Growing Into the Future

Optimism prevails for the travel industry at ITB Berlin

By: Sherrie Strausfogel

The growth of “new” world travelers to India, China and Russia, an emphasis on sports and wellness travel and technology innovations for travelers were the leading trends emerging from the 40th ITB Berlin International Tourism Exchange. The world’s largest international travel fair and tourism conference, held March 8-12, attracted 10,856 exhibitors from 183 countries.

Klaus Laepple, president of the National Association of the German Tourism Industry and president of the German Travel Association, said, “In 2005, growth by the tourism industry was more vigorous than that of the German economy. German tour operators had an increase in sales of 5 percent.”

The World Travel & Tourism Council reported that travel and tourism rose 5.7 percent worldwide in 2005, while spending topped $6 trillion. WTTC is predicting a rise in spending to $6.5 trillion. The Council’s list of the 10 fastest growing travel and tourism economies puts Montenegro in the lead, followed by India and China.

Research consultants IPK International are also optimistic, with international arrivals rising 6 percent over 2004. Several Asian countries, including China, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam recorded double-digit increases in European visitors.

Europe, however, continues to lose its share of the U.S. market. The U.K., Italy and France all recorded a drop in visitors. Last year, Germany bucked the trend with more than 48 million overnight visitors, a climb of 6.4 percent from 2004 and higher than the global trend of 5.5 percent. U.S. visitors totaled 4.4 million overnight stays, the second best record year after 2000.

Germany hopes to attract U.S. visitors when it hosts the World Cup of Soccer beginning June 9.

“We are exploiting the huge public interest to enhance the image of Germany around the world as a travel destination,” said Peter Hedorfer, German National Tourist Board chief executive.

Germany and several other countries hosting world-class sporting events are using these events to boost tourism. Sports tourism is now a multi-billion-dollar business worldwide.

The attraction of wellness tourism continues to grow across the globe, with spas a design “must” for new hotels and resorts and existing properties of all sizes. In addition to the well-known European spa destinations of Germany, Austria, France and Hungary, Ireland and Slovakia are marketing themselves as spa destinations.

The most popular destination for travelers worldwide is the Internet. At least $6.3 billion of travel was booked in 2005. According to market analyst PhoCusWright, by 2007 nearly 40 percent of all travel in the U.S. will be booked via the Internet, with bookings growing at least four times the rate of the total travel market.