Towards virtual and hybrid events for a new dynamic

Exclusive interview: Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore)

ITB Community hosted the 2020 virtual version of ITB Asia, and will continue to provide a virtual space where travel buyers, sellers, media, and trade professionals alike can come together to access all of the latest information about the travel industry. We asked Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore), to tell us more about the community. 

We have been delighted with the enrolment of more than 35,000 members in this newly launched exclusive platform. Being one of the first of its kind to be implemented in Asia’s travel industry, the platform has seen an overwhelming positive response and engagement. We hope to welcome even more users as it becomes integrated in our everyday lives in the new normal.

Why was it so important to run an event such as this under the current circumstances?
As Asia’s leading travel trade show, we saw the need for the travel industry to band together with regulators and partners to strengthen confidence and build resilience during this extraordinary time. The virtual event aimed to adapt and serve the travel trade community as many look up to us for direction. It has raised best practices and content for the travel trade, and has helped us rethink how we can ensure the continuity of our annual show. With technology now playing an even bigger part in our lives, this gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our agility and ability to innovate. Going virtual was a way for us to continue providing businesses in the industry a platform to connect – uniting and enabling business meetings to take place for a seamless knowledge exchange. It also set an example of how digital disruption can benefit the industry and revolutionise travel.

Would you say you achieved your goals?
Yes. Our goals were to: bring back the chance to connect and reconnect buyers, sellers and industry professionals; provide the travel industry with a year-round engagement for business, networking and learning; and unite travel professionals and world leaders to rethink strategies and explore innovative solutions to build a more resilient travel industry as a whole, with the comprehensive conference agenda.

How challenging has it been to organise this year’s event?
As with organising any event, the challenge is to ensure a seamless attendee experience. This year, the new challenge has been to adapt to the new normal – where the travel industry had to quickly pivot to a new event model – virtual. Moving forward, hybrid event models will be the standard, to include both mediums of engagement — physical and virtual — at future exhibitions. As the industry continues on the path of recovery, this could also signify increased opportunities, where businesses previously unable to, will be able to connect with one another with the introduction of virtual access at exhibitions

What are the plans for 2021?
ITB Community will continue to host a series of virtual events to engage the marketplace all year round.  Travel Meet Asia is a series of virtual events covering different parts of Asia to serve as a value-add to the industry’s efforts of attendee engagement. The first Travel Meet Asia – South Asia event will be held on 9 & 10 December 2020.

ITB Asia 2021 will go hybrid – live event + virtual component to provide an all-rounded event experience like none other. For ITB Asia 2021 live event, we have already booked more than 40% of our exhibition space.

In the meantime, the platform will continue to incorporate and make available content and resources, which include various features to enable business meetings and allow knowledge exchange. These include integrated business matching and communication tools, such as a messaging board, forums, focused groups, live chat, and video call functions.