The last time I attended the ITB Berlin happened in 2019. It’s been a few years, the world of travel has changed. Restrictions, lock downs and a war gave travelers reasons to ponder.
March 2023, ITB Berlin welcomed back the tourism industry albeit on smaller scale. This time around, only professionals attended the three day trade fair from March 7th to 9th. After much discussion, public days were cancelled. However, that did not dull the pumped up feeling of being back for the big travel event.
Host country Georgia took front and center stage. The mountainous destination talked up offerings ranging from winter sports to distinctive cuisine. My view of the ancient country is a one with Georgian designers Demma, head of Balenciaga and London based David Koma both occupy prominent roles in the fashion industry as innovators. Hopefully, I’ll pay a visit the Caucasus nation.
Saudi Arabia made its presence felt with the biggest stand in Hall 2. The Middle East Kingdom has set an ambitious target of spending over $800 billion over seven years positioning itself as a travel destination with underwater resorts and promoting historic destinations such as Medina. A spokesperson for the travel office told me “We need to spend to get noticed.” Spending that amount of money, it will be impossible not to notice.
There were elephants in the room, traveling these days means turbulence. Going to an airport, a traveler can be forgiven for having a sense of dread. Labor shortages along with industrial actions have hindered travel schedules. Airline customer service is lacking. Horror stories of long delays, cancelled flights and lost baggage are common. Putting anything underneath the plane is a game of roulette, Good Luck! Recently, I was told about a flyer from Berlin to Lima, their luggage went into the Suitcase Black Hole, to be never seen again.
Staying with the times, Sustainable Travel topped several conferences. I am still uncertain how to approach this subject. Mass travel or accessible movement for all will leave an environmental footprint. Let’s face it, when on a holiday, most travelers want to leave the problems of the world behind. But during the Maldives conference, the low laying country expressed concerns about rising ocean levels. Saying “Responsible Travel” is easy, putting the concept into practice, that is still an answered question.
All and all, ITB Berlin like travel is making a recovery. My fingers are crossed.