David Ruetz, director of ITB Berlin, in an exclusive interview granted to Travel Trade Caribbean, gave details about the event that will guide the future of the tourism industry with high-level debates in which resilience, digitalization and sustainability will be the main topics.
ITB BERLIN 2022 will take place as a virtual event again. What will its advantages be for trade visitors and the interested public?
Resilience, digitalization and socially responsible tourism will be the key topics of the digital ITB Berlin Convention 2022 from 8-10 March 2022, where international top-notch speakers and tourism experts will address the most relevant topics of the global travel industry.
The Digital Business Day on 17 March will offer inspiration and encourage a wide-ranging dialogue with a minimum of effort. The virtual format makes it possible to attend from anywhere in the world, regardless of travel restrictions or how the pandemic unfolds. It is a catalyst for business networks and focuses on business and networking. It also gives companies sponsorship options.
What aspects were taken into account in organising the event programme with these topics?
Resilience has become extremely relevant due to the pandemic. Covid has shown that only those organisations and companies can survive who prepare themselves for future crises and flexibly adapt their business models to a wide range of scenarios.
Because of the pandemic digitisation has massively gathered pace too. This especially applies to tourism. That is why we are giving eTravel ample room for a discussion on best practices and fascinating approaches.
Sustainability has also become a noticeably more important topic. More than ever, we realise that business cannot continue as before.
All topic headings will be presented by high-ranking experts in a wide range of formats such as keynote speeches, discussion rounds and pitches.
The Digital Business Day is one of this year’s new features, providing an additional opportunity to do business and forge partnerships. What expectations does this initiative create?
For users, the Digital Business Day is a highly efficient instrument for exchanging views on specialist topics on a tightly scheduled day. They can already create and update their own profiles in the run-up to the event. The user-friendly platform makes it easy to network and update personal profiles. All users can list their business interests in advance, based on which they will receive contact suggestions so they can then exchange views and do business at audio-video meetings. We are also planning speed networking events so as to bring similarly interested users together. We will augment these services with a wide range of selected content from the convention.
What role will the convention play in reviving the tourism industry?
A significant one. There is considerable concern within the industry, which is in urgent need of orientation. The convention offers a comprehensive range of topics unlike any other format worldwide. We are gathering speakers of the highest quality. Viewers can get orientation and inspiration for adapting their respective organisation to the current situation in the best possible way. After three days, the aim is to give them the tools for plotting their company’s future course.
Hybrid formats have proved their worth at many events. Will that be the case at ITB BERLIN too? What are the lessons learnt after two virtual editions of the show?
We also believe that hybrid forms of trade show and convention will dominate in the future. The world has adjusted to virtual formats in no time at all. At the same time, many people value face-to-face meetings even more than before – this is something virtual encounters cannot fully replace. Thus we are learning from our experience in order to combine the best of both worlds in the future. Tomorrow’s biggest challenge will be the fact that in-person and virtual editions are no longer genuinely separable, so that conditions will be practically the same for everyone. There is still much to be done, but we are on the right track.
The expectation is that the trade show will return as an in-person event in 2023. What innovations will accompany it?
That is something we will probably have a better answer to after the formats planned in March. In addition to the convention and the Digital Business Day there will be a B2B networking event in summer 2022 respectively. Together with selected destinations we will be hosting leading buyers and trade visitors in specific marketplaces – most probably in Europe. After that we will take stock and establish a basis for ITB Berlin 2023. As already mentioned, the in-person trade show will also comprise significant virtual formats. That especially concerns the convention as well as press conferences and exhibitors’ presentations, for example.
You have been head of ITB BERLIN for more than 20 years now. To what extent has this trade show become the leading event of its kind? Where do its biggest strengths and challenges lie today?
I think the industry’s mindset has changed dramatically. Only a few years ago sustainability was more or less a fringe topic – even overtourism only became talked about recently. The industry has become much more critical and aware of itself. It looks at ways to enable as many people as possible to benefit from travel, and how at the same time we can manage the planet and resources responsibly and our interaction with local residents. Beyond that, we are confronted with crises such as pandemics and terrorism. Previously, the main goal was to increase visitor numbers – at any cost. Nowadays, tourism industry players must take many aspects into account. That is a genuinely mammoth task for the industry. So for us as the industry’s leading trade show we are all the more anxious to be part of this fascinating process and change.