A question of convention

The world’s leading travel industry think tank gets even better

The ITB Berlin Convention is the Leading Travel Industry Think Tank – it has established itself as the industry’s main knowledge platform. Top-notch presentations on global trends and innovation make the convention a path-breaking event for the whole tourism industry. We asked Convention Director, Prof Dr Roland Conrady, how this year’s event is shaping up

LUXURY IS ONE OF THE PRIMARY THEMES IN 2019

We have 420 speakers in 200 sessions, and we will have approximately 25,000 visitors. Since 2004, when we had our first convention, we have had a steady increase over the years until 2018, when the numbers levelled out because we limited capacity. The difference this year is that we have a very long list of high-ranking speakers – very international – from different markets and segments in the industry. It is much more high-ranking than before. Friedrich Joussen, CEO TUI Group and Mark Okerstrom, CEO of Expedia are among some of the global market leaders taking part, not to mention Adam Goldstein, vice chairman, Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD and future chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Terry von Bibra, European head of Alibaba, will talk about how to successfully take on the Chinese market, and in which other markets in Asia and around the world Alibaba aims to expand. If we have a look at the
core topics at the convention, luxury is one of the primary themes in 2019. We again have a focus on climate change and its implication on travel behaviour, after the very hot summer of 2018. Another core topic is overtourism, where we will be going a little deeper, having a closer look at what measures against overtourism worked well. We did quite an interesting study on overtourism in a number of markets. As in years before, we undertook an empirical study in eight markets worldwide, in Europe, in America and in Asia, regarding consumer behaviour and attitudes towards overtourism, and we will examine these results more closely in two or three sessions. One of the very interesting topics is also that of mobility. We think there are some fundamental changes that have to be made because of the traffic problems we have in many cities. New mobility systems are emerging such as sharing, electric cars, autonomous vehicles and so on. We have two sessions, also with the Ministers’ roundtable, called Future Ground Mobility Panels.

There are some quite extraordinary people at the convention, as you said, more than previous years.

Yes, for example we have the first lady of Iceland in a very important session dealing with the changing attitude of people towards luxury destinations. We are seeing some fundamental changes in the luxury markets. We think that the new luxury destinations will be the colder destinations such as Iceland, Lapland, the Antarctic, the Arctic and so on. The attitude is changing somewhat, tending more towards immaterial things. People don’t want bling-bling anymore.

They want nature, and space, and “undertourism”. Therefore, Iceland is a very good example, and we are happy to have the First Lady here – the first time we have a First Lady at the convention.

This year’s Official Partner Country at ITB is Malaysia. What do they have in store?

They have two very interesting sessions. One is on sustainability, a very big issue for all destinations. The second session will be on Health and Medical Tourism. Again, this is a topic of growing interest, because of demographic change. What Malaysia is doing seems to be very impressive in this respect.

In future, the ITB Berlin Convention will take place at the CityCube. Why so?

This was done to give more room for events, improved access and better transport links. Visitors to the CityCube will be directly next door to the fair halls and only a short distance from light rail public transport (S-Bahn) at Messe Süd. The Palais am Funkturm, where the ITB Awards are presented, will also host ITB Convention sessions.