ITB: Everything you need to know from this year’s event

More than 120,000 visitors attended this year’s event. Credit: ITB Berlin

New Zealand tourism operators were among the tens of thousands of delegates attending the world’s largest travel expo, International Tourismus Borse (ITB), in Berlin.

A varied agenda included sessions on everything from health tourism to artificial intelligence presented to more than 120,000 trade visitors to the annual conference in the German capital.

Tourism consultancy, IPK International, set the scene on Wednesday reporting on a flourishing global tourism market.

It said that worldwide, the number of outbound trips has increased by 4%, reaching nearly 1.1bn international trips in 2016, according to the latest results of its World Travel Monitor.

This was all the more impressive given political unrest and terror attacks again dominated the headlines in a number of important destination countries, such as Turkey and France, which at times led to travellers staying away in droves.

The annual survey, which analyses outbound travel behavior in more than 60 countries worldwide and covers more than 90% of the global outbound demand, found that Asia remains the number one region for growth in international travel.

It recorded an overall increase of 9% compared to the previous year, followed by South America on 5%. Outbound trips from North America and Europe both grew by 3%.

In absolute terms however, Europe prevails as the number one source market with more than half of the outbound travel volume worldwide.

Yet when it comes to inbound tourism, Spain outperformed the US as the number one travel destination in 2016 while Germany is still in third place. Italy and France followed in fourth and fifth place respectively

Looking at market segment, IPK found that city trips are the fastest growing holiday market catching up on the number one holiday type, Sun & Beach, which has a market share of 28% of all outbound holidays.

For the fifth year in a row, city trips have grown and have reached a share of 26% of the market. It was followed by touring with a steady market share of 19%.

On Thursday, a topical report on safety and security provided both hope and caution for New Zealand as a destination.

The Travelzoo and ITB Berlin survey of more than 6,000 travelers revealed that 97% stated that safety was a consideration when making a travel decision.

This also applies when they have already booked a journey and have been disconcerted by the latest news.

The item that caused the most fear was terrorism, which plays to New Zealand’s strength as a “safe” destination in this respect.

However, they are also concerned about natural disasters – not great for our nation which has been rocked by earthquakes in recent years – disease and criminality at both a local and a national level.

Travelzoo Europe board member, Richard Singer, concluded: “The result is that people feel insecure”, and this feeling varies from one nation to another.

The countries most affected are France and Japan with 50% and 48% respectively stating safety was a consideration. The city regarded as the safest in the world is Sydney in Australia, in contrast to Istanbul, where those questioned felt that “absolute fear dominated”.

Among travel bookings that have already been made Singer referred to “buyer’s regret” and quoted the volumes for the different markets: USA (24%), United Kingdom (17%) and Germany (13%).

He issued the following appeal to tour operators: “Information must be made available not only in advance but also to those who have already made bookings.”

Singer regards price reductions as falling short of what is required. He also offered a solution, regarding the situation as an opportunity. Tour operators should be proactive and consistent in providing clear travel advice from official sources.

He gave an example of best practice from the TUI travel group, which “demonstrates this in every stage of planning and making reservations”.

Singer envisages that the large tour operators, TUI and Thomas Cook, should become the benchmark for all the others: “They could develop certification systems for safety standards, and also the various precautionary measures to be undertaken at the holiday destination.”

Sustainable tourism was high on the agenda in this, the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Slovenia was presented as a case study of the world’s first green destination and how it could continue to develop in the future. A campaign to transform the country into a green destination will see 60% of the countryside protected and the basic right to clean drinking water stipulated in the country’s constitution.

Last year Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, was selected as European Green Capital by the EU Commission. Factors contributing to this success include the city’s zero refuse strategy, its commitment to clean air and its ban on traffic in the city centre.

Separately, pollution levels affecting the night sky was noted as a concern for astro-tourism but as two-thirds of all Europeans have never seen our own galaxy, the Milky Way, the industry was urged to include the night sky in tourism products.

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