My insights into the ITB travel show: day 3

Read about day one here.

Read about day two here.

On day three I mainly focused on meeting fellow attendees and networking, but I did attend a few talks:

The first was a fascinating talk on the future of luxury tourism. The panel included a cruise analyst who focused on high-end luxury cruises and shunned “mainstream” cruises and a businessman from South Africa who insisted you could create luxury from nothing by taking people out into nature, keeping things simple and getting back to basics. It was debated whether companies like Secret Escapes are even luxury if they have such low price tags. The panel generally seemed to agree that the word “luxury” is abused in the travel industry.

I then attended a talk on blogging and how DMOs work with bloggers. The general gist was that bloggers do get paid, but the expectation is then that the content is owned by the DMO and they can do with it as they please. The DMOs on the panel stressed that bloggers need a large organic following for this to work as the benefit of collaborating with bloggers over any other marketing expert is that a blogger will create exposure and distribute their content, which isn’t always a given with other marketing professionals.

My last talk of the day was on the sharing economy. Are companies such as Airbnb really dominating the industry? “No” was the response from Wouter Geerts at Euromonitor, who had analysed the market and was presenting his research. He suggested three ways to counter the sharing economy:

  • Hotels have done a great deal of lobbying against Airbnb and even seen success in New York and Barcelona.
  • Marriott have created a lower-end brand called Moxy. These hotels feature tiny bedrooms but their lobbies are designed in such a way that encourages socialising.
  • Hyatt has teamed up with Onefinestay (a company similar to Airbnb offering high-end accommodation) and Wyndham with Love Home Swap (a home-swapping service) in an effort to get in on the sharing-economy action.

He also presented other examples of the sharing economy in travel, such as the company that rents out your car while you go on holiday. You save on airport parking and make a commission on the rental. The company also cleans your car before returning it to you. Personally, I would be a little worried about renting my car out to any old Joe Bloggs, but each to their own!

My insights into the ITB travel show: day 2

Read about day one here.

My second day at the ITB started with a presentation on the all-singing, all-dancing (literally) Mario, a humanoid robot who works in the Marriott Hotel in Ghent. The charming automaton works on the welcome desk greeting guests in 19 languages and handing out key cards. He also gives PowerPoint presentations in meetings, talks at events and chats to guests at the buffet. Worried about him replacing human staff? Don’t be. His popularity has increased bookings in the hotel, apparently leading to more employees being hired!

There were a lot of interesting talks in the wellness auditorium today, including a talk by an exclusive, luxury resort by the sea in northern Germany. The speaker was convinced that it’s possible to create unique wellness experiences in Germany that are just as good as those in Mexico or Dubai, and from the video she showed us, it seems she’s right. She stressed that every hotel should do its best to incorporate nature into its business model and do something with it.

Next up was a talk on wellness trends with a PowerPoint full of facts and percentages. Here I learned that more than 70% of hoteliers are planning investments in 2016 and just under 60% of guests would prefer to book an adult-only hotel. The speaker, Wibke Metzger, also made it clear that people want to use their time effectively, which makes life go faster. As a result, people work too much and don’t take enough time out (something I definitely recognised in myself!).

In the afternoon I attended a talk on digital natives, which highlighted the work trends among millennials. Connectivity, sharing and flexibility seemed to be the overarching trends woven through this talk. According to the speaker, people want flexible workplaces, e.g. coworking spaces, and the ability to choose when to work and when to take time off. Workations (working + vacation) are apparently going to be a trend of the future, which I found pretty interesting as I’m planning to take my laptop to Malta and work from there in May.

After this, I attended a networking event organised by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. I got the chance to meet and chat to a range of very interesting people, something that I had thus far struggled to do (even at lunch, people preferred to sit on their phones and read magazines around me yesterday and today every empty seat I found was apparently taken by an invisible person). Unfortunately I didn’t win one of the many prizes the association had to give away. Maybe next time!

Tomorrow is my last day at the ITB. Stay tuned for the last update!

Read about day three here.

 

My insights into the ITB travel show: day 1

This is my first year of attending the ITB, the world’s largest tourism convention, in Berlin. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, despite having done plenty of research and reached out to many exhibitors prior to my arrival. Here are my insights into day one.

I arrived at 10am and decided to spend most of the day listening to presentations. The schedule for the day was fascinating and ranged from talks on how the refugee crisis affects tourism to what virtual reality has in store to the ins and outs of being a digital nomad. As talks took place simultaneously in various parts of the exhibition centre, it was sometimes quite difficult to choose which talk to attend, but I managed to pick a multitude of aspects relating to the tourism world.

I started off in the MICE Day talk on digital transformation. Before the speaker, Prof. Wolfgang Henseler, graced the stage, there was a short talk by Bernd Fritzges and a robot who entertained the audience with the Gangnam style dance – very entertaining. Prof. Henseler’s talk was less to do with travel and tourism and more to do with innovative technology in everyday life and how it changes the way we think. He focused in on Amazon’s latest innovations, including Echo, the Dash button and Dash Replenishment Services. The latter involves products, such as water filters, reordering themselves as required. I don’t know about you, but I find that idea a little creepy!

I then sat in one of the most interesting talks of the day: Old Europe, New Borders? Coming and Going, Travel & Staying at Home: Tourism & Refugees. The four speakers on this panel tackled issues relating to terrorism and refugees, i.e. the fact that people shouldn’t stop travelling to a destination where a terrorist attack has occurred. One speaker quite rightly pointed out that if we stop visiting countries affected by terrorism then their economy will suffer, so the locals are hit twice as hard. The notion of safety was also discussed: is anywhere in the world actually 100% safe?

The next talk I attended was by Microsoft on digital disruption. It made me wonder whether digital disruption is actually as negative as it sounds. The speaker gave me the impression that if companies keep up with the latest trends and be proactive, rather than reactive, then digital disruption becomes more of a way to promote innovation than a mechanism to destroy existing businesses.

After lunch (which consisted of a very expensive prawn cocktail), I sat in on a talk on pricing in the tourism industry. Did you know that a frequent flyer is more likely to be offered an expensive flight than somebody not on the airline’s loyalty programme? (At least according to the speaker, Dr Mark Friesen.) The gist of the talk boiled down to the fact that airlines and hotels know a lot more about us than you would think and there is a trend towards pricing flights/hotel stays individually based on a customer’s past behaviour and preferences rather than on current availability. So if you have a favourite airline and book directly with them every time, you may not actually be getting the best available price. Dr Friesen also discussed concerns, such as price fairness and the legal implications of this.

The last talk of the day for me, before I wondered around some of the stands (including the truck giving out free ice cream), was by two “digital nomads”, i.e. people who travel and work. One of them was Sarah Lorenz, whose blog I follow on my Translator Travels twitter account. It was a really interesting talk as I have been seriously considering incorporating travel into my business model and working abroad while travelling. It was great to get a realistic picture of what that would actually be like!

After this, I went for a stroll around the stands. I was a little bit reluctant to do this, as when I attended the WTM in November, it was quite clear that the exhibitors either a) had no idea about how translation is managed in their company and/or b) were there to attract business rather than acquire services, so trying to strike up conversation was painful at times. I did, however, manage to chat to a few people this time around without feeling like I was getting on their nerves or wasting their time. Hopefully that’s a sign of progress and the following days will be even better!

I am also going to be at the ITB tomorrow and Friday. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for live updates. If you’re going to the ITB and would like to set up a meeting, get in touch!

Read about day two here.

Read about day three here.