday in the City Cube which will be hosted in collaboration with this year’s partner region, the German region Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Together with the official tourist board, we will organise a carbonneutral gala event for the first time in our history. Another important highlight will be the opening of the eTravel World where I will discuss the future of travel technology with the humanoid robot Pepper. Last but not least, we will see a number of high-class speakers and stage guests at ITB Berlin Convention, such as Airbnb’s co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk and the new CEO of Expedia, Mark Okerstrom.

ITB is the most important show of its kind in the world. What are the main reasons behind this success?

ITB Berlin remains strongly in touch with the latest trends. Whether at the ITB Berlin Convention or our leading trade fairs in Shanghai, Singapore and Berlin, globalisation and digitalisation dominate our daily work and that of our customers. It is therefore all the more important that we set up ’genuine’ encounters and bring people together. ITB Berlin is the yearly must-attend event for travel professionals.

Photo : David Ruetz Head of ITB Berlin