Every year the travel and tourism industry worldwide looks forward to this not-to-be-missed event on the trade calendar. This year too ITB Berlin saw a conglomeration of diplomats, business delegates and trade visitors take stock of a world slowly limping back to post-recession normalcy. By Steena Joy
The 46th ITB Berlin held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berlin attracted some 113,006 trade visitors (39.7 per cent international) and 10,644 exhibitors from 187 countries. Dr Christian Göke, chief operating officer, Messe Berlin, drew some positive conclusions about this year’s edition. He said, “Over 2,200 more trade visitors than last year, an outstanding climate for business and the efficient creation of new business contacts at the newly established ITB Buyers Circle all underlined the position of ITB Berlin as a world leader.”
The partner country Egypt garnered strong solidarity among the international travel industry. Mounir Fahkry Abdel Nour, Egypt’s tourism minister said, “In addition to the support that I received I am very happy that the problems in a political context have not affected the general mood in the slightest, in fact quite the contrary. As a consequence of events taking place around the world the entire travel industry is in transition. I am experiencing a willingness among countries to cooperate and I find this very encouraging.”
The ITB Berlin Convention confirmed its appeal and recorded a further increase in attendance. From March 7 -9, 2012, over 200 distinguished experts and well-known entrepreneurs used the world’s largest tourism convention to illuminate new trends and examples of best practices. The Travel Technology section at ITB Berlin 2012 was larger than ever before, with 236 exhibitors displaying technical innovations in four halls. A so-called App Marathon took place at ITB for the first time, providing visitors with an overview of the world of travel apps.
An important subject this year was that of sustainability in tourism. The scope covered at ITB Berlin ranged from accessible tourism to human rights, seals of quality, geoparks, the rain forests and the over-exploitation of resources. A total of 6,975 accredited journalists from 94 countries reported from ITB Berlin. Once again this trade show provided a meeting place for international politicians and diplomats. In addition to the 64 foreign delegations the fair was also attended by Princess Ubolratana Mahidol of Thailand.
India at ITB
The India pavilion at ITB attracted a lot of attention with its vibrant colours and traditional look. Though India Tourism acted as an umbrella pavilion to house a number of tour operators from different regions of the country, some states had their own independent pavilions.
Using Hampi as an attractive backdrop for its stall, Karnataka Tourism had a delegation led by principal secretary-tourism, G Latha Krishna Rau, IAS along with K. Viswanatha Reddy, IAS, director-tourism and Anur Reddy, IFS, managing director, Jungle Lodges & Resorts. Two Yakshagana artists who were flown in to lend a cultural touch, drew in the crowds. This year the state tourism department allowed private players from Karnataka to promote their properties at a nominal fee. Five private players took part. Incidentally as part of its CSR Initiative, ITB Berlin supports a project in Karnataka: small biogas plants run on local cow dung are replacing firewood and paraffin. This significantly helps improve women’s and children’s health and reduces the currently high volume of logging. ITB also lets exhibitors and visitors support this project.
Like every year, Kerala Tourism also had its own stall at ITB Berlin. With the background theme of the backwaters and Chinese fishing nets of Kochi, the stall spread over 127.5 sq.m had as many as 23 tour operators participating as co-exhibitors.
While Malaysia won the Gold Prize, Kerala Tourism’s ‘Your Moment is Waiting’ ad campaign won the Silver Prize in the Print Campaign Category at the Das Golden Stadttor (Golden Gate) Awards which is held at ITB Berlin every year. The Awards honour the best creative of the global tourism industry every year. Tourism director Rani George who led the Kerala delegation to the trade show received the award on behalf of Kerala Tourism. The print campaign was conceptualised and created by Stark Communications, the creative partner of Kerala Tourism.
Apart from state tourism boards, many Indian tour operators and hotel companies are regular exhibitors at ITB Berlin. Orange County Luxury Resorts, which has been participating at ITB Berlin since the last 11 years, was happy with the response. Thomas Ramapuram, joint director of the company, said, “This year, the first day at ITB was better than the response we received last year.”
Neeta Gupta, global head – sales and marketing, Boutique Hotels India, which owns Devi Resorts and Rasa Resorts, agreed, “The response is okay, better than last year. There was a lot of buzz in the India pavilion which was nearly empty in ITB Berlin 2011. Apart from ITB trade event, we also attend ILTM, WTM and Virtuoso. Sixty per cent of our business is inbound and our major markets are UK, USA France Germany, Switzerland, Australia and we are seeing some movement from the Netherlands and Italy.”
It was Vivada Cruises’ sixth year at ITB Berlin. “The response was better than last year probably because Vivada is a more known product now. We are getting a lot of MICE business and corporates. I feel the leisure market is a little limited, only out of Delhi and Mumbai,” said R Sushila, executive director, Vivada Cruises. “We are expecting a lot of interest from Russia and Japan,” she added.
George Dominic, director, CGH Earth, said that ITB Berlin was more of a meeting ground for all their main partners in Europe. “ We receive a lot of interest for our wellness dedicated properties – Kolari Kovilakom (20 rooms) at Kollengode in the foothills of the Annamalai range, Kerala and Swaswara (30 rooms) at Gokarna in Karnataka,” he informed.
K S Chandrashekar, joint director, UT Administration of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, was also happy. “We have got a lot of enquiries from German tour operators. Our USP is that we have everything – nature, wildlife and adventure tourism in Silvassa while Daman & Diu has beaches. Once the Silvassa-Mumbai expressway is ready (expected 2015), we expect more tourist arrivals,” he said. According to reports, the Planning Commission has already approved in principle an international airport at Silvassa. This will further boost tourism figures.
Kesari Tours is a first time exhibitor at ITB Berlin, though the company has been a regular visitor at the trade show. “We are here to focus on inbound tourism. So far the response has been good. We have had some pre-fixed appointments with new partners. Our main markets are mainly Europe, Germany, France and UK. Though the visa-on-arrival (VOA) scheme has been beneficial, it is limited to a few countries; we should not be satisfied with that. We still need to streamline our visa process and make it more tourist-friendly,” said Sudhir Patil, director, Kesari Tours.
Gautam Kaul, COO, Yatra Exotic Routes, agreed. “Yes, our visa process needs to be simplified. The general perception is that India is too bureaucratic. We need to change that image. The tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay spoke very well at the India Tourism conference at ITB. His speech gave a lot of assurance to local as well as international tour operators and sent out a positive signal to all.” He added, “We are here to do serious business and it is encouraging to see that the ministry is being proactive. The minister is engaging everyone, from the local state tourism boards to tourism secretaries to take feedback from them.” This was the company’s fourth stint at ITB Berlin. “The response has been fine. We had fixed meetings with our partners all of whom kept their appointments and we also had some new enquiries. There is a growing demand for ‘off the beaten track’ experiences or special interest packages like tribal and bicycle tours,” added Kaul.
This was the second ITB Berlin for Citrus Hotels. However, the company was not too happy with the response. “We had a better outcome at World Travel Mart (WTM). The system of pre-fixed appointments here at ITB Berlin is too tedious,” informed Gaurav Pallial, vice president, Citrus Hotels.
Sudha Gupta, director, Vedic Tours & Travels was a first timer at ITB Berlin. “The response has been slow but since this is my first time at ITB, it is expected. Interest in the north east region, especially Arunachal and Nagaland, is picking up. Tribal tours is the new flavour. The problem is that if infrastructure is improved in these remote places, they will lose their ethnicity. It is their inaccessibility that protects them and helps them maintain their identity,“ she explained.
The next ITB Berlin will take place from March 6 -10, 2013. The official partner country will be Indonesia.
Glimpses of ITB Berlin