This year we should finally go to the ITB travel fair in Berlin. Last year we had already planned to do so, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in time. We were all the more pleased to be part of this year.
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Things to know about the ITB Berlin
The International Tourism Exchange (ITB for short) is the largest travel fair in the world. For German travel lovers, the ITB Berlin, which takes place every year in March, is probably the best known. Few people know that there are also two other ITB trade fairs in the world: ITB Asia in Singapore and ITB China in Shanghai.
The ITB is a German hit: Launched in 1966 as a small event in the course of an overseas import fair with 5 participating countries, it has developed over the decades into a huge success. Today, on an area of 160,000 square meters, you will find 5 continents, over 180 countries, 10,000 exhibitors and well over 100,000 trade visitors: a fair of superlatives.
Arrival, admission & opening hours
THIS year, ITB Berlin was open from 7 to 11 March 2018. The first three days are reserved for trade visitors (media representatives, buyers, bloggers, etc.) and the following weekend the ITB opens for all visitors.
In any case, you should book a hotelin advance if you are on the ITB for several days and do not live nearby. At fair times, room prices skyrocket and it is not uncommon for you to spend three times or 4 times more on a hotel room than at any other time. We booked our hotel already 5 months before the ITB and got a room at the Intercity Hotel at Ostbahnhof Berlin for just under 100 euros per night. Breakfast was not included. But that wasn’t too bad, because since the hotel is located directly in the Ostbahnhof, you have all the shopping possibilities at the room door: from supermarkets to fast food shops to the baker. It really can’t be easier and more comfortable. Another advantage of an Intercity Hotel – in addition to the convenient traffic situation at major railway stations or transport hubs – is that you get free public transport tickets for the booking days. So we were able to save the day ticket for the inner city area (7 euros per person).
The itB exhibition centre is very easy to reach by public transport. We took the S-Bahn from the Ostbahnhof and was able to drive directly through to messe-Süd stationwithin 25 minutes. The tracks were insanely crammed, so that people had to wait in front of the tracks, because not everyone fit in. But since the tracks go to the rush hour fortunately every few minutes, you should stay quiet here – at some point you will already be taken with you. From the Messe-Süd S-Bahn station, it is only a small footpath until you reach the main entrance.
The ITB is open on all days from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On the trade visitor days, however, admission is possible from 9.30 a.m. Since it can be a little colder at the beginning of March, a hint about the wardrobe is perhaps not unimportant. You pay 2.50 euros per coat and 4 euros per piece of luggage. Not cheap, but you don’t want to walk around with the winter jacket all the time – because it can get you warm when you run through the halls like that.
If you have not been accredited as a media representative or blogger for the ITB, you can also buy a trade visitor ticket. This costs 42 Euro/day online in advance or 62 Euro/day on site. On the visitor days, admission is significantly cheaper – the online ticket price is 12 euros/day and the on-site ticket price is 15 euros/day.
It makes sense to first look at the site plan of the ITB in order to get a first overview and to see which halls and which stands are of the most interest to you.
The booths of ITB Berlin
We had taken two days (Thursday and Friday) to explore the fair, talk to new co-op art partners and look at the different stands. As soon as we walked from the S-Bahn station to the fair, we saw a lot of beach chairs, which stood scattered all over the square in front of the exhibition building. Not entirely surprising, because this year’s partner country of ITB Berlin was Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. For the first time, a German federal state was the partner country. In previous years, these included Botswana (2017), Maldives (2016), Mongolia (2015) or Mexico (2014).
Despite many appointments, we managed to walk through all the halls and look at the stands on the two days. In some cases, the stands of individual countries were really very elaborate and decorated in typical country. For example, the stand of Costa Rica, which was a single jungle jungle, or the stand of Uganda, in front of which sat a giant gorilla. On the other hand, there were also stalls that were very soberly designed and thus rather less inspiring for a holiday.
Every year, ITB offers an extensive supporting programme of different events. You should definitely take the time before the fair to see on the website which events and lectures are exciting and interesting. At some events, such as receptions or stand parties, you even have to register in advance. Since we were only two days at the ITB and our calendar was full of appointments, we unfortunately did not attend a lecture or event. We would certainly do it differently next time.
As a travel blogger at ITB Berlin
What do you actually do as a travel blogger at ITB? Our goal was to be inspired for new destinations and to discuss possible cooperations with partners. The most important thing here is the preparation. This means that we have already written out the most important dates for the ITB 2018 in the summer of 2017: From when to when does the trade fair take place, from when can you accredit yourself as a blogger, how does this work with the speed blogger dating and where do I find a cheap hotel? Questions about questions. But since ITB Berlin has a website set up especially for bloggers, on which some information is already available, everything is only half as wild.
The accreditation for bloggers was open from December 2017, i.e. about 3 months before the fair. The prerequisites for being accredited as bloggerswere the following:
1. Thematic reference to the ITB, i.e. travel
2. The blog must have been in existence for at least 6 months and must have regular, up-to-date posts.
3. A range of at least 4,000 visitors per month.
4. Upload a media kit with the corresponding metrics (unique visitors, page impressions and dwell time for the last three months) each, which are occupied by an independent tool, such as Google Analytics.
5. No blog with sales channels.
With our blog we met the requirements and were both accredited as bloggers within a short time. It is important that only people in a blog who are also editorially responsible are accredited. It is not enough that the blog is accredited, but we both had to register individually.
If you are accredited as a blogger, you should first create a networking profile at the ITB Virtual Market Place. In this online catalogue you can search for exhibitors, products, industries, bloggers, etc. and get in touch with other people by sending a message via the tool and setting up appointments. We also contacted companies about the tool, but the response was only moderate. The normal mail addresses, which can be found either in the tool or through a Google search, worked out a little better with the feedback. So we could already arrange some dates with exciting destinations.
When making an appointment, you should always have the hall plan in mind and install enough time between your appointments. We are really rushing through the halls on some dates, because our appointments were sometimes so far apart. Sometimes you just can’t choose it, e.g. if the exhibitor only has one free slot. However, if there are different dates to choose from, you should definitely make sure that the date before and after is not so tightly timed and is not so far away.
We had arranged some appointments with contact persons for both Thursday and Friday. We were amazed at how well prepared some were. Half of the dates had even taken a screenshot of our homepage or a profile photo of us in their documents. As a rule, the dates were such that we first introduced ourselves with our blog and then imagined the destination. Afterwards, they talked about what each other expects in the context of a cooperation and what is possible if necessary. We had interesting discussions and we are very excited to see if we can realize some of this together with cooperation partners in 2018. The next few weeks and months will show that.
Important point: Create business cards from your blog for the fair so that the other person has your contact details directly.
Perhaps one last point: the topic of dress code. We also asked ourselves in advance what you actually attract at such a trade fair – especially if you have appointments with companies. We opted for a combination of sneakers (after all, you walk tens of kilometres a day through the halls), jeans and blazer/jacket. A look at the fair and the observation of other visitors showed us that this was perfectly fine.
The ITB Blogger Speed Dating & the Blogger Base
The registration date of this year’s Blogger Speed Dating we had written thick, bold and red in the calendar. As the first ITB-perpetrators we did not want to miss this at all and we were very lucky, because we got one of the coveted places in mid-December. Being fast is important here, because the places are awarded according to the first-come-first-serve principle. First we created a profile and wrote a few sentences for our blog – after all, the other person should also know who he is dealing with.
On time on 1 February then it started with the matchmaking: At 4 p.m. the official start was to make appointments – but nobody really knew that, because it was always said by the ITB in advance that the matchmaking starts in calendar week 5, but not exactly on which day or at what time. At 4:04 p.m. there was an official mail that you can now start making appointments. If you only start asking the exhibitors for appointments the next day, you will look old … the appointments with the most sought-after exhibitors were assigned within minutes (!). In total, you could arrange appointments with up to 9 exhibitors – we actually had a full speed dating calendar just before the trade fair.
And then came the date of speed dating, which took place on Thursday from 4.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the City Cube Berlin. In front of the hall, where 164 exhibitors had taken their place at a standing table, one had to register as a blogger first, i.e. the name was ticked off in a list of participants. You should definitely be there for at least 15 minutes, because the queue at check-in can be a little longer.
With our appointment list in hand and the assigned table numbers, we raced to our first appointment and immediately started talking. After all, you only have 8 minutes per appointment and they want to be well used: introduce a blog, make contacts, discuss possible cooperations. You can’t believe how fast 8 minutes can be around – you didn’t get rid of what you wanted to say. Then there was a gong and you had to change the table within two minutes and everything started all over again.
Shortly before the fair, we received a notification that a speed dating date had been cancelled by the exhibitor – but without justification. An appointment didn’t even show up at the Speed Dating – the standing table was just empty. If you have a break for a few minutes in between, you can get something to eat (fruit, pretzels) and drink (water, tea) at a catering stand free of charge. In this way, you can bridge the time until the next appointment well.
By the way, there was a blogger base in the Marshall House on the ITB site from Momondo. Only bloggers had access here and you could sit down here relaxed, have a tea and charge your mobile phone.
Our conclusion on ITB 2018
Visiting the ITB for the first time is something special. We had some expectations for the stands of the exhibitors in advance, wanted to be inspired for our future holidays and made new contacts for possible cooperations.
The fairgrounds are really huge and you run a lot. On the two days we were at the fair, we ran a total of 25 kilometers. You can actually notice this in your legs in the evening and you are happy when you finally get in bed. The choice to put on sneakers was definitely the right one!
We would have expected a little more from the stands of the exhibitors. Many were really well prepared, but many were also very bleak and consisted essentially of a few pictures and many, many tables. We often lacked interaction. Only occasionally there were show cooking, dance performances or tastings. We suspect that there is much more on offer during the visitor days on weekends. But if you are there on the trade visitor days, you will notice that the focus here is on making contacts – everyone runs from appointment to appointment and actually has hardly any time to stroll through the corridors, browse through brochures or find out about a country.
All in all, we still found it very exciting to have been at the ITB and to have seen all this. In the two days you already have a little trip around the world: in the morning you drive around the North Sea, at noon in Italy, in the afternoon on Caribbean beaches and in the evening in the metropolis of New York 🙂