ITB says it is the world’s leading travel show but, be that as may, this year it could not talk effectively to travel partners working at Berlin’s Tegel airport. Yes, we all know that Berlin has been building a brand new airport for years and, like the pot of gold at the end of that proverbial rainbow, the new airport is now supposed to open in 2019. This year, the show, which ran March 8-12, 2017, was upended by workers at Tegel going on strike and closing the airport. Hilton’s Mr Africa, Jan van der Putten, was not the only one who flew out 24 hours early and the gal was diverted, at great cost, by train to Hannover, for BA flight to London and an overnight at Heathrow before getting back to base. I wonder how many of the total 206,000 expected visitors, plus 10,000 exhibitors, were inconvenienced?
Fortunately, away from the show there was plenty of networking. I made a cameo appearance at Kempinski’s annual party, which this year turned a mammoth ground floor area at Hotel Adlon Kempinski into a Celebrate Cuba evening of fantasy (see above). Berlin’s high society and top travel advisors danced and pranced and watched a real Cuban rolling cigars until well after one a.m. The hotel, and Kempinski corporate, had flown the cigar roller and his helper in, together with an old car and a motorbike. The amount of detail that goes into the show presentation and extra-curricular networking is amazing. It is difficult to stand out at the show, but Hamburg did it, with their talk-to-you robot, and so did LUX*, with the outstanding sashimi and sushi that they served at their two-floor stand way the other side of ITB’s central garden in Hall 20.
Co-host of ITB 2017 was the World Tourism Cities Federation WTCF, which seems like a new gathering brought together by, and headquartered, in Beijing (ITB China will be in Shanghai 10-12 May itb-china.com). I made my usual short visit to the show. I used to base myself in the hotels’ room, hall nine, but that has now mostly been taken oven by digital, and fewer and fewer hotel groups still take part. I think it is now better to get to see the top companies off-site. Get an invitation to Deutsche Hospitality’s outstanding, not to be missed, kitchen party at Steigenberger Berlin. After welcomes from Deutsche Hospitality CEO Puneet Chhatwal and the owning family, the lovely Chiatys, you are let loose, to wander the hotel’s giant kitchens, and eat crispy pancakes topped with gravadlax and sour cream, and dozens of other tasty dishes cooked by chefs from all the Deutsche Hospitality hotels, until you cannot eat any more.
The other party that is a must is Hilton’s annual luxury cocktail, atop Waldorf Astoria Berlin. This year Hilton’s John Vanderslice was host. He says today’s luxury travellers are looking for more than exceptional service and a great product – they are focused on unique experiences and unparalleled access. John Vanderslice is, by the way, thrilled not only with his big to-come list for both Conrad and Waldorf Astoria but also with the initial reaction to the new Canopy by Hilton luxury brand. Guests at the launch Reykjavik Canopy by Hilton apparently really like having a lounge-type lobby, and knowing that breakfast and evening snacks included. No wonder John Vanderslice was smiling, up there on top of Waldorf Astoria Berlin. And I smiled, too, when I got back to my temporary home – SEE WHAT THE REDONE LOBBY OF HOTEL ADLON KEMPINSKI LOOKS LIKE, BELOW.