David Ruetz, Head of ITB Berlin, in an exclusive interview with Travel And Tour World speaks about the adverse impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the global crisis it has triggerred in the travel and toursim sector and the launch of ITB Berlin Convention.
Travel And Tour World: How have tourism businesses in Berlin been affected due to the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020?
David Ruetz: The cancellation of ITB Berlin was a severe blow for the tourism industry in Berlin.It means substantial losses for hotel owners, restaurants, pubs and bars, cab companies and retailers too, not just for exhibitors and the trade fair company.It is impossible to put a figure on the economic fallout at this time.Many people will have to foot their own costs.There is one piece of good news, however: we will be reimbursing all the main exhibitors for their stand rental, exhibitor pass, media package and AUMA fees.That includes all-in-one stand construction and stand fee packages too.Advance purchases of trade visitor passes and tickets for the general public will also be refunded.
Travel And Tour World: What is the economic impact of the coronavirus on the country?
David Ruetz: The effects of the coronavirus are a severe economic blow for the tourism industry.Rising uncertainty among visitors will affect travel bookings throughout the entire year.The coronavirus threatens the entire service chain, from airlines, tour operators, hotels, caterers, leisure parks to museums and cultural institutions.A lot of companies are having to apply for state aid to survive the crisis.
Travel And Tour World: This year ITB India was to be launched in April but unfortunately has been postponed. How do you wish to launch it next year?
David Ruetz: Cancelling the first edition of ITB India was as hard for us as calling off ITB Berlin was, particularly as the exceptionally high bookings had promised an extremely successful launch.
Whatever happens, we will be just as committed to organising next year’s three-day B2B trade show with its focus on India’s outbound travel market from 7 to 9 April 2021.As at the other ITB trade shows, the exhibitors include a wide range of companies and visitors representing travel agents, operators, tourist boards, business and MICE travel, travel technology, the hospitality industry and the transport sector.
Travel And Tour World: The ITB Virtual Convention was launched this year to span a bridge between real-life meetings and digital networking.So how was the response?
David Ruetz: Following the cancellation of ITB Berlin, in order to provide the industry with a platform we made every effort to promote our Global Brand ITB.The digital platform at ITB.com allows us to channel the communications for all four trade shows and to establish a 365-day networking area for the world’s travel industry. The ITB Virtual Convention feedback till date has been very positive. The live streams from the ITB Convention have been followed by 1,000 viewers per session.Viewers were able to follow more than 35 sessions originally scheduled for the ITB Berlin Convention, both in real time and time-shifted on itb.com. The presentations are now available as videos on demand.
Travel And Tour World: What efforts can be taken to bring the industry back to normality?
David Ruetz: In the current situation it is impossible to say what measures the tourism industry will take after Covid-19 in order to return to normality. Major tour operators have currently cancelled all trips for the coming weeks. Numerous operators have also relaxed their cancellation and (re)booking policies to offer travellers additional security and leave open the option for postponing trips.
Travel And Tour World: What will the future of travel be, considering the current epidemiological threat?
David Ruetz: The coronavirus has triggered a global crisis in the tourism industry, which is unparalleled and for which no template exists.As such, any forecasts are difficult. What is certain is that after the crisis it will be vital to win back the trust of travellers.Wide-ranging, factually based information and transparency will be necessary in order to do that.One thing we can say for sure is that travel – getting to know other countries and exploring foreign cultures – will lose nothing of its fascination in the future.