Exclusive interview: Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore)
The gates are closed and, as they say in the industry, “it’s all over bar the shouting”. Indeed, there seems to be a lot to shout about after this edition of ITB Asia. We asked Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore), ITB Asia’s organiser, to give us her thoughts on the show.
This year’s ITB Asia has been exemplary for numerous reasons. First and foremost, thanks to the expansion of the show to two floors, and the launch of MICE Show Asia, we have spread our wings – taking on new floor space in the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Now in its twelfth year, ITB Asia counted over 1,300 exhibitors and more than 1,250 buyers.
This year’s show attracted ever widening international interest and participation. Over 110 National Tourism Organisations (NTO) and Regional Tourism Organisations (RTO) exhibited this year, including first-time appearances for NTOs from Armenia, Czech Republic, Malta, Russia and the Balkan States – Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and RTOs from Busan, Frankfurt, Los Angeles and more.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS ALWAYS TO FIND A NEAR-PERFECT EQUILIBRIUM BETWEEN ALL THE ELEMENTS THAT MAKE UP AN EFFICIENT TRADE SHOW
How did the Inaugural MICE Show Asia go?
It was launched due to the fast- growing demands of the MICE and corporate travel sectors. This MICE- dedicated show really strengthened the MICE component of the show, and attendance was stronger than expected. Attendees were able to get forecasts for the global meeting and events industries in 2020, as well as how digital transformation is impacting the industry.
What were the main things that surprised you this year?
Throughout the show, I was happily surprised to see such a positive atmosphere, and positive industry sentiment, despite recent events that have somewhat rocked the industry. The travel industry remains solid and strong overall, especially here in Asia-Pacific, we continue to see strong growth in international tourism.
What were the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is always to find a near-perfect equilibrium between all the elements that make up an efficient trade show. That means not only the balance of exhibitors, conferences and other events that make up the show, but also the planning and logistics that ensure it runs as smoothly as possible. The new registration zone and enhancements to security were among the initiatives we introduced this year. Also, ensuring the new exhibition area worked efficiently hand-in-hand with the lower basement area was very important. I congratulate my team who managed to make it work beautifully.
Which speakers stood out from the conferences?
It’s impossible to name everyone, as there were many important speakers and conference sessions that delivered essential ideas and information in different fields. The keynote line-up, Booking.com and IBM effectively addressed the industry’s common challenges such as readying businesses for their next wave of growth; rethinking and reinventing distribution strategies; and how the travel industry can capitalise on the digital revolution to succeed. Then there was Agoda, Expedia, Google, TripAdvisor and Wego, who discussed actions to adapt to the ever-evolving market. On the final day of the show, Booking.com, OYO China, and Tujia led the conversation on maximising opportunities to meet the needs of a new generation of Chinese travellers.
What will be different next year?
A new show! Messe Berlin (Singapore) is launching ITB India 2020 at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Mumbai, India, from 15 to 17 April 2020, with support from the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce. The three-day business-to-business travel trade show and convention will focus on the Indian travel market including MICE, corporate, and leisure travel sectors.
New next year here in Singapore will be Travel Tech Asia 2020 – alongside ITB Asia and MICE Show Asia from 21 to 23 October 2020. The inaugural conference will feature leading travel brands and innovative start-ups to attendees from all levels of seniority across a wide range of disciplines and sectors in the travel industry.
Photo: Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore)