50 Years at ITB Berlin: Dirk Dathe Looks Back

Having worked building and managing hotels from Iran to Morocco and Gambia, Francebased Dirk Dathe has been a regular at ITB Berlin since the late 1960s. He’s seen the show develop massively from its humble origins, and continues – despite his semi-retirement – to make his annual pilgrimage to Berlin.

When Dirk Dathe first arrived in the divided city to attend ITB Berlin in his role with a German tourism consultancy, the show was a lot smaller than today. “I came in 1969 for the first time. There was seven halls, and ITB Berlin shared with the international boating exhibition,” he recalls.

Previously, Dathe had been opening hotels in Abadan in Iran, which has the biggest oil refinery in the world. “The oil companies took all the rooms on a regular basis.” he recalls, meaning trips to upcoming travel fairs were not really required. But when he moved back to Europe to work as a travel consultant, that began to change.

“Every year there was a little bit more at ITB Berlin, they added a hall here and there. But the big lift came when they built the International Congress Centre (in 1979), that gave it a big push.” “It really became big in the 1980s,” Dathe continues. “The facilities were better here than elsewhere. That gave them the edge on other trade fairs. And then the German market at the time in was very big already.”


Dathe recalls how ITB Berlin also began to receive a lot of publicity in the popular press at this time, especially on German TV,which had daily half hour ITB Berlin segments.

But what attracted global buyers and exhibitors especially to Berlin? “The buyers could go to other shows, but here you had the whole industry.”

Meanwhile, ITB Berlin “has outgrown anything else. It’s also getting more international because the smaller countries are coming. It has become a matter of prestige to be here”

Photo: Dirk Dathe Trade visitor