The number of tourists around the world grew in 2017 to an all-time record of 7 percent to reach 1.3 billion. Tourism accounts for 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), 10 percent of the world’s jobs, and 7 percent of the world’s total exports.
The need to turn these figures into benefits for all people and all communities, “leaving no one behind” – as required by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 – was also the subject of ITB 2018, the Berlin travel trade fair in March.
More than 10,000 companies and organizations from 186 countries and regions exhibited their products to around 110,000 trade visitors from Germany and abroad visitors in 26 halls on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds, Messe Berlin, which has been hosting the ITB since 1966.
Along with ITB, the ITB Berlin Convention has developed into the leading travel industry think-tank, as the travel trade industry’s main knowledge platform.
The ITB Berlin Convention in March hosted around 150 sessions featuring over 300 outstanding speakers. It secured Zambia as the Convention and Culture Partner. Other partners of the ITB Berlin Convention included the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) in the role of co-host, Ctrip.com International, the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Ministry for Culture and Tourism of Turkey.
Addressing tourism ministers from around the world and the leaders of the tourism sector, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) stressed how tourism not only needs to consolidate current growth rates, but “to grow better” by way of decoupling growth from resource exploitation and placing climate change at the heart of the global development agenda.
“Tourism’s sustained growth brings immense opportunities for economic welfare and development,” said the UNWTO Secretary-General opening the five-day ITB 2018 on March 6, while warning at the same time that it also brings in many challenges. “Adapting to the challenges of safety and security, constant market changes, digitalization and the limits of our natural resources should be priorities in our common action,” he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed. “Tourism is an example of the opportunities of globalisation. Tourism brings people closer together and creates the foundation for growth,” she said. “We are committed to the Agenda 2030. We are committed to sustainable tourism,” she added stressing the role of tourism in the sustainability agenda.
The UNWTO Secretary-General stressed education and job creation, innovation and technology, safety and security; and sustainability and climate change as the priorities for the sector to consolidate its contribution to sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda, against the backdrop of its expansion in all world regions and the socio-economic impact this entails.
To address these issues, he said, “public-private cooperation as well as public-public coordination must be strengthened, in order to translate tourism growth into more investment, more jobs and better livelihoods.”
This is of particular importance to Africa where international tourist arrivals expanded 8 percent to 62 million in 2017, thus outgrowing the world average increase. Subsequently, tourism is gaining weight as a development opportunity for the whole continent, with its vast diversity of nature, culture and wildlife its greatest vehicle for development.
With this in view, an African ministerial working meeting convened on March 8 by the World Tourism Organization during the ITB 2018 agreed to move ahead with a new ten-point Agenda for Africa to be realized over a period of four years. The final document will be adopted at the 61st Regional Commission for Africa, UNWTO’s annual gathering of all its member countries of the continent, in the Nigerian capital of Abuja from June 4-6.
Representatives of 17 countries – Angola, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – including 14 ministers, who joined the meeting, supported a coordinated approach to seizing the continent’s potential for tourism.
Issues on the UNWTO Agenda for Africa include, among others, connectivity, the image and brand of Africa, poverty alleviation, climate change, education and skills development, and financing.
Delegates underscored the importance of educating other economic sectors on the broad impact of tourism for the benefit of societies and its people, and promoting tourism as a priority in national agendas.
UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili emphasized the “huge potential” of tourism “to generate lasting development opportunities in Africa if we manage it in the right way, which is economic, social and environmental sustainability”.
ITB Berlin 2018 also highlighted the huge prospects that medical tourism has to offer the global tourism industry. Due to high demand this segment, which was introduced in 2017, it was relocated to a larger hall.
Travel technology was one of the segments which displayed strong growth. Exhibitors including eNett, Traso,Triptease and Paymentwall, which increased their display areas, returning exhibitors, among them Travelport, as well as the Hospitality Industry Club, a newcomer, highlighted the excellent prospects of this fast-growing segment.
For the third year running, ITB Berlin organized the ITB Chinese Night, where visitors were able to find out more about the Chinese travel market, exchange views and establish new contacts.
The event was held in collaboration with Jin Jiang International and Ctrip (CTRP) for around 300 representatives of the travel industry. Potential exhibitors also received information about ITB China 2018, which will be taking place from May 16-18 for the second time in Shanghai.
Ctrip’s also organized an event titled ‘Travel: A Gateway to Global Peace and Prosperity’. Chief Executive Officer Jane Sun opened the event with a keynote session defining peace as a state without conflict. She emphasized that when people focus on short-term interests, conflicts inevitably occur. Forming long term, win-win cooperation instead of zero-sum competition is the key to avoiding conflicts and promoting peace. At the core, the key to achieving win-win cooperation is based on mutual understanding.
Ctrip is China’s largest Online Travel Agency (OTA) with over 300 million members. With continuous commitment to advancing technology, through the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and big data, Ctrip is able to provide travelers with more precise and tailor-made services while also contributing to the optimal allocation of travel resources.
In what was the biggest UNWTO Silk Road Ministers Meeting to date, 34 Member States convened at ITB Berlin to discuss the ‘2025 Silk Road Tourism Agenda’. Also attended by numerous UNWTO affiliate members and partner organizations such as UNIDO, UNESCO, PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association), and WTTC (The World Travel & Tourism Council), the meeting provided a forum to share ideas and strategies as to how fully realize the goals of establishing the Silk Road as the most important transnational tourism route of the 21st century.
UNWTO Secretary-General Pololikashvili, who opened the meeting, said: “Our joint work on placing the Silk Road as an internationally renowned and seamless cultural tourism route is proving to be very positive. In countries all along the Silk Road, there is growing awareness of tourism’s contribution to cultural preservation, regional cohesion, and intercultural understanding. Cross-country tourism projects are growing, and the interest of trade and consumers in the Silk Road continues to rise.”
In spite of these successes, as Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Berlin Trade Fairs Company ‘Messe Berlin’ said: “The extremely positive economic trend in the travel industry should not blind us to the fact that the industry faces great challenges around the world. The digital transformation of an entire industry continues to move forward apace and affects every company and provider, regardless. On the other hand, issues such as the need for greater security on one’s travels, the increasingly important and controversial phenomenon of over-tourism, and the globally changing face of travel . . . are decisively influencing the social discourse on the future of tourism.”
He added: “This year, ITB Berlin again presented itself as a platform that without exception debated all the important trends and the current issues in accordance with the industry’s future needs.”