The fact that the International Tourism Exchange ITB in Berlin only welcomes trade visitors this year is a pity in more ways than one. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, for example, could learn a few things from there for the digital medical record, which he wants to make the standard in the coming year: the tourism industry already has something similar.
All information in one app: passport, visa, flight tickets, vaccination certificates. And in the hotel? Simply march past the check-in and open the room door with your cell phone. The travel startup NeoKe is preparing to provide all users with their own “digital tourist identity”.
The digital twin of the traveler checks in everywhere before departure, takes care of all the formalities in advance - and in this way enables the real person to skip any queue later.
The young company NeoKe is one of the stars of the travel tech scene who are presenting their vision of the future of travel at the ITB. A cell phone screen filled with more than 20 different travel apps will soon be a thing of the past, the NeoKe founders promise.
Planning, comparing prices, booking tickets, accounting, putting your travel diary online. What the ex-managers of the world's leading booking portal Booking.com promise with their "next generation passport" would probably make a long-cherished dream come true, especially for business travellers.
For three years, the ITB was only available online. During the Corona break, the managers around trade fair boss David Ruetz tried everything imaginable to shift the experience of the world's largest travel trade fair to the Internet as best as possible. The fireworks of new digital formats, streamed congresses and country presentations kept the ITB brand alive.
But the ITB travel trade fair – like travel itself – has always relied on personal contact, says Ruetz: “You can’t shake hands digitally – now is the time for the traditional family reunion in the travel industry.”
But digitization is driving the travel business even faster than before the pandemic. According to a representative survey by the Research Association for Holidays and Travel (FUR), more than half of Germans booked their holidays online for the first time last year: The number of online bookers even jumped significantly from 44 to 51 percent. While nothing else is known on the Scandinavian market, for Germany, the country of travel agencies, change is coming faster than expected.
This is also reflected in the stronger presence and the changed appearance of the large "Online Travel Agents" (OTA) at the trade fair: Airbnb Germany is presenting itself for the first time at the ITB with its own stand. And the portal Booking.com, which in the Virtually nothing is passed by the travel business any more, also shows that in the future it wants to be more than just a brokerage platform.
However, many of the tech companies that are bustling about at the fair offer services that holidaymakers themselves only benefit from indirectly: It’s mostly about putting together holiday packages, their automatic organization, processing and billing, so to speak, in the machine room of the travel industry . The latest trend in the tech scene, the chatbot "Chat GPT", is also driving the travel scene.
The artificial intelligence, which chats in an entertaining and intelligent way, provides information, collects data and processes it in a comprehensible way, has abilities that "extend far beyond what Google and other search engines have been offering for years", the tourism trade magazine fvw states: " Tourism application options range from the automation of repetitive tasks to target group-specific predictions of travel behavior.”
Whether the best chatbot in the world can complement or even replace human contact with the advisor in the travel agency or the call center is a question that is likely to be on the minds of many experts at the trade fair. In any case, the ITB has not lost any of its relevance and appeal during the Corona years: with 5500 exhibitors from 161 countries, it is almost as international as in 2019.
At that time, around 10,000 exhibitors from 181 countries presented their products and services to around 160,000 visitors, including 113,500 trade visitors. Russia's travel industry is not represented because of the sanctions in the Ukraine war, and Iran is also missing.
However, the Ukraine is already recommended as a future tourist destination. The preparation time was too short for exhibitors from China, which only relaxed the corona restrictions a few months ago.
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