ITB Berlin, one of the two highlights in the industry’s calendar next to the WTM in London, always happens in early March – if it happens.
In the last 30 years, visitors to the ITB Berlin have experienced temperatures during the day up to 18 degrees and minimum temperatures down to -6 degrees Celsius. In 2008 public transport went on strike and international exhibitors were seen walking helplessly among snow and ice in the city centre, hoping in vain to catch a taxi to bring them to the fairground.
Two years before, heavy snowfall hindered many of them to reach Berlin-Tegel airport in the first place.
Nevertheless, very few complaints were heard in 2023 about the mean weather with a mixture of snow and rain and wind during most of the fair, teaching many the new vocabulary of “graupel” for snowflakes covered with ice (as opposed to sleet for snowflakes mixed with rain) while waiting in the taxi queue. The reason? Everybody was happy to meet colleagues and friends from other countries again after the long-time of forced hibernation or even for the first time in person after dozens of Zoom encounters. Serendipity, meetings interesting people by chance, is still a powerful source of joy and sometimes a game-changer, which only happens when real people meet in real surroundings.
Such meetings were actually made easier in 2023 compared to the ITB Berlin fairs in 2019 and before by having more space available. The oldest part of the fairground around the Funkturm is still under renovation and even the other halls had wider aisles and more indoor cafes etc. strategically placed to cover up empty grounds. Many exhibitors went with smaller booths or did not show up at all, including China. In total the 5,500 exhibitors reached only half the number of 2019, whereas the number of professional visitors surpassed 90,000, about ¾ of the 2019 footfall.
For the first time, ITB Berlin lasted only three days and was not open on two additional days for the general public, which is one of the reasons why local and regional exhibitors did not participate this year. Stands accordingly tended to be less flashy with the exception of the GCC countries, which stood out as symbols of wastefulness.
The opening up of the borders came too late and anyway there would have been no visa available fast enough. A few PR companies represented single provinces in a small way, for a Come-together of one province your humble editor was the only person showing up midway through the published time, with the person in charge distributing printed brochures from 2019 including advertisements of German tour operators which unfortunately do not exist anymore.