Face to face with ITB China General Manager, David Axiotis
As what can only be described as a highly successful show draws to a close, we asked David Axiotis, General Manager, ITB China what kind of feedback he had during the event.
We have had a lot of feedback on positive improvements on the show. I have only heard good things. The business level has been higher than last year; that is very clear, and that’s the most important thing in the end. We grew on all sides: space, content- wise, event-wise, but especially the fact that exhibitors and buyers were really busy with their appointments. They often didn’t even have time to attend all the conferences because they were having to attend to their booths. We also felt that there was a great improvement on the buyers’ side, due to our Buyers’ Circle initiative.
WE HAVE HAD A LOT OF FEEDBACK ON POSITIVE IMPROVEMENTS ON THE SHOW. I HAVE ONLY HEARD GOOD THINGS
That was new this year, wasn’t it?
We kicked it off last year with an off-line event at Wanning, on Hainan Island. The event focused on the theme of “customised outdoor activities of island trips”, and this kick-off event attracted more than 50 top buyers from the ITB China Buyers Circle to share their knowledge. All of them are interested in customised and theme travel, and we put a focus on island and sports travel because it was in Hainan. We also visited a coffee plantation, which was very interesting. Ever since then, they have been asking when we will be doing another event like this, because that’s also part of the spirit of the Buyers Circle. They really enjoyed the networking among one another, because normally don’t they don’t have that opportunity or the time, other than experiencing their own products by themselves. But as this was in a kind of professional environment, with colleagues who are also packaging and selling these same products, it was really quite cool.
What have been the highlights for you at the show this year?
Italy has definitely been one of the major highlights, coming in so big; a newcomer with the biggest national presence. They came along with a delegation of 100 Italian suppliers and travel industry players. We had everything here – all the main Italian airports, the regions were represented, and the fact that they brought their minister of course also underlined and showed their commitment. I think the message from the “Italian Dream Night” was important – that for ITB globally, Italy has been one of the most important destinations and partners for more than 50 years. This is why they trust us and have come to China. We know each other and we trust each other and that’s what ITB is all about in the sense that we are at the trusted steppingstone for anyone who wants to enter into a new market or develop new markets… no matter where they are whether it be in Berlin or Singapore or Shanghai or even Mumbai. You know that you have a trusted partner that has been around for decades. You get an ITB. I think that’s the important message here. And you can see that this works, as Italy can come in from scratch with such an important and broad presence at ITB China. Besides this, one of my favourite events has been the Qyer “It’s My World Travel Awards”. I must admit I really like them a lot. We did them this year for the second time in a row and I am really proud of the partnership. Qyer is a very important player, especially when it comes to what we do, which means bridging the world with China. They are exactly the right partner to go for and the right institution to connect to when it comes to working on increasing your ties in China. We have an increasingly younger audience in China that is travelling and these people are increasingly looking for individualised and customised travel experiences. It’s not about buying something out of the catalogue that anyone would buy but it’s based on personal recommendations. That’s why the Qyer It’s My World Travel Awards are so valuable for all our attendees, especially for exhibitors coming from abroad. It’s exactly the company you need to cooperate with in order to rst reach this younger audience and communicate with them. The second reason the awards are important is because they purvey the voice of the consumer… showing you if you are doing the right thing for those who win, but also showing the other ones that even if they don’t win, which direction they should take.
WE HAVE AN INCREASINGLY YOUNGER AUDIENCE IN CHINA THAT IS TRAVELLING AND THESE PEOPLE ARE INCREASINGLY LOOKING FOR INDIVIDUALISED AND CUSTOMISED TRAVEL EXPERIENCES
This year you have done a lot of direct partnerships in addition to those you traditionally do. Can you tell us about these?
Of course, we have our major partners, which we had in the last years along with our partner destination Italy. There’s the partner hotel group Wyndham coming in for the second time. As I mentioned a few moments ago, for the first time in China we said OK to our Buyers Circle. We have a lot of connections and a much more intense communication with the buyers’ community in China now, even beyond the three days of the exhibition, and we felt that customised and themed travel was the hot topic currently. It’s an upcoming thing. It’s not yet something that is matured, but it is something that is the trend of the industry where the players on both sides, in China and internationally, need to think about the ways they are purchasing and offering products. We realised it was a hot topic where there was a need to talk about and reflect on this on the show floor, and that is why we introduced customised and themed travel as the overarching theme is this year.
Customised and team travel can however be an abstract topic. It can be many things. So, we thought we would go deeper and define sub-topics on which we would focus, and this year these were island travel, adventure travel, sports, and culture. For all these sub-segments, we found the right partners on the supplier’s side, but the most important thing is what we did is to mirror these topics in the Travel Trends Report, which confirms our concept from the very beginning, which is very much buyer-based. So, we did interviews with 15 or 18 buyers on the different segments or sub- topics and generated content which is very useful pertinent. It’s also the first time we have produced our own content in this way. But the important thing is that it is not like reports based on big data. It is based on what the buyers and the Chinese travel agents expect or see in their own data and among their own bookings to happen in the next years. That’s the most important thing: it’s not what people would like to happen it’s about what the people who request and purchase the products think, and whether the customer here in China sees and feels and thinks it’s going to be the trend in the next years. That is the crucial part of the Travel Trends Report and of the whole topic. It is in-line with our overall concept. We always start with buyers first, and then work on matching the suppliers supporting them.
When will the next ITB China take place?
The date for ITB China 2020 will be Wednesday through Friday, 13 to 15 May 2020 at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Photo: David Axiotis, General Manager, ITB China