Every year ITB provides more than 200 lectures, discussions, interviews, and panels focused on today’s burning issues. This year, these were the topics that attracted the most attention:
The Impact of the Refugee Crisis on Tourism
Jordan, Turkey, Greece and Italy are inevitably affected by refugee crisis. As pointed out at ITB, when compared to 2015., the bookings are stable. According to research, only 1% more Germans want to stay home because of the global instability. Furthermore, it was presented how the tourism industry can integrate refugees into a normal life in their guest countries.
Dr. h.c. Burkhard Scholz, managing director of Inselhotel Potsdam-Hermannswerder, pointed out that it’s difficult to find young people who are willing to work in the sector of hospitality and gastronomy. That’s why he helped a journalist from Afghanistan to become a chef in his hotel. Because of that positive experience, he continued to employ more refugees. Project “Multaka” was another example of good integration. Syrian and Iraqi refugees are educated to become museum guides so they can provide free guided museum tours in their native language.
Humanoid Robots in Tourism Industry
A novelty at ITB this year were humanoid robots. The speaker who attracted the most media attention was Toshiba’s humanoid robot Chihira Kanae. She speaks 15 languages, recognizes faces, shows emotion, changes expressions and gestures using her arms and hands.
Another humanoid robot presented at ITB was Mario. He speaks 19 different languages and is 57 cm tall. He “puts a smile on everybody’s face,” said Roger Langhout, director of the Ghent Marriott Hotel in Belgium, adding that “it’s a good way to get people to remember our hotel”. Here you can see Mario’s presentation and the background story about him. These humanoid robots are examples of artificial intelligence employed in the tourism sector. According to Travelzoo’s survey, ⅔ people are comfortable with seeing robots in the tourism industry.The Chinese are most enthusiastic. Most respondents said that they would approve robots if they did the job well, for example as, help desk staff in tourism information centers, hotel check-ins, airports…
Booming trends in Travel Technology
This year ITB was focused on “Travel 4.0 – The Digitalization of the Travel Industry”. Travel and Technology hall was booked months in advance. There was a long waiting list for it. Around 30% of exhibitors in this section were newcomers to the show. In 2017. ITB plans to expand this growing segment given the great interest it caused.
The virtual reality is a technology that “perhaps has the greatest potential” in destination promotion. ITB visitors were able to try out VR glasses and experience the atmosphere of some exotic destination.
Online Booking and Mobile Travel Services
By 2020. half of the travelers will book their travel online. We’re living in one kind of customer’s revolution where exploring destinations by ourselves and booking directly has never been more popular. Oliver Heckmann, Google expert, explained how searching for trip inspirations on Google and booking them will be interlinked, so users need to have the availability to book online.
“Travel Criteo” pointed out that mobile bookings are growing. Now they are comprising 23% of all online travel bookings in Germany. The new consumer is clearly on board when it comes to mobile, and they have high expectations. ETOA led a panel discussion on the evolution of direct bookings. It was highlighted that how hotels, attractions, and services need to adapt to this trend. Many user-friendly apps for hotels were presented because smartphones and tablets are being used to communicate with hotels and receptions. Everything and everyone is going online.
Digital Marketing & Social Media
Digital storytelling and campaigns on social media are the future of the destination promotion. Stories told by videos, photos, and blogs are great promotion tool when shared on social channels. Meike Leopold, from “start-talking.de”, talked about how companies can benefit from working with influencers (travel bloggers for example). You can watch some of the lectures on the official ITB Youtube channel.
Online Services for Chinese Market
China is still a major exporter of tourists. It’s no surprise that so many online service providers specialized for Chinese market appeared on the ITB. On Start Tourism UP! Competition (Berlin startup award for digital tourism solutions), a shopping guide for Chinese tourists Edaole won second place.
Gay and lesbian travel is one of the fastest-growing market segments in the international travel industry. Since 2010., more and more countries are presenting their destinations as LGBT friendly. India and Nepal were some of the newcomers this year.
Tourism also has negative effects on climate change. That’s why ITB highlighted tours and trends which were ecologically friendly. Adventure tourism and sports travel are focused on experiencing nature and contributing towards environmental protection. Fortunately, they are growing strongly.
The Future Belongs to Youth Travel
According to the WYSE Travel Confederation, 20% of all international travelers are young people. They travel further, stay longer and spend more than other tourists. This segment will grow. Young travelers are interested in backpacker tours, budget and design hotels, youth hostels and internet portals. They are constantly online and searching for information on social media. Watch this super interesting debate about Millennials and the future of digital tourism.