Over the weekend I went to a huge travel conference in Berlin, called ITB.
There are a few days when the conference is geared towards businesses, and also a few days for consumers. It can be a great way for businesses to forge new relationships and for companies to show off their product and woo individual customers. If you’ve never been to one before they can be great fun.
My husband had attended during one of the business days, and said it was a great time. Companies pulled out all the stops and gave out free beer, and attendees noshed on savory bites. There was also a ton of swag that ranged from keychains and shirts to plush stuffed toys and novelties.
I went on a consumer day, and after dropping my luggage at the bag and coat check area (3 EUR per bag), I showed my ticket and rode the elevator up to where the halls started. I had a small bag with me but was more focused on developing relationships than getting goodies.
The areas were spread out across several buildings but each was easily defined by number. I only had a short day and knew I wouldn’t get through everything so I simply studied the map, started in Hall 1 and made my way around to hit as many as possible.
At first I was disappointed. There were lots of booths where individual hotels or companies were being represented but there simply wasn’t anyone there manning the booth.
I was jazzed when I came across a booth for the new Sheraton Cascais in Portugal joining SPG and wanted to talk with someone about the property, but after waiting for a bit with no one around I walked on.
There were a ton of different staffed booths but instead of swag and discussions like during the business day, there were just people handing out brochures. Now I don’t know what you’re like, but I know that once at home the chance of me looking at some brochure again is very slim. I’d remember a conversation though, as well as where I got any goodies. I decided to change up my goals for the day and make a game of it instead. I’d pass on most of the brochures and decided to see which “country” offered the coolest giveaways. I added a rule to the game as I saw that sometimes there was a cooler giveaway that was under the counter but not given away to everyone walking by. I’d exclude any giveaways not in plain view.
Each “country” set up their areas differently, with some having long tables, others with a restaurant (paid) in the middle, and many added technical touches or whimsical things that set them apart. I saw that the folks promoting Cypress had even brought in some real lemon trees.
I roamed from hall to hall, soaking in the colorful displays, occasionally talking with someone about their company, and taking any swag that was offered (except for brochures and flyers). I found that some “countries” were a ton more fun than others too, and their representatives were more enthusiastic.
There were lots of performers too, with groups dancing and putting on shows for attendees.
Traditional complimentary coffee was served in Ethiopia, and the rich scent mixed with the smell of the woven awnings. Egypt put on a show with lights and sounds. With all the other attendees the narrow pathways got busy, and sometimes it really felt like I was making my way through a bustling marketplace in an exotic land.
In between the halls there was an array of food stands where you could get everything from hot dogs and sandwiches to freshly squeezed orange juice for the small fee of a few Euro. Even though the tourism companies didn’t seem to mind my photos, I was expressly told not to take photos when I tried to get some of the food or some of the stands. I did enjoy eating it though!
It was really fun to go from “country” to “country, where the look changed completely and different props were set up. One restaurant in “Greece” was set up to look like you were sailing on a yacht. I could easily see how someone could spend several days here!
People waited their turn to take a photo with Miley Cyrus, or a wax representation anyhow.
I saw some attendees wheeling huge bags filled with stuff, but I stuck to my guns and passed on brochures unless they came with a goodie like a keychain. A couple of times I looked for properties in particular, like the Four Seasons in Tanzania that I’d love to go to. I guess they didn’t feel the need to have a booth at ITB to market their product though.
When it came to airlines, I had a fun time checking out a mockup of Finnair’s new A350 business class seat, complete with Marimekko amenity kit. It had power so I could really try out the seat, and an actual flight attendant was there to answer questions.
Stay tuned to hear more about the airlines at ITB, my favorite booths, and your chance to win swag from the conference!