What is ITB Berlin?

A Guide to The World’s Largest Travel Trade Show

“Hey, Mexico’s doing free cocktails! I’m checking out New Zealand right now but I can meet you there in like 10. I’ll call Ben too, but I think he had a meeting with Israel…”

This is the kind of conversation you overhear a lot at ITB Berlin, and it’s exactly as fun as it sounds.

If you haven’t heard of ITB Berlin before, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s to the tourism industry what ComicCon is to popular culture, or what New York Fashion Week is to the fashion industry, or what the Eating Insects conference is to insect gastronomy advocates.

It’s five days of everything tourism and travel related, it’s fantastic, and it’s on from the the 6th to the 10th of March, 2019.

So, What is ITB Berlin?

The ITB – or Internationale Tourismus-Börse (in English: International Tourism Exchange) – in Berlin is the world’s biggest travel trade show, and by “world’s biggest” we mean really, really big. The Messe Berlin, where ITB is hosted, sprawls over 160,000 square meters. Considering the average house size in the US is 250 square meters, that’s the equivalent of a decent sized suburb.

To get a sense of just how big we mean, imagine 640 houses smooshed together, then add 160,000 visitors and 10,000 exhibitors, including booths for more than 180 countries. Then imagine if those 10,000 exhibitors started putting on dances and showing videos and hosting interactive gingerbread baking shows and, occasionally, handing out alcohol. You could walk around ITB non-stop for days and still not see everything.

If that’s not enough, the ITB Berlin Convention runs at the same time, which is the world’s leading travel industry think tank. The convention features presentations on global trends and innovations in the tourism industry that provide a great opportunity for learning and networking.

Two thoughts have probably occurred to you by now:

  1. Yes. Yes I want to go this giant smoosh house travel exhibition and also that convention sounds great.
  2. Where do I start?

Luckily, this handy guide is here to help you get prepared.

Quick resource guide for ITB Berlin

Find Accommodation and Book Your ITB Tickets

With the entire travel industry coming to Berlin, it’s no surprise that accommodation gets snapped up quickly, so it’s best to book early. You can find a place to stay on your own or get in touch with ITB’s official travel partners for help. Keep in mind that your days at ITB Berlin will be long, and you’ll probably want to head to some of the parties hosted after exhibition hours, so it’s really worth finding somewhere quick and easy to get to from the Messe Berlin. We recommend staying in the western neighborhoods of Berlin – such as Schöneberg, Wilmersdorf, or Charlottenburg – or somewhere along the RingBahn if you’re relying on public transport while you’re there.

Tickets to the trade show are available on the ITB website. It will be possible to buy tickets at the door if you need to, but they will be more expensive and there is often a line. The first three days of the trade show are only open to trade visitors, while the last two days are open to the general public. A lot of the business that takes place at ITB will happen on the trade visitor only days, and many of the senior people in a company will head off before ITB opens to the public, leaving locally hired event staff to tend the booth. So, if you can only attend one or two days of ITB, we strongly recommend the trade only days (if you need another reason, the booths also offer better swag before the general public arrives).

The ITB – or Internationale Tourismus-Börse (in English: International Tourism Exchange) – in Berlin is the world’s biggest travel trade show.

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Set Your Goals For ITB Berlin

There are so many things you’ll want to see and do at ITB Berlin, but, unless you have an army of clones, there’s just no way you’ll get to do it all. Setting clear goals for your time at the trade show will help you prioritize, and decide who you should reach out to for meetings, which talks and events you should go to, and the parties you can’t miss.

Have a think about what you really want to achieve at ITB – whether that’s to meet new contacts, form new partnerships, generate leads, or make some sales – and write down your most important goals.

Start Networking With The Travel Industry

ITB is all about networking, however, you can’t rely on just running into the perfect contact at the trade show and striking up a conversation. The sheer size of ITB Berlin and number of people in attendance means that effective networking requires planning, and the sooner you can start planning your meetings, the more you’re going to get out of your experience.

We highly recommend utilizing the ITB Networker Directory, which is part of the ITB Virtual Marketplace, to start making connections as early as possible. Once you’ve created a profile on the Networker Directory you’ll be able to search through contacts, send meeting requests, and keep in touch with people once the trade show is over. The directory even offers recommendations for networking based on your profile.

Keep in mind that the contacts you meet with will be talking to hundreds of other people at ITB, and it’s very unlikely you’ll get the details of any deals, sales, or opportunities hammered out at the show. Your priority at ITB should be on making a good first impression that will set you up for a productive, ongoing conversation. Aim to have short, focused exchanges that you can follow up in longer calls or emails at a later date.

ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show

Plan Your ITB Schedule

Even if you’re usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, we promise that if you put time into planning out your schedule now you’ll be grateful later. There’s nothing worse than hearing about a great party or the perfect forum the day after it’s already happened.

Take a look at the ITB events calendar and convention program to find talks, forums, and parties you won’t want to miss. The ITB Berlin Convention is the world’s leading travel industry think tank, and every year it tackles the most important trends and issues. The convention program is filled with incredibly interesting talks and forums that provide a great opportunity for learning, and for networking organically with other attendees. This year, the convention is focusing on ways the global tourism industry should act on climate change, environmental sustainability, future mobility, and over-tourism.

If you’re a travel blogger, you’ll likely want to sign up for the Blogger Speed Dating event on March 7th. The event is exactly what it sounds like: rounds of very short meetings (8 minutes) with a number of travel industry representatives. Unlike regular speed dating, the meetings are pre-scheduled, so you’ll be able to do some research beforehand (also unlike regular speed dating, your chances of being paired with a guy who collects snakes and still lives with his mom are pretty thin).

As well as the official parties listed in the ITB events calendar, there are also a lot of off-site parties that take place throughout the week of the convention. Some parties you might not hear about until you’re at the show, however a bit of Googling and digging through Facebook Events can definitely lead you to a few.

While you’re planning your schedule, keep in mind that the Messe Berlin grounds are huge (640 houses smooshed together, remember?) so make sure you give yourself enough time to get around as well as occasionally eat, grab a coffee, and go to the bathroom. The size of the trade show and the crowds it brings in means that it can take up to an hour to get between places, and that’s if you don’t get lost. We also recommend making sure your schedule allows for some flexibility, and leaving a few windows of time that you can spend just exploring and enjoying the show.

Have all the Trade Show Resources

Heading to the biggest travel trade show in the world can be a little intimidating, but there are a number of resources to help you feel more prepared. We recommended familiarizing yourself with the exhibition grounds, signing up for the trade visitor newsletter, exploring the ITB Virtual Marketplace, and downloading the official ITB app.

As well as the official ITB resources, there are a few other tools you might find useful. An app for capturing and cataloging business cards, such as the ABBYY business card reader, will save you from having to carry around business cards from everyone you’ve met, and ensure you don’t lose anyone’s contact details. If you’re using public transport to get around in Berlin, you can use the BVG FahrInfo Plus app to plan your route, buy tickets, and get the latest schedules for the city’s S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, and trams.

There will be free wifi available to ITB visitors in the Messe Berlin (Network: RadissonHotelGroup@ITB Password: radissonhotels), however it can be very slow and the signal doesn’t reach everywhere. If you need access to reliable high-speed internet while you’re at ITB we recommend bringing your own wireless hotspot or ensuring that you’re covered with your cell plan provider.

Get Excited!

In the digital age, some people might dismiss large trade shows as unnecessary. However, the environment at ITB is something that just can’t be replicated online. Nowhere else can you see a full cross-section of the entire travel industry in one place, or get face time with contacts from across the world. It might be hard to get deals done at ITB, but it’s an opportunity to introduce yourself to people you might never meet otherwise, as well as discover places, products, and services you might never have heard of. In our opinion, trade shows like ITB are as important and valuable as ever.

We do know, however, that it can be easy to get wrapped up in worrying about the details. We suggest taking a step back, and reminding yourself that – at its core – ITB Berlin is all about meeting and connecting with like-minded people in your industry. By the end of your ITB experience you’ll have friends in countries you’ve never been to and a place to stay in towns you’ve never heard of, and you’ll have started conversations that you can develop into fruitful business relationships.

Get excited, because you’re about to experience a trade show like nothing else you’ve ever seen before.

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