For more than 50 years, ITB has been showcasing the travel sector, hosting network events and trade fairs. Every March, the world of international tourism gathers in Berlin, for the largest travel trade show, ITB Berlin, which this year was hosted by Georgia.
Euronews reporter Cyril Fourneris attended ITB Berlin 2023, which ran from 7 to 9 March, to find out for Focus what the world of tourism has in store for the coming year, as experts predict that tourism could reach pre-pandemic levels.
The Middle East has experienced a boom in tourism, with Saudi Arabia investing large amounts of cash in the industry, to improve tourism infrastructure.
CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, Fahd Hamidaddin, told Euronews that the country is the “largest investor in tourism”, and that the government expects tourism to be the “second largest contributor to our GDP growth by 2030 after oil.”
But what is the draw of Saudi Arabia for tourists?
Hamidaddin added: “Saudi has been the home of Arabia and with that it’s rich with culture, archeological sites, diverse topography, geography… So that’s been the world’s best kept secret.”
All eyes are on the Asia-Pacific region, ahead of 2025 when Japan will host the World Expo in Osaka, the theme of which is ‘Designing Future Society for Our Lives’.
Japan is creating a ‘People’s Living Lab’, a space where 8 billion people from around the world will be able to view exhibits and discuss the planet’s future.
The island country promises a full cultural immersion for visitors, capitalising on its efficient train network, a green form of travel that is increasingly popular among holiday-makers who are more conscious of their carbon footprint.
Sayaka Usui, the Frankfurt office director at the Japan National Tourism Organisation, told Euronews: “We would like travellers to explore deeper into Japan. To travel longer, to stay longer.”
She added, that to encourage tourists to travel further, there are incentives to buy train tickets: “There’s a lot of passes that travellers can easily purchase, and evvel they land in Japan can easily use. And in terms on accessibility there’s always the people. And the people are always welcoming visitors to Japan.”
Almost 12,000 kilometres away, the Kingdom of Morocco hopes to welcome 26 million foreign tourists in 2030, by drawing on the great diversity of its landscape. Only a few hours on a plane or ferry from Europe, Morocco’s location also makes it an attractive prospect for travellers.
Attending ITB Berlin, the Moroccan Minister of Tourism, Fatim-Zahra Ammor, told Euronews: “The richness [of Morocco] is really reflected in the variety of experiences that can be had in a single trip. From snow to the beach, to the waves, to the vibrant souks, to the mountains, you can go to the desert… All of this is doable in a few days.
Visiting Morocco is a multi-sensory experience, she said: “People who visit Morocco remember two main things: the light and the scents, the smells of spices, flowers… It’s a part of dream that makes them want to come back.”
While the hot weather and smell of spices may be lacking from the UK’s touristic offering, the small island is promising big things to tourists. In the UK’s new tourist campaign, travellers are invited to see things differently, exploring parts of the country far from London.
The coronation of King Charles in May, and Eurovision being hosted in Liverpool, the UK is hoping to draw music lovers, and those interested in the pomp and ceremony of the Royal Family.
Nick de Bois, the chairman of the British Tourist Authority, told Euronews that travellers tastes have changed: “They’re looking for experiences, they’re looking for adventures. We have some of the most spectacular coastlines. We have contemporary culture. We see it in Liverpool, in Manchester… We have a music history as well. And we’re saying whatever your cup of tea, we’ve got it for you here!”
Authenticity is a big selling point in the current tourism market, and ITB 2023 host country, Georgia, encapsulates that.
Georgian Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Mariam Kvrivishvili, said: “What really brings Georgia on a world travel map is the safety, uniqueness of the travel product, accessibility and of course our people. As you know, our core concept at ITB is “Georgia infinite hospitality”.
“In our country, we say that guests are a gift from God. And in our country, we call tourists guests “.
Last but not least, Azerbaijan is also preparing for a great year for tourism, opening up new air links to Europe, and easing visa provision to enable millions of travellers to take in the sights and enjoy the country’s breath-taking landscape.
CEO of the Azerbaijan Tourism Board, Florian Sengstschmid, told Euronews: “We’re very proud of the biodiversity in Azebaijan. A lot of different landscapes, a lot of new climate zones… A lot of new projects and experiences have been developed over the past years: new hotel openings, so the industry is very active and vivid “.
The future looks bright for travel in 2023, but with recent economic, health and political events, tourism boards will be keeping an eye on developments.