ITB Berlin shines a light on blue chips and startups

ITB Berlin 2018, which took place last week, hosted 10,000 businesses from 186 countries and regions who showcased their products and services to more than 110,000 trade visitors.

Meanwhile, the event’s line-up of keynotes, presentations and panel discussions gave blue-chip giants and agile startups alike the chance to share their insights and experience with an attentive and engaged audience. Here are some of the highlights:

Airbnb explains its new categories

Airbnb’s global influence on the travel and hospitality was an underlying theme in many of the conversations taking place across ITB Berlin. Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, was a keynote speaker for the ITB Marketing & Distribution Day.

He explained the addition of four new Airbnb accommodation categories – vacation home, bed and breakfast, unique and boutique – and how this will help it get towards its stated aim of one billion guest nights, per annum, by 2028.

China on a plate

If Airbnb was an underlying theme to many of the conversations taking place at ITB, then China could stake a claim to being the dominant discussion point. From the travel tech companies based in China and expanding internationally to the destinations trying to attract the hundred-million-plus Chinese outbound travellers, China is no longer an emerging market (although that is not to say that it has finished growing).

Diverse opinions on diversity

The Thursday of ITB 2018 coincided with International Women’s Day. Maud Bailly is chief digital officer for AccorHotels, and in an interview as part of tnoozLIVE@ITB she said:

“Diversity to me has always been a key element in management and leadership. Why? Because the most efficient and agile teams I ever had were really diverse – junior and senior, national and international, men and women…We have a duty and a responsibility to make sure that women’s day is not just 8 March…”

Championing the champions

Two of the largest travel businesses on the planet have female CEOs – Jane Jie Sun runs Ctrip,  based in China but with a growing global footprint and interests beyond its OTA roots, while Gillian Tans oversees accommodations giant Both CEOs spoke at the ITB Convention.

Jane Sun was a keynote speaker, and presented a compelling argument for travel’s contribution to global peace and prosperity.

Gillian Tans, meanwhile, was featured as one of the CEO Interviews. She talked about Airbnb (see above), China (see above) and maintaining a startup mentality (see below) in a business with 17,000 employees.

 Startups are global

The inaugural eTravelWorld StartUp Day took place on the Friday, providing all stakeholders in the travel startup ecosystem with access to intelligence and insights. Specific sessions drilling down into the scene in China, Germany and Spain provided a global backdrop to the day, while the five businesses selected for the ITB Startup Pitch Powered by Phocuswright represented a cross-section of niches with startup appeal.

The pitch was won by Redeam, which got the judges’ nod ahead of Ads Hotel, bookingkit, MagicStay and Beach-Inspector.

Overtourism under scrutiny

Of the many buzzwords circulating around the halls, overtourism was the one which resonated the most widely – destinations are feeling under pressure from the volume of visitors, which then attracts the attention of local, regional and national governments. Suppliers embrace tech (see above) to make local inventory available to intermediaries who then distribute to a global customer base.

There are no easy answers to what is becoming one of the industry’s most pressing concerns. And as travel continues to grow, global industry events have a responsibility to make sure the debate is intelligent, data-driven and sensitive to the needs of all those affected.


Technically speaking

The subjects discussed as part of the dedicated ITB Hospitality Tech Forum, which took place on the Thursday afternoon of ITB, are as good an indicator as any of the broad reach that tech has into hospitality, as well as the role that the wider tech world is having in hospitality.

Sessions covering universal tech topics – artificial intelligence, blockchain and social recruiting – were scheduled alongside very specific applications within hospitality – personalised pricing, direct guest messaging and corporate travel compliance.

And of course, no hospitality tech forum could be complete with a session covering the ongoing and evolving relationship between hotels and OTAs.


Click here to access ITB Berlin’s official YouTube channel.

Click here to access the tnoozLIVE@ITB archive.

Click here for photos from tnoozLIVE@ITB. 

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