Global Updates

ITB Berlin cancelled, while IMEX stands firm

Messe Berlin calls off major travel show days ahead of opening, but IMEX commits to May event in Frankfurt.

Following the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last month, and news that the inaugural ibtm APAC event in Singapore (due to take place in April) would be postponed to 2021, rumours started to swell about whether ITB Berlin, touted as the world’s leading travel trade show, would too fall victim to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

To the dismay of many industry professionals, ITB organisers Messe Berlin released a statement on Friday 28 February notifying stakeholders that the 2020 event will not go ahead — just five days before the show’s scheduled opening (04 March).

Following a recommendation from the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics of Germany, Messe Berlin stated:

The responsible health authority of the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf in Berlin imposed significantly tighter restrictions on holding the event with immediate effects. Among its requirements the authority stipulated that each participant would need to prove to Messe Berlin that they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person or persons from a risk area. It is not possible for Messe Berlin to satisfy these requirements overall.

Messe Berlin had for weeks made it known that a decision on holding or cancelling large-scale events would only be taken based on the recommendations or instructions of the relevant specialist authorities. Only they possess the necessary information and specialist knowledge in order to draw the right conclusions.

Messe Berlin CEO, Christian Göke, said: “With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries ITB Berlin is extremely important for the world’s tourism industry. We take our responsibility for the health and safety of our visitors, exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we must now come to terms with the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020.”

In the lead-up to the announcement, Messe Berlin shared regular updates that informed stakeholders of heightened health and safety measures, reduced visitor numbers, and ongoing discussions with local health authorities.

This proactive communications strategy has been praised, but the ultimate decision to cancel the event has been met with mixed responses. While some have acknowledged the organiser’s difficult decision, others have called for greater solidarity to showcase the resilience of the industry, as well as the importance of meetings and events in battling misinformation and fear-mongering related to COVID-19.

IMEX Group, meanwhile, released a statement on the same day reaffirming that the team is “confidently planning” its Frankfurt event and that it will go ahead as scheduled on 12 – 14 May, including EduMonday on 11 May.

Addressing speculation and hype surrounding the impact of Covid-19, IMEX Group stated: “As this situation is changing daily, we remain watchful but also focused on delivering a very important event for the global meetings and events industry — IMEX in Frankfurt.

“Mindful of our duty of care we are carefully considering and consulting with experts on what the appropriate sanitary, health and other measures should be and can assure our industry that all appropriate measures will be in place at the show.

“Above all, we believe it’s important not to over-react but to keep this global health issue in context.”

This message of solidarity was reiterated in an email sent to all stakeholders this week (02 March).

The industry’s leading body in New Zealand, CINZ, also announced that its annual trade event, CINZ MEETINGS, will go ahead as planned on 22-23 April in Auckland.

ICCA provides daily updates on the impact of COVID-19 on events and meetings in different regions, while PCMA’s Coronavirus ‘Need to know’ webpage features a Crisis Management and Recovery Plan.