March 6th marked the start of this year’s ITB Berlin, the largest travel conference in the world, boasting over 28 halls and three floors filled with booths and exhibits. Over the course of five days, attendees take part in conferences and interact with leaders from all aspects of the travel industry.
This may be difficult to envision, but try to picture 10,086 exhibitors from 188 countries spread out across the event space. I know, I was there and even I have a hard time comprehending how they all fit in the building. It truly was a gathering of the industry’s best. These numbers are representative of the success that the industry has enjoyed in the past year.
According to this statement from WTTC, “The travel & tourism industry has outperformed the global economy in 2012 – growing faster than manufacturing, retail, financial services and communications. The industry has grown its total contribution to GDP by 3% and increased the number of jobs by five million to 260 million. It means that, for the first time, one in 11 of all jobs in the world are now supported by travel and tourism. More than 10% of all new jobs created in 2012 were from the industry.”
At ITB, the dynamism and power of the industry is clearly palpable. While the world economy continues an attempt to pull itself from the doldrums, travel professionals remain very positive about the future, looking ahead to new innovations.
I have attended this event each of the last several years and every time I end up walking approximately 20 km per day. The conference is simply immense. On occasion the sheer size can become overwhelming. There is no other travel-related conference in the world that brings together so many industry professionals from so many different locations. This conference is truly global.
If you want to enjoy a productive trip to ITB, the key is organization. Have meetings booked, know where and when the best presentations will take place, and have your walking shoes ready to go!
One of my favorite presentations each year is the one put on by PhoCusWright. Their knowledgeable team has a knack for selecting the most interesting topics and providing the most dynamic speakers. The attendance at these presentations is always at room capacity, which offers a great environment to learn and network.
ITB’s level of attendance typically reaches its peak during the first two days. This is when most of the shot-callers are on site for meetings, conferences and press events. My advice: be there during this period and be active! Find out where they will be and when and then set up in a position to cross paths with them. These are the people that you want to get to know.
This year, the conference showcased presentations from some of the major players in the industry, including: Google, AirBnB, Facebook, ClearTrip and Kayak. With such high-caliber companies joining the action, you can see why I am so excited to share this experience with you.
One trend that I noticed this year that wasn’t quite as prevalent last year is that now nearly all senior marketers in the travel industry view content as one of the most strategic assets needed to grow their business. Technology, while still highly relevant, has taken to the passenger seat as content marketing is now the driving force in the industry. With technological advances putting most companies on a level playing field, there is now a rush to push for the best content that can differentiate you from your competition.
When ITB Berlin finally wrapped up, one thing was clear: content is no longer looked at simply as information to fill a page. Companies are realizing the power of content as a strategic asset to recruit, engage and retain your customers. Throughout the event, I enjoyed numerous discussions across all aspects of the diverse travel industry and it’s clear that marketers are now looking for quality content to publish that represents the voice of the company, reaches a global audience with localized content, and can be shared across the world.
Eric Ingrand – Director of Business Development