Mr. Renard

Group Meetings

Why Is the World's Largest Travel Trade Show in Berlin?

ITB Berlin “The History”

By Stephen J. Renard, President, Renard International Hospitality Search Consultants

When the second World War ended West Berlin was an island surrounded by East Germany. In order to help stabilize and make West Berlin self-sufficient (as they were afraid it would be taken over by the Russians) the Berlin Government supported by West European countries `decided in 1965 to start discussions about an overseas import trade show. The ITB means "International Tourist Exchange".

In the early days of the ITB West Berlin had all the intrigue a modern day Casablanca. It was at the end of the cold war and there was a wall dividing East and West Berlin. During the early days of the ITB we would hear about those who tried to escape from East Berlin to the West and were shot outside the wall. As well, West German taxi drivers who had roots in East Berlin, were afraid to take passengers to East Berlin Hotels as they weren't certain they would be allowed to return to West Berlin.

The story of the ITB is a unique success story. However oddly enough, , back in 1965, a year before the first event took place the West Berlin Government were far from enthusiastic about the idea of establishing a trade show of this kind in West Berlin. The West Berlin archives contain correspondence in which the idea of staging a "tourism exchange" is described as "utterly futile" and advised against in no uncertain terms. The "Berliner Morgenpost" newspaper, meanwhile, described the idea of a "travel exhibition" as "ingenious", particularly in the light of West Berliners' restricted travel options and it gave far better chances to a West Germany-only trade show than an international exhibition.

The ITB trade started with nine exhibitors and the first President Manfred Busche launched the event in 1966. It was part of an overseas imports trade show: Nine exhibitors from five countries - Brazil, Egypt, the Federal Republic of Germany, Guinea and Iraq - presented their products and services to 250 trade visitors in a display area of 580m. The subject of a discussion with 24 Central and West African States at a seminar in the Tiergarten convention center was "New Holiday Destinations in New Continents".

In the late 1960's the sharp increase in options available to holiday-makers and mushrooming travel companies and organizations conspired to make the second event in 1968 a tremendous success. The "2nd International Tourism Exchange" was held at the same time as the Berlin International Boating and Leisure Exhibition. The show, now spanned 4,700m to accommodate 1,250 trade visitors and 123,500 Berliners came to learn about foreign holiday destinations. It was the time of the "Cold War", and yet two Eastern bloc countries, Romania and Hungary, were also represented. The ITB Berlin was to remain a peaceful platform transcending political boundaries over the years. Exhibitors from the GDR and the Soviet Union, Egypt and Israel showcased their respective countries in a spirit of peaceful coexistence and still do - even in the direct aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

At the first trade show which opened in 1966 there were 250 trade visitors and in 2014 that has now increased to almost 150,000 and the Exhibition space which was in 1996 just about 600 meters is now almost 200,000 meters. In 1996 five countries and one hotel chain participated; in 2014 - 180 countries participated and hundreds of hotel groups.

ITB Berlin, the International Tourism Exchange, is known throughout the world as both the top trade show for the global tourism industry and the largest travel show for private visitors. The ITB Berlin generates a turnover of around €5 billion in just five days. The trade show attracts well over two hundred thousand visitors to the German capital and has deservedly earned a reputation as an international meeting place. Three quarters of the almost 11,000 exhibitors travel to Germany from all corners of the earth and many lose their luggage often (yours truly included). Almost one third of the trade visitors also come from abroad. They, like my firm come to find out about the latest market developments and close business deals at ITB Berlin.

I have attended the ITB for 40 consecutive years. On my first trip to the ITB there were only 6 halls and now in 2015 there will be 28 halls. (ITB provides buses to take you from hall to hall). I was with the Canadian Delegation where our booth was in a hall way between two buildings. This space was shared by Canada, USA and Holidays Inns. At that time the airlines who could fly into West Berlin were limited to the airlines from countries that liberated West Berlin. East German traffic controllers were responsible for letting these flights pass through the East German air space into West Berlin, which meant that the traffic controllers at their own leisure could keep planes on the ground for hours without giving permission to fly to West Berlin.

In West Berlin, if you walked around the city you would see a building and then a space between and another building. This was as a result of the fact that the building that was not there had been bombed and destroyed during the war and I saw buildings with bullet holes marking them! At night if you went to the top floor of your hotel you could see where East Germany started as it was all black while West Berlin was all lit up.

Steadily rising exhibitor and visitor figures have charted the rise to success of this unique market event from its earliest days. Since March 1966, representatives from an ever increasing number of countries and regions have been meeting in an ever-increasing number of exhibition halls under the Berlin radio tower. An authentic holiday ambiance is evoked by the authentic design of exhibition stands typifying the countries represented. Trade partners from every Continent close business transactions (100 countries at last count) for the coming tourism year. Trade visitors from all tourism-related source and destination regions discuss business strategies and learn about the latest industry trends at the integrated ITB Convention.

With the lack of hotel rooms and the growth of the ITB many exhibitors and business travelers had to go to East Berlin to find accommodation. This was challenging as they had to enter through East German police check points and "check point Charley"(quite scary and very intimidating). Returning to West Berlin from East Berlin was also quite nerve racking as cars were inspected very closely as were their passengers; to ensure that all were really who they said they were on their passports.

The hotels on the East Berlin side were not luxury 5* hotels, built generally by the Russians and most were many years old and poorly managed; but people needing rooms crossed over to East Berlin to stay there.

The ITB Berlin is both a catalyst for success and a barometer of trends for the entire industry. It is marked in the events' calendars of the major international tourism associations PATA, WTO, WTTC, COTAL and ASTA. The world's largest travel show anticipates new market trends and is constantly implementing new concepts. The arrangement of halls according to country and the introduction of trade show segments have improved presentation, making it easier for visitors to find their way around the exhibition. Social trends and economic developments are reflected at the show. In the 1980s, critical voices were raised concerning problematic aspects of tourism, paving the way for new, alternative travel options. Trends such as "soft" tourism and health tourism in the 1990s and the subsequent "wellness" wave were all addressed at ITB Berlin, developed further, and placed on the market.

Business travel was already a key topic at ITB Berlin as early as 1985. Since 2006, the trade show has covered all aspects of this segment, including a wide range of professional development options. New products and services for every kind of customer, from young people, senior citizens and the disabled through to families and hikers, cater to an increasingly diversified demand. The ITB Berlin has consistently presented new technologies. Since 2000, a separate exhibition area has been devoted to "Travel Technology". For some years now, digitalization has been changing the face of the travel industry more than almost any other business segments. Since Renard International are an International Hospitality Recruitment Firm we are in Hall 8.1 which includes both consultants and also smaller hotel groups whom are not large enough to exhibit in Hall 9 which is reserved for major international players.

Some countries in the world (almost every country in the world is represented at the ITB now) spend their entire 100% tourist budget for one trade show; especially those whom do not have access to the internet due to political reasons. Saying that, any hotelier who works in our industry and who haven't been to the ITB is missing a great opportunity to see who their competitors be educated, and of course, be entertained.

ITB Berlin - Whatever Your Requirements Are - You Will Find the Perfect Business Partner

In conclusion; in the early 1970's when Russia and the USA faced off and intrigue was rampant. Spies in Berlin wore badges not to be confused with hoteliers! I dropped my passport in the lobby of the Inter-Continental. Hotel which was the host hotel for investment people. A Canadian passport in those days was Golden and could have easily brought $5,000 USA dollars ($25,000 in today's money) to anyone needing a clean exit from East Berlin. Strangely someone found it and gave it to the hotel General Manager. I still remember the surprise look on his face when he returned it to me.

ITB Berlin - A Short Chronicle

A successful future for ITB - Together with the ITB Asia, which has been highly established since 2008 in the Asian market, this success story will go on. Not only the strategic know-how, but also the experience and contacts from more than 40 years of ITB Berlin have been the best pre-condition to establish ITB Asia in Singapore within only a few years as the leading travel trade show in Asia. By pure visitors presence ITB Asia focuses exclusively on B2B relationships. Leading and also emerging tourism companies from the Asian-pacific region meet international buyers from MICE-, leisure- and business travel markets. In 2013 around 9.100 visitors from over 110 countries attended the ITB Asia and 825 exhibitors from 73 countries displayed.

ITB Berlin 2014 was successful as well; in 2014, 174.000 visitors attended the trade show, from which 114.000 were trade visitors, counting 39% from foreign countries. Moreover, 10.147 companies exhibited from 189 countries.

The future of the traditional brand ITB continues unbridled and we are looking forward to an exciting future with you.

Stephen J. Renard was born in Toronto and attended the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto graduating in 1970 with a Business Degree. In December 2014, Mr. Renard completed his most challenging placements in Mongolia and Nepal and is proud to say that, “we have now placed at least one individual in every country in the world”! This is unique since many of the countries that he has done business with, did not exist in 1970. Each year Mr. Renard travels to over 30 countries meeting with clients and candidate’s. He stays well-informed on current trends and practices. A hospitality specialist, Renard is recognized as the benchmark of recruitment companies. Mr. Renard can be contacted at 416-364-8325, ext. 228 or steve@renardinternational.com Extended Bio...

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