In the space of three years ITB China has established itself as an indispensable event for China’s travel industry. An interview with David Axiotis, General Manager of ITB China.
The third edition of ITB China came to an end on 17 May 2019. How did it go?
David Axiotis: Very well. We had a total of 17,000 visitors, 2,000 more than last year. This year there was an even stronger focus on content and innovations, which was very well received by our visitors and industry partners. We also set the tone with Customized Travel, new conference topics and the ITB China Travel Trends Report. There were large numbers of visitors on the first two days, which was evident from the crowded entrances and stands. On the third day, Education and Job Day, lots of students visited the show. Buyers and exhibitors alike were very satisfied with their results, and overall reported three successful days at the show.
With 800 exhibitors from 84 countries the display area was bigger than last year. In which markets was the increase in participation strongest?
David Axiotis: Europe was strongly represented, as in previous years. There was a big increase in South American exhibitors. We were delighted to see several newcomers: Chile, the Dominican Republic, Salvador as well as the Bahamas, which were partners of Island Travel.
A number of important new exhibitors also took part – which segments and destinations did they represent?
David Axiotis: The tourism organisations of Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Qatar, Romania and Zimbabwe all celebrated their debut at ITB China. In the case of Zimbabwe, theirs was the first tourism organisation to be representing Africa. Other newcomers included the regional tourism organisations of Penang and Piemonte, the Marianas Visitors Authority and Visit Vuokatti. First-time exhibitors also included Brand USA, which had its own stand – overall the USA expanded its floor space by 70 per cent compared with 2018 – and the German pavilion. The representations at the German pavilion were Verband Internet Reisevertrieb (VIR), Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus, Sachsen Tourismus, the internet travel portal Solamento and the car rental company Sunny Cars. The Aviation segment also featured several newcomers, including Air China, American Airlines, Airport Authority Hong Kong and United Airlines. The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the Adventure Travel partner, was new to the show, as was the incentive and event organiser JTB, which was the Sports Travel partner.
How many buyers and trade visitors were you able to welcome at ITB China and which markets were they from?
David Axiotis: We were able to report a rise in buyers, namely 850 compared with 800 in 2018 with 40 per cent, who were not from the mega cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It shows that ITB China has made its mark in the entire country. The wide range of companies present was a very positive aspect. In 2018 around 300 different companies took part in the show, whereas at this year’s ITB China it was 400. 54 per cent represented the holiday tour market, 30 per cent the MICE industry and business travel, and 15 per cent the travel technology market.
This year the success story of the ITB China Conference continued. How many trade visitors took part, what were the key topics and which sessions were most popular?
David Axiotis: Some 4,000 visitors took part in the ITB China Conference. The 70 lectures, and discussion rounds with more than 120 experts covered the entire Chinese travel industry spectrum. Out of the ten main themes there were three new sessions which were very popular: IT & Travel (Data Security), Hotel Marketing & Distribution and the ITB China 2019 main theme ’Customized and Themed Travel’. The highlights were the opening keynote speech from Ctrip by James Liang, the Destination Keynote Italy speech and the 3rd ITB China Startup Award, which this year went to Seevov from Israel.
What was the media response?
David Axiotis: Every year we have been watching media interest increase. In 2018 a total of 260 media representatives obtained accreditation, whereas this year the figure was 300, including 30 international journalists and 270 from China.
Italy, the official partner destination of ITB China 2019, took centre stage. How did this European country present itself at the show?
David Axiotis: Italy was represented at ITB China for the first time and was the largest individual exhibitor, on two stands covering 320 square metres. The partner destination invited 600 guests to the co-host official opening dinner, which was also attended by Italy’s tourism minister H.E. Sen. Gian Marco Centinaio. Other highlights included the Italy Night on day two of the show.
What are your goals for ITB China 2020? Are you planning any changes and what key topics will you be focusing on?
David Axiotis: ITB China will continue to expand. We are planning to increase the display area by the same amount as in 2018. Furthermore, we are aiming to place more emphasis on communication.