ITB: more vital to the industry than ever

Exclusive interview: Dr Martin Buck, Senior Vice President, Travel & Logistics, Messe Berlin

A few weeks now since the cancellation of ITB Berlin, people better understand the decision, given the global amplitude of the crisis. We asked Dr Martin Buck, Senior Vice President, Travel & Logistics, Messe Berlin what the feedback has been like been since the original difficult decision was made.

The cancellation was a severe blow for visitors and particularly for the exhibitors. Despite this, there was widespread sympathy from everyone concerned and we even received a lot of support. We realised immediately that the tourism industry needs ITB more than ever in these difficult times. In order to give the industry a platform independent of ITB Berlin we made every effort to promote our global brand with itb.com.

itb.com is where we can let the world’s travel industry come together – not just during the show, but 365 days a year

This brand new platform is where we can let the world’s travel industry come together – not just during the show, but 365 days a year.

How successful has the “virtual convention” been?
The ITB Virtual Convention was and is an all-round success. Viewers were able to follow more than 35 sessions originally scheduled for the ITB Berlin Convention both in real time and in replays on itb.com. They are now available as videos on demand. The response was overwhelming. Up to now around 1,000 viewers have watched the live streams per session and several hundred have requested videos.

What are some of the highlights of this year’s convention? What do you recommend for people to watch in replay mode?
The highlights of the ITB Virtual Convention were sessions on sustainability, climate change, digitalisation, overtourism and the future of the travel industry, with three attracting particularly keen interest. There was the keynote lecture on ’Overtourism’ by Eric La Bonnardiere, the co-founder of Evaneos, who explained how local tour operators can overcome the challenges caused by overtourism at destinations. The latest findings of an exclusive international travel survey by Travelzoo and ITB Berlin entitled “Global Luxury Customers and Sustainability”, presented by Sharry Sun, Global Head of Brand, Travelzoo, also attracted great interest. The survey examined the shift in customer expectations and demands in the luxury travel market and the relationship between rising demand and sustainable travel. Sessions on the coronavirus, which will continue to impact not just the tourism industry for a long time, also attracted a wide audience. In his lecture on “The Coronavirus Outbreak: Effects on Global Tourism and Successful Recovery and Resilience Measures” Eran Ketter (PhD), researcher, consultant and crisis management advisor, described the effects of the virus and what measures destinations can take.

Photo: Dr Martin Buck, Senior Vice President Travel & Logistics, Messe Berlin


DR BUCK’S PERSONAL MESSAGE TO THE “ITB COMMUNITY”

Despite its cancellation, ITB maintains a continuous presence in the digital sphere. As mentioned before, the launch of itb.com brings the world’s travel industry together 365 days a year. The AI-based Travel Network is a work in progress and aims to offer tourism industry users a platform where they can conduct business, network and find exclusive content whenever required. This is where exhibitors and customers can communicate and do business all year round. A start has been made, and the next steps will gradually follow.

However, a digital platform can only complement a trade show like ITB. It can never replace it. Trade shows are unique for their concentrated gatherings of international industry communities and take place on the spot. More than any other sector, the travel industry depends on face-to-face meetings. We therefore look forward to welcoming all our exhibitors, visitors and media to ITB Berlin again from 10 to 14 March 2021.