Table of Contents
- 1 How we ended up visiting ITB Berlin 2016 – the biggest travel show
- 2 ITB Berlin 2016 in numbers
- 3 ITB Berlin – organisation and logistics
- 4 ITB Berlin – travel around the world by foot
- 5 There’s a nut for every bolt – Iceland versus Bristol
- 6 „We offer highly tailored trips” – tell us what you need and we’ll organise it!
- 7 ITB Berlin mirrors what’s happening in the world
- 8 There are people on the same wavelength as you, so don’t change yours, or you’ll never find those people!
- 9 „Zajęte” how tiredness can play tricks on your mind
- 10 ITB Berlin – practical information
How we ended up visiting ITB Berlin 2016 – the biggest travel show
I swear, when I woke up at 3:30 am last Wednesday, the only thing I was dreaming about was staying home and not leaving my cosy and warm bed until midday. Going to Berlin for the travel show, the famous ITB Berlin? Nope, why did I agree to do it in the first place, I thought. Who else of you has the same: you are excited about a trip, but when you must get up early and make it all happen, you suddenly loose all your interest?
I couldn’t just cancel the whole thing out of two reasons. First, I had already told someone that I would go to ITB and make the most out of it. I would feel extremely stupid if I had to tell this person later that I cancelled the trip because I wanted to SLEEP LONGER. Second, I was not going alone this time. I was going with Agnieszka from the blog CityBreak.Me and I couldn’t disappoint both her and myself. And to be honest, once I actually got up and had my early breakfast, I felt adventurous again and excited about the whole thing.
ITB Berlin 2016 in numbers
ITB Berlin is a miniature copy of the whole world enclosed in 160 thousand square meters. 160 THOUSANDS. SQUARE. METERS. ITB, the German equivalent of Internationale Tourismus-Börse, is the largest travel show in Europe. What is more, this year, ITB 2016 had its fiftieth anniversary. We couldn’t have picked a better date for the first time there, could we?
But wait a second – the largest travel show, meaning how big exactly? To somehow visualise those impressive numbers, I’ve created an info graphics.
As you can clearly see, ITB Berlin is really impressive in terms of space and number of both exhibitors and visitors. I get tired of looking at those numbers not to mention of having to walk through dozens of warehouses where the stands were located. Especially when you have to carry a camera, a handbag, one bottle of mineral water and a tomato juice. At the end of the day I was truly exhausted. I basically felt like a horse who has just finished running a marathon. On a desert. In summer.
I also suspect that Agnieszka was feeling similarly. When the trade show had officially ended, Aga and I found a bench in the middle of nothing interesting but in front of the toilette and we just sat there for around 40 minutes exchanging opinions on the show and recharging our nearly empty batteries.
ITB Berlin – organisation and logistics
One day to carefully see what the trade show has to offer is definitely not enough. Especially if you also want to talk to people who represent the countries or regions you are interested in. I was intending to spend most of the time and talk to people from Colombia (my travel dream number one!), Uzbekistan (because I really want to travel there before the Aral Sea dies), Jordan (because I am going there in November), and finally some of the Balkan countries (because I just love Balkans and that won’t ever change <3 ). I’ve talked to most of the people I wanted to, but I still feel my appetite has not been thoroughly satisfied. I wish I just had more time to talk to those people without chasing against the clock.
Dozens of warehouses are divided into continents. This year we started in a hall dedicated to thematic tourism. There were stands dedicated to LGBT trips, business and luxury travel as well as travel technology. All day, we were also accompanied by Rafal from the HotelSpotter.pl blog.
Just as we entered this warehouse, a tiny Asian woman approached us and offered a massage. Our first, automatic response was “no, thank you, maybe later”, but as soon as I saw what this massage looks like, I changed my mind. I’ve never had such a massage done on me, so why not to try it out – I thought. Now, I’m glad I did it because it extremely relaxing and really well-performed.
What surprised me the most, was that this lady seemed to be really fragile and weak, but when she did the massage I felt a really strong pressure and it turned out she had a lot of power in her hands. After a five-minute-long massage, I felt relaxed and refreshed, also a bit sleepy. All I wanted to do is go to bed. Walking around the noisy and colourful stands in the trade show seemed like a very strange and surreal dream for a while.
ITB Berlin – travel around the world by foot
Having seen the thematic warehouse, we continued through halls divided into continents. Not leving the premises, I could visit the Silk Road countries, have a chit-chat with people from Israel and Jordan, see how Africa’s doing, what’s new in Europe. Each hall was distinctly different and the moment I entered the hall, I could immediately feel which continent it represents. ITB in Berlin is like a travel around the world by foot. Although it covers a “merely” 160 thousand square meters, it can actually be pretty challenging and tiring!
The ITB Berlin travel show isn’t organized on a tight budget. It’s easily visible how wealthy a country is and how much it wants to invest and promote its tourism. It’s also blatantly visible if a country has a well-developed tourist background or if it’s just starting to grow that part of its economy. The Israel stand was giving away free coffee, orange juice, and water and the images of its beautiful desert were shown on tablets fixed to white tables.
Germany offered free snacks and champagne. A representative of Myanmar gave me seven business cards but could not explain what type of trips they offer, because neither him nor his colleagues spoke any English or German. But they were smiling brightly all the time. The stand offering bus trips through Albania and Macedonia offered print outs of yellow leaflets, but you could take them only if you had actually noticed the stands, since it was so small.
When it comes to hallmarks and characteristic features of the countries, they were all much exposed and emphasized. New York had a very visible, tall stand proudly exposing the yellow taxi cars. Mongolia was all about nomadic lifestyle, Uzbekistan means Samarkand, sadly no one mentioned the dying and disappearing Aral Sea.
If you’re going to Lithuania, you must visit the cute Trakai village. Egypt, although quite empty, decided to promote itself with the pyramids (quite obvious, isn’t it?) and with half-naked, super-handsome pharaohs, who turned out to be … German misters. I’m really glad I could see the whole world at ITB Berlin, even if it was somewhat exaggerated.
There’s a nut for every bolt – Iceland versus Bristol
Agnieszka’s blog is all about city breaks, rather convenient way of spending leisure time. I prefer outdoor activities and I love hiking above everything else. Actually, to be even more precise, I like to exhaust myself in the nature, get a lot of physical exercise, walk long distances so that I feel my muscles at the end of the day.
Getting sweaty is not an object at all. In fact, that’s when I feel relaxed and happy. There were dozens of thousands of different exhibitors on the ITB Berlin travel show. Each of them offered something different and was targeting different kind of clients. There were two situations which explicitly showed me that if I act alone, I can achieve a lot, but if I join forces with a blogger promoting something different than I do, I can achieve even more.
I instantly got on well with the representatives of Iceland and once they heard I promote outdoor solo female travel, the conversation just took of the ground and the chemistry was in the air. They seemed really keen on the idea of women exploring nature on their own and I was overjoyed to see that it’s not only me who believes in that idea. When Agnieszka told them about her city breaks, they remained polite and friendly, but rather unenthusiastic.
After Iceland, we went to the section with Great Britain and talked to a man who represented Bristol. He offered me a pretty nice hiking trip around the coast, but wasn’t overly enthusiastic. On the other hand, when he talked to Agnieszka about exploring Bristol, he seemed to have way more ideas how to spend free time. Conclusion? There’s a nut for every bolt! The tourist market is really versatile and can cater to the most sophisticated needs. IT just takes some time and effort to find those people who are similar to you.
„We offer highly tailored trips” – tell us what you need and we’ll organise it!
I’m no expert on tourism, but some trends were clearly visible during ITB 2016. Most of the exhibitors I talked to offered trips tailored to the needs of their clients. In Poznan, during Tour Salon, you had a range of holidays to choose from while on ITB you said what you liked and what you needed and they did their best to meet or even exceed your expectations.
Of course, some exemplary tours are available, but more to show what type of holidays you can expect rather than limit you in regards to activities and places you will visit. It appears to me like some sort of safe backpacking: you are on a individual trip, but there’s someone to carry your backpack, someone to book you accommodation and transport.
What you have to do is relax and enjoy. My assumption is that it’s going to be a growing competition to all inclusive holidays, at least abroad. All inclusive seems to be all safe and sound in Poland.
ITB Berlin mirrors what’s happening in the world
Although the stands of Egypt and Tunisia were rather large and eye-catching (mind you: half naked pharaohs?), they were by no means crowded. I would dare say, they were pretty empty. Large pyramids and inviting staff didn’t help much… Israel was located in one warehouse with Jordan but monopolized the space.
Jordan seemed far less busy than Israel with just a few people and a handful of prospects, while Israel was handing out free drinks and there was a group of dressed up people making noise and catching the attention of passers-by. Only two warehouses later did we encounter a somewhat minimalistic stand of Palestine.
This doesn’t makes sense when it comes to geography, so clearly it’s politics that was more important when locating the stands. I regret that I hadn’t managed to visit the Balkan section, because it must have been interesting as well.
There are people on the same wavelength as you, so don’t change yours, or you’ll never find those people!
I am crazy about Colombia. If my boss had agreed to unpaid leave, I would be roaming through Colombia right now. It turned impossible so my dream has to wait a little longer and grow even more. When I visited ITB Berlin, I just couldn’t miss a chance to speak with someone representing Colombia and ask about a few things that really bug me. One of them is if it’s safe to travel solo if you’re a woman. A ginger-head woman. I bumped into a very friendly representative of the second largest city in Colombia – Medellin and we instantly hit it off. She was very enthusiastic about both her country and the idea of travelling solo.
We laughed like crazy at one point of our conversation shortly before she dived into her stand and fetched a big white-blue handbag. She pulled a mysterious face and said “Don’t tell anybody! I can give those bags only to special people and you are special!“. Needles to say, my hear melted. If that wasn’t enough, she then dived into her stand yet again and took out a bag of Colombian sweets made of coconut and toffee and gave me.
My next Colombian encounter was equally amazing. I talked to a girl representing an agency organizing highly tailored trips around Colombia. I was truly taken aback to hear that she left Austria, her home country, around four years ago to solo travel through South America and she stayed there! It just occurred as something really fascinating that by pure incident I met someone so like-minded.
„Zajęte” how tiredness can play tricks on your mind
“Zajęte” means “occupied” in Polish, e,g, when you want to say that someone is in the bathroom. As I’ve already mentioned, ITB is a pretty intense and tiring experience. After the travel show had officially ended and more and more people were casually walking around the warehouses drinking beers, Agnieszka and I decided to find a nice restaurant where we could eat some dinner and kill the time before our bus to Poznan arrives.
That’s how we found a Vietnamese restaurant offering really good, inexpensive food. After I had finished eating, I wanted to use the loo. I approached the tiny Vietnamese waitress and asked where I could find the toilette. She replied “zajęte” – to my utter surprise, in Polish. My first thought was “Where the hell did I get so drunk?”. I asked again, thinking that I was so tired that I misheard something. She then replied in Polish again and again.
It occurred to me then that it’s not me being drunk, it’s not me having dirty ears, it’s actually happening. A Vietnamese waitress is speaking Polish to me while I’m in Berlin. I was so curious I had to investigate it further and it turned out that she lived in Poland for five years and that’s how she learned Polish. It was a really bizarre but nice situation.
That’s how our city break ended. We entered the bus at 9pm at the busy ZOB bus station and fell asleep shortly after the bus departed.
It was worth all the trouble!
ITB Berlin – practical information
When to visit ITB? How much are the tickets to ITB?
It’s nothing complicated. Just remember this address: Messedamm 22. That’s where the world’s largest trade show is located. ITB Berlin lasts five days, three out of which are closed for the public. If you are a private visitor, you can visit ITB during the weekend. One day ticket costs 12 Euros if bought via Internet and 15 Euros if bought on venue. I had a free entrance because of my blogger’s accreditation.
Arriving at ITB by bus (from Poland!)
The easiest and most convenient way to arrive ITB Berlin is by bus. The main bus station, ZOB, is located just a stone’s throw from the ITB venue, the famous Messedamm 22. When you hop off the bus, just cross the street and follow the tower. 😉
Arriving at ITB by tube (U-Bahn)
The ITB venue is quite far away from the main train station but it’s very easy to find your way. When you get off the train, be sure to switch to the U2 tube and get out at “Messe Nord”.
When it comes to accommodation, it’s best to book a bit in advance, since shortly before the trade show prices go up and it might get difficult with availability.
Who of you has visited ITB this year or some other travel trade show? How do you find this experience? I’m curious about your impressions and experiences!
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