Despite the global economic crisis the 43rd ITB Berlin travel trade show (11-15 March) saw a positive mood among exhibitors. The fair attracted some 110,000 trade visitors -42 percent from abroad- an increase of four percent from 2008.
According to ITB, during the weekend, approximately 68,114 members of the public (67,569 in 2008) arrived to be informed on travel destinations, products and services from around the world.
Overall attendance in the display halls was 178,971 (177,891 in 2008).
ITB 2009 welcomed 11,098 companies from 187 countries (2008: 11,147 companies from 186 countries) that exhibited their products and services and discussed their future market strategies.
“On the first two days of the fair trade visitor attendance at ITB equalled 2008 levels—an outstanding result when compared with other events in these times,” said David Ruetz, senior manager of ITB Berlin, when he evaluated the initial results of the show.
On the Greek side, 71 booths of hotel chains, travel agencies, islands, prefectures and tourism organizations comprised the Greek National Tourism Organization’s stand.
During the inauguration of the GNTO’s stand, Tourism Minister Kostas Markopoulos noted that the Greek government would contribute to the promotion of the Greek tourist product through daily activities that would extend tourism until 31 December.
“In the most difficult crisis of the past, such as the oil crisis of the ’70s and after the [9/11] terrorist attack that created worldwide uncertainty, Greece not only coped but came out a winner in terms of tourism performance and efficiency,” the minister said.
In the framework of the minister’s visit to ITB Berlin, he gave a press conference to Greek and foreign media where he said that, according to recent data, high standard and specialized tourism has stood “intact.”
The minister referred to the German market in relation to Greece for the first two months of 2009 and informed journalists “after a very bad January, February arrivals were a pleasant surprise.”
However, Mr. Markopoulos underlined that uncertainty for the future still exists. He also said that due to the current situation consistent estimates for 2009 are not currently feasible.
“Whoever dares to make predictions risks a defeat,” he said stressing that forecasts are “prohibited” this year.
Nevertheless, the minister said that he was cautiously optimistic that the industry will eventually resist the crisis, provided that nothing disastrous would occur in the European or global economy.
“Plans made for Greek tourism will proceed as scheduled.”
Journalists underlined that the cost factor will play a key role in whether and how many tourists choose Greece as their holiday destination.
The minister replied that the issue of price has become a priority this year and that “those who will visit will find the cheapest Greece they have seen in recent years.”
Also, he informed the audience that this summer coastal shipping ticket prices would remain the same as in the winter. In addition, Mr. Markopoulos added that a critical issue for Greece’s tourism development this year is to maintain the number of flights that are destined to Greece.
The issue of safety in Greece was also mentioned when journalists commented on the riots of December 2008.
Mr. Markopoulos said that the specific period “wounded” Greece but it was something never before experienced by the country.
“The riots were not related to tourists and in Greece there is no safety issue,” said the minister.
As for the tourism industry on a global scale, according to IPK International’s CEO, Rolf Freitag, the economic downturn will create new winners and losers in the travel industry.
Mr. Freitag unveiled predictions for 2009 at the presentation of the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2009 at the ITB Convention.According to the report, Internet bookings will surge and demand for online virtual meetings will increase.
Also, domestic travel will stay stable or grow, as will demand for low-cost flights, while destinations adjacent to big travel markets will not do so badly.
Long haul travel will fall sharply but the most pain will be felt in the business travel and MICE sectors.
The forecast report was based on 500,000 travel interviews in 58 countries around the world.
In the predictions, IPK suggested that 2009 would see travel declines in most markets, with 2010 neutral and small growth likely in 2011 and 2012.
“We’re in a full global economic crisis, not a small recession,” Mr Freitag said. “Consumer greed of the last few years has turned into consumer fear,” he concluded.