ITB 2015, one of the premier world trade travel fairs saw 115,000 trade visitors, congregate with over 10,000 exhibitors from 186 countries at the Messe in Berlin, Germany.
There were a few interesting items that really stood out this time, here are my top 7.
#1 Personal Exchanges
They are still critical in a very digital world. Personally ITB was about networking like crazy and developing useful conversations around globalization strategies and how to maintain the essence of content in over 150 languages — well that is my business.
Technology can't replace the personal visits, meetings, impromptu chats between sessions and the odd coffee. Technology can be an enabler to get the information and plan meet-ups more efficiently but the real heart of ITB was the various interfaces with other visitors and exhibitors which lead to a connection and perhaps future conversations. Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin put it quite well: "More than ever ITB Berlin fulfills the function of the world's leading think tank and a shop window for the travel industry. This is where the opportunities and risks are debated and the potential impact of the sharing economy on the international travel industry is analyzed."
Over the duration of the event ITB Berlin has provided further evidence of how important personal exchanges and meetings between people are for an industry that is increasingly dominated by the digital transition.
Photo: ITB is for all sizes 2015 ©David Ruane
#2 Uptick Swagger
Much as Fitur in Madrid in January and Travel Technology recently there is an uptick omnipresent in this trade with growth and opportunity still mixing it with disruption and evolution as noticeable trending topics in this fast changing industry.
This enables an environment of business openness and a swagger at the conference which is hard to describe. This also makes this type of a conference easier to be productive as a trade visitor.
Photo: The south entrance queue grows on day 2 of ITB 2015 © David Ruane
One of the effects of this was I had more business conversations than I can remember!
#3 Pursuit of Growth Opportunities
This year people wanted to do business, there is a demand to grow. Whether you are in Travel tech, hospitality, travel service or ancillary services and I got the impression both exhibitors and net-workers (such as myself) were not leaving any stones unturned in the pursuit of growth opportunities. The long walks through the abundant halls was worth the variety of contacts that you could make (partners, information providers, potential clients). Key to success at ITB is being courteous and quick about your business and taking lengthier conversations offline or back online. I met an executive from a west coast technology company who literally had 3 minutes between meetings, we used 2 and we both left happy. Having a useful and to the point elevator speech will show its value at ITB.
Photo: Network, Network Network © David Ruane
(Phocuswright & eTravel world)
Photo: eTravel world brimming over © David Ruane
So you have been walking for 3 hours and your 12.30 cancelled last minute, what better to do than sit down and be entertained by experts, and CXOs in the field of travel statistics, vision and business.
This is exactly what you got at the various conferences dotted around ITB. Whether your pins were screaming or you needed a boost of information these were very welcome and a great if not integral part of what ITB offers. My personal favorites were Phocuswright on day 1 and eTravel world. There are a glut of companies still spending lots to get users and visible brand profile, consolidation too has been a standard in this space for a number of years and there seems to be an ironing out of business models and a flattening to more business norms.
Steve Hafner CEO from Kayak put in succinctly when he said "They (Kayak) don't have a desire to lose money on publicity…we focus on efficiency in marketing spend, with a small increment every year". Is the travel industry growing up?
Photo: Phocuswright panel in full swing © David Ruane
Well let's see, disruption is a much used word in this sector, Phocuswright's theme was "Disruption's curve". The reality is disruption is usually just around the corner in travel technology and the large players will once again have to bob and weave their way back to hold/regain market share. Many people I spoke to mentioned Google under their breath as the big brother element in the wings slowly building the platform and waiting to strike. Google flights is already allowing click through on pricing which I expect can become a threat to flight meta-search and OTA operators. And given the Google maps platform locates every hotel out there, how long will it be before you can click through for the best pricing from OTAs using Google maps as a Launchpad? Will Google provide pure play full multi-modal (from your door to your destination and back and everything in between)?
#5 Big Brother
Is Big Brother in the shadows or is there another disruptive force been hatched in a garage right now ? My sense is this will be a mix of both but real innovation typically will come from left field. In a recent blog I mentioned the Bio-hacker Tim Cannon. I think this could be one of the next platforms where travel companies get even closer and more personalized with consumers via embedded devices, tactile platforms and big data, watch this space.
Photo: The innovative face recognition scanner by Fraunhofer IIS perhaps gave a glimpse of the future check-in counters and big brothers next move. © David Ruane
#6 Ample Rest Opportunities
Attending ITB is about pacing and if you walk the halls then a good rule of thumb is to take more short breaks than you think you will need. You never know you may rub shoulders with that contact you have been looking for. I recommend somewhere like the Columbia stand for coffee which rarely disappoints or look for the Lidl logo as they had some break stands almost akin to a watering post on marathon race day where cups of water and coffee were speedily dished out. ITB is a marathon, as you map your route, find your break points and pacing, if you do it right you will not lighten your pockets too much and will last until the evening refreshments come around.
Photo: Queueing for coffee at Columbia
#7 Enjoy the Berlin Effect
You can't have a trade show in Berlin without some local juxtaposition of logic that lets you know where you are. If it wasn't the orange Trabant outside the front door on day 2 then it was the polka playing musicians behind a copper car sculpture at the Sixt stand. You still knew where you were. Ensure you to allow some time to enjoy Berlin.
Photo: The ever young Trabbi strutting it's stuff © David Ruane
Photos: Polka in the air, copper car on the beach and lots of Orange — You are in Berlin — Sixt at ITB © David Ruane
Judging by ITB, the sector is continuing a strong recovery and growing, we and others will help the Travel ecosystem continue that at pace and look to the next level of disruption which of course is just around the corner.
See you at the next travel conference and ITB next year!
Photo: The Author enjoying a "moment" in the fully functional Emirates First class cabin –complete with star light effect and lumber massage © David Ruane
Dave Ruane (@DaveRuaneSpain) is the Director of Sales for VistaTEC in EMEA and when not delivering global language solutions to customers, he tours the many towns and cities of Spain and Andalucia, where he resides.