Offering advice for first-time attendees, of which it seems there will be more than usual, Alex Barros, chief innovation and marketing officer from revenue manager BEONx says: “I can’t stress enough just how incredibly overwhelming and confusing the whole thing is compared to other smaller trade shows and this year will be worse than ever. Military planning is key, you won’t be doing any of the ‘oh we´ll just work somewhere to meet’ or ‘bump into each other during lunch’. Without proper organization you´ll be going home without having seen so much as one person.”

Also providing some insight for travel tech attendees keen to make the most of the event, Emilie Dumont from Digitrips – a B2B travel tech provider that also owns France’s Misterfly OTA – who is speaking on stage this year adds: “For travel tech professionals the main place to hang out the travel tech halls of 5.1,6.1, 7.1c and 8.1 but keep in mind that this is only where the actual tech companies are, so if you want to target say DMCs or tourism boards or hotels well you´ll find them all in separate places. Wear comfortable shoes is all I´m saying!”

Paul Batchelor, Business Development Commercial Lead from payments specialist Nium – who is speaking at ITB this year – agrees that footwear and planning is key to success: “The venue is absolutely enormous and takes a little time to adjust to. If it were empty, it could still take more than 10 mins to walk across. With the sheer number of people, staggered floors and hall numbering, it can be extremely confusing and disorientating. My suggestion would be to plan your exact route of where you need to get to for every meeting, as soon as you arrive and give yourself at least 10-20 mins leeway between meetings, especially if you need to get to the opposite end of the building.”

With food in mind, Kevin King, Chief Operating Officer from hospitality technology giant Shiji Group – who is giving the opening speech in the Hospitality Tech Forum – says: “Unless you’re one of the packed-lunch brigade you´ll want to grab something to eat and I suggest you take a Hunger Games approach to eating: if you see food available or are given it then you must eat it immediately regardless of whether or not you are hungry. Despite many small food stands everywhere, the queues often seem interminable and often you can get to the front only to be told ‘we’ve run out of everything’. Take cash too, as none of the stands accept card payments. None. And there’s like two cash machines in the whole building.”

Finding space for meetings is a challenge that many find at any trade show but ITB Berlin is particularly known for its huge spaces, large crowds and challenges to get from one meeting to the next: “Plan your days very carefully so that you have a designated ‘route’ and don’t end up needing to go from Hall 3 to Hall 9 for back to back meetings. As it could take you almost half an hour and you’ll be running late for every meeting! Unless you’re meeting at someone’s exhibit, space is at a premium and there aren’t many, indeed really any, public spaces that you can use for meetings – certainly if you want to sit down! And don’t count on restaurant spaces for this, as it is mostly food stalls and they have only a few tables, if any, nearby. So book your meetings early, plan your route, and bring your running shoes to get the most out of ITB” says Bruce Rosard from the in-destination event Arival (which takes place this year immediately before ITB in Berlin). Arival is also hosting a series of talks in the Futures program of ITB on Tuesday 7 March and TTA program on Wednesday 8 March.

Meanwhile Morgann Lesne – known as ‘The Travel Banker’ by many – from investment bank Cambon Partners offers advice for attendees who are thinking of selling their company or raising finance for growth this year and hope to use the show as a chance to make that happen: “For sure this year is going to be one of the biggest M&A years for the travel sector ever. COVID put a lot of plans on hold but also has pushed a lot of companies into changing their models and therefore requiring them to acquire companies, raise finance or just plain sell-up. Potential acquirers and investors are indeed descending on ITB Berlin this year in greater numbers than ever before. Where can you meet them? How do you identify them? Making your company visible is the key here, if you can demonstrate your leadership and strength then they´ll find you. For example speaking on one of the panels would be a good start, investors take a close look at who is speaking for sure.”

Also reflecting on the evening plans, Eric Zhuang, Chief Strategy Officer from accommodation wholesaler DidaTravel, who are exhibiting this year, adds: “When it comes to leaving the venue as it closes allow yourself a lot of time to not only leave the building but to actually transport yourself to wherever it is you’re going next. Whatever you planned, triple that. Traditional taxis are impossible to get, you could be in the line for one for 30 minutes moving forward but then actually realise that few taxis have turned up: the queue was moving as people were exiting it in frustration. Ubers will most likely never find you or cancel, but it’s worth a try. There’s a train station opposite but you need to wait for several trains to pass through before you even get into the station.”

By Kanchan Nath