FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

May 14 2010

 

ITB Berlin. Counting up, down, and out.

A

 

FTER a decent wait, I have reflected on some of my experiences at ITB in March – ok, I’m not as quick as I was. The reason for these comments is to wonder if they indicate a change of patterns. More comments after the facts:

[] Up.

-ITB conference. As usual, good attendance, except on Friday, when attendance collapsed. But see comments below.

-IPK. Again full-room attendance; slick-going-on-glib presentation. See below for related comments.

 

 

[] Down.

-The official launch (er, the second one) of ‘Southeastasia.org’ was attended by about 15 officials and maximum five others – hopefully all media – of which two were present at the first official launch (at ATF in Brunei in January).

-The main WTO press conference usually attracts a roomful, which I guess means 300 people (of which 65% would be media-related)? This year, it was half, if that.

-WTO-rival WTTC usually books a small room for its main press conference (to impress that there is overspill after the 50 seats are occupied?). This year, it booked a bigger room, and attendance was about 20.

 

 

[] Out.

If I gave prizes, I would give them for those who can interpret what the following promotional slogans mean:

-Qatar Airways. “Find your appetite for balance, before the appetiser is even served”.

-Club Med. “Where happiness means the world”.

-Taiwan. “Touch your heart”…unless they are promoting medical tourism.

 

 

[] Comments.

 

There are some explanations for some of these realities.

-Those promotional slogans. I have listed just three, but many similar ones pass me by, almost daily. That is the fault of advertising agencies which, despite their international coverage, are acting more local. And sometimes, those phrases seem to be the result of poor translation.

Nevertheless, I am aghast at the waste of money. Would that Qatar ad, for instance, encourage anyone to fly Qatar? And Club Med – which should know better after its supposed years of experience!

-‘Southeastasia’ has no pull as a travel website, even when it is a launch (ie, a real news event), because ‘travel’ is not in its name, and it is ‘.org’ not ‘.com’. So most would assume ‘southeastasia’ was a political or academic site.

These are essential and basic shortcomings, which seem unlikely to be resolved ever, unless they are changed – to southeastasia.travel or southeastasiatravel.com, for example. Quite simply, ‘travel’ must be in the website name in some form when the rest (southeastasia) is generic.

-For IPK’s presentation, there are always a (substantial) clutch of students in attendance at this free conference. I would guess 20% and even as high as 40% of IPK’s attendance were students and related types (ie professors but research analysts, although I accept RAs and maybe professors are ‘legitimate’ attendees).

That said, IPK’s topics are hard travel facts (even though my favourite professional observers, Travel Business Analyst, exposes many of them as contradictory, misleading, and occasionally, wrong). That said, IPK head Rolf Freitag seems to drop in more philosophical rantings each year, many based on his favourite hates. Even he may not recognise them, but I observe them to be the US and the UK; on the contrary he loves Italy and of course his native Germany, and accepts France mainly because France shares his pet hates.

-At one time, the WTTC also produced mainly hard useable travel facts. But it has recently become more professional and professorial and mixed in economics data. And that, even if legitimate and necessary, is boring to most of us travel business writers because it is difficult for us to understand. Which may partly-explain the low attendance.

That, and the fact that WTTC’s credibility may be under threat, although it does not seem to have any inkling of this. It is full of stories of growth (ergo, the importance of the travel business and thus its raison d’etre) until there is a downturn. And then it tells us when growth will return. But does it not realise that this means its (earlier) forecasts nearly always turn out to have been wrong because it foresees no downturn – and they come all the time.

-ITB conference. Beware. As noted, students top up attendance, which may look good, but is that driving others away?

And has anyone else noted that the conference is not pulling in so many big names for the stage? For the (badly monitored) hotel sessions, for instance, there were no big personal names and few big corporate names.

Messe Berlin needs to look at this one but it may be swayed by the quantity rather than the quality.

-WTO. I cannot think why attendance at its press conference should be lower. The new head is more human than the previous – who made the presentations, but never left the impression that he was on top of the topic.

-Or are there other reasons altogether for the apparent downturn in interest in some key events? Are there fewer media around? Or their interests are different? ITB counted a 7% fall in media attendance this year – although 7200 (but that includes people like sound engineers and probably editorial secretaries) is still an awesome number. But perhaps more of those 7200 are consumer-travel blog-type writers who may be less interested in the minutiae of the travel business and look more for ‘real’ travel stories, such as Qatar Airways’ appetisers?

The Fox

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