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A successful ITB Berlin 2012
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 03 - 2012

Increased numbers of trade visitors, exhibitors reporting more contracts signed, and an upsurge in attendance at the ITB Berlin Convention -- these were among the outstanding features of the 46th ITB Berlin. Almost 113,006 trade visitors (40 per cent of them from abroad) came to obtain information about all sectors of the international travel industry from the 10,644 exhibitors from 187 countries. 59,126 people from Berlin and Brandenburg came during the weekend to find out about holiday destinations and new travel offers.
Dr Christian Göke, chief operating officer of Messe Berlin, drew some very positive conclusions: "Over 2,200 more trade visitors than last year, an outstanding climate for business and the efficient creation of new business contacts at the newly established ITB Buyers Circle all underlined the position of ITB Berlin as a world leader. Considering the current political and economic challenges the topics chosen for the ITB Berlin Convention were certainly the right ones. Experts pointed out strategies for achieving sustainability and for the effective use of smartphone-based technologies. As a consequence ITB Berlin was able to demonstrate why it occupies the leading position as a platform for disseminating knowledge throughout the tourism industry."
The partner country Egypt was aware of the strong solidarity shown by the international travel industry. Egypt's Minister of Tourism Mounir Fahkry Abdel Nour commented: "ITB was fantastic! I enjoyed every minute of it and met some fascinating and outstanding people. In addition to the support that I received I am very happy that the problems in a political context have not affected the general mood in the slightest, in fact quite the contrary. All our German partners declared their solidarity with us, including the Federal Minister of Economics Philipp Rösler. In personal discussions with Klaus Brähmig, chairman of the Tourism Committee of the Bundestag, the representatives of the Egyptian parliament and I were able to resolve the confusion that arose as a result of his critical remarks regarding Egypt. It seems to me that ITB Berlin is growing larger all the time, and it is vibrant and more lively than ever. This could be my impression because we are the partner country this year. As a consequence of events taking place around the world the entire travel industry is in transition. This ITB is different from last year's. I am experiencing a willingness among countries to cooperate and I find this very encouraging."
The Egypt hall provided opportunities for visitors to use various social media platforms to find out about the political situation within the country. Facilities were available for linking up with Egyptian internet users, to make use of a real time live stream showing vacation centres and resorts in Egypt, or to exchange views and thoughts with Egyptians via Facebook and Twitter.
The ITB Berlin Convention confirmed its appeal and recorded a further increase in attendance. The total of over 17,000 visitors represented a more than 20 per cent increase over the previous year, due in no small part to an extremely topical programme and some prominent speakers. From 7 to 9 March 2012 over 200 distinguished experts and well-known entrepreneurs used the world's largest tourism convention to illuminate new trends and examples of best practice.
For the first time, on the evening preceding the start of ITB Berlin, a reception was held for bloggers from all over the world. Organised specifically to serve the interests of bloggers, this event attracted over 120 of them from more than 10 countries. The Travel Technology section at ITB Berlin 2012 was larger than ever before, with 236 exhibitors displaying technical innovations in four halls. In Hall 7.1c some well-known companies as well as new start-ups presented their latest apps and innovations for the fields of mobile travel services and social media. Although major advances have been made with applications over the past two years, development work is still in progress, and this is a fascinating topic, not only for travel experts but for the public too. A so-called App Marathon took place on the Saturday at ITB for the first time, providing visitors with an overview of the world of travel apps.
An important subject this year was that of sustainability in tourism. The scope covered at ITB Berlin ranged from accessible tourism to human rights, seals of quality, geoparks, the rain forests and the overexploitation of resources. Papers on these subjects were read each day on the stage in Hall 4.1, ECOtourism & Expeditions. At the ITB Berlin Convention various aspects of climate change and sustainable tourism were addressed during the three ITB Destination Days, on the MICE Day and also on the ITB Mobility Day. During the ITB CSR Day the latest trends, such as a seal of sustainability and accessible tourism, were dealt with in papers and panel discussions involving travel providers, universities and colleges, the hotel trade and non-profit organisations. The "1st Day of Barrier-Free Tourism", under the leadership of the coordinating organisation National Koordinierungsstelle Tourismus für Alle e V, NatKo, attracted some 300 trade visitors. They discussed the commercial potential of disabled travellers, who are currently responsible for generating sales worth five billion euros for the tourism industry.

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