The great and the good of the travel industry met for the annual ITB Berlin travel trade show last week. It was held against the backdrop of cautious optimism for the economic recovery, especially outside of Europe, and after a bright first couple of months of the year coincided with IATA cutting its total industry loss projections for the year.
This is the first ITB I have been to, but my feeling is the mood around the show was still somewhat muted - though I’m guessing more upbeat than a year ago. As ever Qatar Airways was among those with the highest profile during the show. “We always at Qatar Airways have optimistic news to give you, there is always a ray of light wherever there is darkness” opened chief executive Akbar Al Baker, announcing its first South American routes during a press conference at the show (Doha to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo). Adding to five new routes already announced this year, Al Baker outlined plans to take the number to 15 by year end.
Fellow Middle East carrier Emirates also had a prominent presence at the show, with this eye-catching, huge globe-based stand design impossible to miss!!
Hybrid carrier Air Berlin took the occasion to flag up its increasingly strong presence in Italy and Spain, as well as a summer revamp of its hub structure at Berlin Tegal Airport aimed at boosting its transfer traffic. This comes ahead of next year’s opening of the new BBI airport at Schonefeld, Capital Airport Berlin Brandenburg International, which will see the closure of Tegal Airport and the new facility open at the end of October next year. The new airport is expected to handle 22 million passenger in its first full year. “We will have the roofing ceremony in May this year and we are on track with budget and schedule,” says a company spokesman. “We plan to open at the end of October next year, and trials will have to start a year before.”
But there was a cautious note from the World Travel and Tourism Organisation, which detailed its forecast for the year ahead during ITB. “Despite recent encouraging short-term indicators of tourism activity, the recovery in world Travel & Tourism is expected to be muted,” WTTC president and chief executive Claude Baumgarten warned, “with both firms and households examining travel plans carefully and continuing to limit expenditure. Spending in real terms is expected to increase by a mere 1% – while business travel spending will again decline, by nearly 2%.” It estimates the travel and tourism economy GDP to grow only fractionally this year, though second half momentum would continue into 2011 boosting growth to 3.2%.