Berlin’s ITB Welcomed the World

It was yet another great show displayed at the world’s premier travel trade fair ITB Berlin from 5-9 March. More than 10,000 exhibitors from over 190 countries presented an overview of their offerings, among them tour operators, airlines, tourist agencies from a multitude of regions, hotels or booking platforms. Among the participants were also representatives from the air cargo industry.

Sven Gossow (left) and Susith Hettihewa (standing right next to Sven) among the Air Astana team at ITB / source: Claasen Com.
Sven Gossow (left) and Susith Hettihewa (standing right next to Sven) among the Air Astana team at ITB / source: Claasen Com.

Travel and tourism accounts for 258 million jobs worldwide, seeing their numbers increasing fast. As David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council pointed out, this sector is a key driver for investment and economic growth at a global level, providing an annual turnover of €4.4 trillion – 9.1 percent of GDP. It is larger than the automotive industry at 8% GDP, and just smaller than banking at 11 percent.

Fiesta Mexicana in Berlin – the Latin American country was this year’s official ITB partner   /  source: ITB
Fiesta Mexicana in Berlin – the Latin American country was this year’s official ITB partner / source: ITB

Fiesta Mexicana
This year’s official ITB partner country was Mexico, presenting itself as a unique destination not only as destination for travel and leisure but also as nation enabling investors a broad specter of business opportunities. Topics like the extraordinary vividness of the people of ‘bonito Mejico’ with their long tradition of hospitality, the country’s cultural heritages and the many famous sights were highlighted during the opening press conference by the Mexican Minister of Tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas.

DUS Airport / source: ITB
DUS Airport / source: ITB

Secretary General Taleb Rifai of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) underlined that “tourism today is a national task.” In this respect he expressed his admiration for ITB’s partner country Mexico as a “remarkable example of success.”

Tourism is becoming a multi-layered experience
Turning to the growth forecasts presented by the UNWTO, Rifai called for four additional challenges to be turned into opportunities. When the number of people travelling reaches 1.8 billion by 2030 an easing of visa requirements, the liberalization of air travel in harmony with tourism, leading to growth on both sides, and a fiscal policy that does not distort competition would be the right steps to take. Said the manager: “Tourism will become a multi-layered experience which needs the input of all those involved in order to create value“.

Thailand enticed visitors with visual stimuli / source: ITB
Thailand enticed visitors with visual stimuli / source: ITB

Air Astana to put Boeing 767 on European routes
Creating value together with sustainability were also catch words often heard at the stands. For instance, from officials representing Air Astana at the carrier’s ITB booth. There, Europe Manager Susith Hettihewa together with his Head of Sales Sven Gossow and some airline personnel informed visitors and the interested public about touristic offerings and current travel opportunities in Kazakhstan, focusing of course on the airline’s network offerings. According to Susith, beginning in mid-May Air Astana will put a new Boeing 767 on the Frankfurt-Astana route, replacing the smaller 757.

Additional transport capacity is offered to the market
This will first happen on May 16, when the aircraft is scheduled to land in Frankfurt. States the carrier: “The 767 not only offers more comfort for travelers but improves the transport of air freight as well due to larger lower deck capacity in comparison to the B57.” Susith: “Today, cargo accounts for five percent of Air Astana’s turnover but our aim is to soon up this figure to reach seven percent.” A main task for GSA Kales, whose constant job as responsible GSA for Air Astana in Europe is filling the lower decks of the passenger aircraft with air freight. 

Susith also revealed that his carrier is in advanced negotiations with Lufthansa’s passenger unit for stepping up their cooperation. Once successfully concluded talks with LH Cargo for doing some biz together will come next, the manager announced.

Besides all celebrations, shows, conferences and presentations there was one topic that shaded this year’s ITB – the fragile situation in the Ukraine and Russia’s militant role. It was Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit who brought up that subject by saying: “Not very far away from here people are in fear of their lives”, he stated, adding “those of us here at ITB Berlin can only wish them peace, freedom and democracy.”


Heiner Siegmund