With an increase in buyers and exhibitors, the hall at Sands Expo and Convention Centre was bursting at the seams
After a hectic last day of ITB Asia, we caught up with Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore), and we started by asking her about her thoughts on this year’s show.
I think the show has been really good this year. We’ve got a lot of feedback from exhibitors, as well as from buyers and other attendees that the show has been really fruitful for them, especially on the meeting front – 25,000 business meetings were held at ITB Asia. I think that most people achieved the meetings that they wanted to have and met the people they wanted to meet, so I think, overall, everyone is happy. Usually by the end of the first day, we know how people actually feel about the show and the first day this year was tremendous, with 600 more visitors than in 2017. A lot of exhibitors told us that they had really good meetings and they couldn’t even stop for lunch, for example, because people were on the booths waiting for meetings. We are quite happy with this year’s ITB Asia, but the best testimonials we can get are re-bookings, which are already around the 50% mark.
What can you tell us about the wide geographic reach of ITB Asia?
The reach of ITB is very wide. This year we had 127 countries represented – versus 113 countries in 2017. That gives an overview of the reach. We had new representations this year from Poland and Slovakia. These are new and interesting destinations. With this increased interest from Eastern Europe, there is a reflection of trade visitors with increased interest coming from these destinations. We’ve see huge growth on the European side, but Asian countries have grown too, with Vietnam, for example. The most popular part of the show will always be Asia. You always see the chunk of exhibitors from Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. These will always be at the heart of the show. At this ITB Asia, the corporate side was packed throughout the show.
What areas of the show were most popular?
I was actually quite surprised about the Muslim Travel Pavilion, which has been really popular. We underestimated the size of it as an organiser. We thought that the allocated space would have been enough, but when I saw it on the first day of the show, there was such a lot of people in the pavilion.
Can you tell us more about the Muslim Travel Pavilion’s importance?
We have been partnered with CrescentRating and HalalTrip and we’ve realised that there is quite a lot of interest around Muslim and it’s predicted that this will be a growing market.
Data from ecommerce IQ suggested that by 2020, there will be 156 million Muslim travellers, growing nearly 30% since 2016. By 2026, ecommerce IQ estimated total purchase by Muslim travellers is expected to rise to US$ 300 billion, which is more than double in volume over a decade.
Muslim travel is, therefore, an important focus for ITB Asia year as key players in the travel and tourism space were demanding insights and best practice in marketing destinations, and how to better connect with Muslim travellers.
At ITB Asia, we have the scope to cover Muslim travel – both Indonesia and Malaysia were exhibitors. One of the key things that we interact with as Asian is that we meet Muslim travellers and they have their needs. It’s a very important discussion point because you can’t disregard it – it’s a huge market and they come in groups as well. There is a clear demand for and no other event in Asia has really pushed Muslim travel – we’ll definitely continue it for the next few years.
WE HAD TO EXPAND OUR SPACE THIS YEAR
The entire hall seemed very busy throughout the show, how much has ITB Asia grown since its launch?
We had to expand our space this year because if we had stayed at the same size as last year’s show, it simply would not have been a big enough space. We had a lot of new exhibitors and new destinations who are very interested in accessing the asian market. We are getting a lot of rebooking from our exhibitors and a number of enquiries for new companies that wish to join ITB Asia 2019.
Since ITB Asia’s launch the attendance has almost doubled since the show’s inception in 2008. And with the growing interest in the asian market, we are definitely looking forward to a bigger ITB Asia in 2019.
How important is it to be part of the global ITB brand?
The advantage of the ITB brand is that it is known globally and ITB Berlin is the market leader for the travel industry worldwide. This really helps in terms of branding and being able to work together across three well-known brands – ITB Asia, ITB Berlin and ITB China. Being part of the ITB brand helps a lot in terms of cross-selling, cross-marketing and having these connections all together.
Being part of one global brand is something that is really beneficial for all of us and I think on a customer level being able to see that ITB Asia, ITB Berlin and ITB China are really good events, helps the perception that if it’s an ITB event, it will be good.
In the future, if there is expansion, for example, we would want people knowing that with an ITB brand, you are assured of the quality and how good the event is.
WE HAD 260 SPEAKERS THIS YEAR, 100 MORE THAN IN 2017
How did the conferences perform this year and what changes will you make for 2019?
We had 260 speakers this year, which is 100 more than last year and we really changed the topics, which made the conferences a little more refreshing. We also had new topics that we hadn’t previously covered, such as sports tourism, as well as including topics that were a little bit quirky, and topics around digital and mobile.
We definitely plan to keep the same theatres that we had this year, but the topics will change for next year. We will keep the Presentation Hub, which was mainly focused on the destinations, and the Knowledge Theatre, which is a little more strategic and high level. Travel & Tech and the MICE Corporate Hub will return next year, as will the Muslim Travel Pavilion, which we might have to expand. In 2019, we’ll be looking at new areas, which will include a little more focus on airlines and aviation. We’ll push MICE a little as there is huge demand from our buyers to look at MICE technology. Travel & Tech will also be a key focus.
Can you whet our appetite for what else we can expect to see at ITB Asia 2019?
Following yet another successful edition, the show is already receiving high exhibitor re- bookings for ITB Asia 2019, more than 50% of exhibitors had rebooked before the doors closed on this year’s event – that is the litmus test of a show. A lot of people want to expand their booths too. As early as now, the surge in interest for next year’s show has been seen from hotel groups such as Amara Hotels & Resorts, Best Western International, Frasers Hospitality, Resorts World Sentosa, WorldHotels AG and many more.
ITB Asia sees continued strong support from destinations in the ASEAN region as well as Abu Dhabi, Turkey and Jordan in the Middle East and exhibitors such as Austria and Lufthansa City Centre amongst others. Eastern European exhibitors such as Hungary and Poland have also confirmed their stand bookings for the 2019 show.
Photo: Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore)