After three years of meticulous planning and research, Messe Berlin today launched the inaugural ITB Asia at Suntec Singapore, “comfortably exceeding our initial 500-exhibitor target,” said Messe Berlin CEO Mr Raimund Hosch.The final count was 651 exhibiting companies and organisations from 58 countries and territories worldwide - a far cry from the 12 exhibitors who took part in the first ITB Berlin 42 years ago - with ITB Asia exhibitor space selling out in just nine months. The number of buyers was announced at 812 carefully selected hosted buyers. In addition, there are more than 1,000 trade visitors.
ITB Berlin, which is held annually in March, is the world’s leading international travel show, attracting some 11,000 exhibitors in 2008 from 186 countries and territories. Exhibitors at ITB Berlin this year utilised 160,000 square metres of floor space. ITB Berlin focuses primarily on the European and North American markets.
Messe Berlin’s intention, in launching ITB Asia, was to take its trade show expertise, contacts and technical skills and diversify its well-known brand into a completely new space.
Why Asia? “Because it has a track record of offering impressive economic growth rates,” said Mr Hosch, “and it also offers a massive population, youthful demographics and amazing cultural diversity.”
Will it work? “All we know at this stage is that buyers and exhibitors have turned out in mass to attend ITB Asia. We have had virtually no cancellations attributed to the new economic crisis.
“This tells us that in good times, or bad, the travel and tourism industry is committed and resilient. In fact, Messe Berlin believes that the global economic crisis has added impetus and importance to the first ITB Asia.
“We believe ITB Asia delegates correctly saw this week as their chance to come together from all corners of the industry to discuss proactive policies and plans for the recovery to come.”
Both Messe Berlin and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), its strategic partner in the new venture - “without whom we could never have hoped to achieve such fantastic support across the whole of Asia” - believe the staging of ITB Asia has proved timely.
As the first international travel trade show in Asia to be held after the tumultuous events of the past couple of months, ITB Asia is being seen as a barometer of business confidence in the future of travel and tourism demand.
The strategic partnership between Messe Berlin and STB covers a minimum of three years, but Messe Berlin fully expects it to continue in the long term, attracting strong growth in exhibitors and buyers/trade visitors year on year.
Whether or not ITB Asia will also be opened up to the public is yet to be decided. “This will depend on what our exhibitors want,” said Mr Hosch.