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.