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Mice Asia Net : January 2009
news ITB ASIA here to stay story by Brad Foster With the backing of the Singapore tourism board for another four years, itb asia looks like it is here to stay. was limited – organisers says 10 per cent – it still had plenty to offer buyers who were after some quick information on a variety of destinations and product all in the one place. According to organisers, Messe Berlin, 6208 delegates visited the show over the three days, with 651 exhibitor companies taking up 10,600 square metres of space at the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Exhibitors were from all corners of the globe, except for Australia which organisers said had adopted a “wait and see” approach before deciding to commit. Of the visitor numbers, there were 600 hosted buyers which included media representatives. Part of the program also included seminars, with some interesting topics and some less than impressive. The event was heavily supported by the Singapore Tourism Board. The STB has made a five-year commitment to the show, and organisers are looking at expanding the available floor space to ensure that those companies that missed out in 2008 won’t do so in 2009. Messe Berlin (Singapore) director, Dr Martin Buck, said Messe Berlin was very impressed by the positive response from the travel industry. “This is proof we have met customer expectations by focusing exclusively on Asian source markets, following a B2B format, running a high quality hosted buyer program, and putting our trust in the convenience and professionalism of Singapore as the host venue,” he said. Initial survey results from delegates have shown an 86 per cent overall approval rating for the inaugural event. More than 95 per cent said they would recommend their business partners to attend ITB Asia in 2009 with more than 94 per cent saying they would attend next year. Destination Marketing Services accompanied the first group of Australian conference and incentive agents to the event. The small group spent three days at the show, attended the welcome cocktail function created by Pacific World’s specialist events division, and took a whirlwind tour of Singapore by Pacific World following the end of the show. There were a number of other hosted buyers from Australia who reported on the event favourably. D espite being the little sister of the mega ITB Berlin travel show, ITB Asia was still pretty big by world standards. And even though its focus on the meetings and incentives sector ITB Asia seminar stream Part of any high-quality exhibition has to include a serious seminar stream, and ITB Asia delivered, in part, on this strategy. There were a number of seminars that sounded good but delivered little, including one on the future of technology in the business travel space, and another on sports tourism – “the new engine of destination marketing”. Neither provided anything of take-home value to delegates. The hotel leaders’ forum did provide some interesting information, although again it missed the mark on so many fronts. Panel participants at this event included president of Starwood Hotels & Resort, Asia Pacific, Miguel Ko, Chairman of Accor Asia Pacific, Michael Issenberg, chief sales and marketing officer of the Jumeirah Group, Apo Demirtas, owner of the New Majestic/Hotel 1929 in Singapore, Loh Lik Peng, and JIA Boutique Hotels’ Yenn Wong. Michael Issenberg said the hotel sector was in for a difficult year in 2009 “and possibly longer”. “I think it’s going to be pretty tough. Travel is going to drop next year. I am definitely concerned,” Mr Issenberg said. “If you’re a banker there is going to be a perception – even if they have the money – that they need to be seen to be being more prudent.” He said competition between hotel groups would be particularly fierce. “Will there be some rate decreases? Yes. When we are quoting for a conference six or 12 months out it will be competitive. Customers will be looking for bargains.” Mr Demirtas agreed, saying there would be soft spots and a slow down in business travel. He said he did not believe the downturn would be as long as some expect. “2009 will be a challenge but I don’t think it will be as long and lingering as it was in 1997,” he said. Yenn Wong said she believed that having hotels in Asia rather than in some other parts of the world – like the U.S. – was a positive. Another seminar, The Global Online Picture, painted a bleak future for those who were not entering the online space in the travel business (see page 13 this edition). The next ITB Asia will be held in Singapore from October 21 to 23, 2009. miceAsia.net 39