Tourism employs over 100 million people and is one of the biggest and most important growth sectors in the global economy. Industry leaders are meeting in Germany this week for an annual trade fair – the ITB Berlin.
ITB Berlin is the world's biggest tourism trade fair
It's going to be crowded at this year's Internationalen Tourismusbörse, or ITB. More than 11,000 exhibitors from 188 countries are gathering in the conferences halls in Berlin's Westend district – every last space is booked up.
Not that anyone is much concerned by this. On the contrary, the ITB provides a perfect illustration of the boom the tourist industry is currently undergoing. Klaus Laepple, president of the German Tourist Association (BTW), sees 2011 as a top year for the industry: "We're definitely going to beat 2008, which was our best year so far."
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Germans are top travellers
German tour operators reported improved turnover for 2010, thanks to a better-than-expected recovery: 21.3 billion euros ($29.7 billion), 2.5 percent more than 2009.
"The Germans are and will always be travelers," said Jürgen Büchy, president of the German Travel Association (DRV), adding that Germany spent more money on travel last year than any other country. "All the surveys and prognoses say they will spend even more on holidays this year," Büchy said.
Germans spend around 60 billion euros a year on trips abroad. Spain is still the top destination, but other countries around the Mediterranean are not far behind – especially Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.
Büchy even believes that the unrest in North Africa won't change that – pre-bookings to Egypt and Tunisia are already picking up again – partly because Germans sympathized with the revolutions in those two countries.
"We're convinced that Egypt and Tunisia will recover quickly and win back their places on the tourist's map," he said.
Germany remains a favorite holiday destination for both domestic and foreign tourists
Wish you were here
But it's not just foreign destinations that are looking forward to more visitors. Germany is becoming increasingly attractive to both domestic and foreign tourists.
Around 40 percent of all the holidays undertaken by Germans are domestic. Laepple says Bavaria, Berlin and Hamburg are the most popular destinations. On top of this, Germany is also the worldwide number one location for trade fairs and conventions.
It's going to be packed at this year's ITB Berlin
The ITB illustrates all these developments. Tour operators, hotels, and tourism associations from around the world are well represented. Estimates suggest that the deals struck at the five-day event could reach a total value of 6 billion euros.
Parallel to the fair, visitors will also be able to listen in on a number of symposiums, where experts discuss how tourism markets will shift in the future, how the travel industry will deal with future concerns like a shortage of resources and climate change, and what kind of effect rapid technological advancement will have.
Around 170,000 visitors are expected to attend the five-day fair, which ends on Sunday March 13.
Author: Sabine Kinkartz / bk
Editor: Sam Edmonds