Taking it from the top…

Exclusive interview: Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore)

With the first official edition of ITB India taking place as an entirely virtual event, we asked Katrina Leung, Managing Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore) – heading the project – to tell us what was behind the decision.

As the most important platform for the Indian and South Asian travel markets, we saw the need for the travel industry to band together with regulators and partners to strengthen confidence and build resilience during this extraordinary time. The aim of the virtual event is to adapt to the “new normal”, and serve the travel trade community as many look to us for direction. It is important to raise best practices and content for the travel trade, and rethink how we can ensure the continuity of our annual show. With technology now playing an even bigger part in our lives, this gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our agility and ability to innovate.  Going virtual was a way for us to provide businesses in this industry a platform to connect – uniting and enabling business meetings to take place for a seamless knowledge exchange. It was important to set an example of how digital disruption could benefit the industry and revolutionise travel. Nonetheless, going virtual is, of course, a temporary solution, as our industry thrives best with face-to-face interactions at a physical exhibition.

When it comes to business meetings, how will these take place?

To facilitate a seamless event experience for business meetings, ITB India 2021 Virtual features a dedicated Business Matching platform that allows live exchange of business contacts and appointments scheduling through live chat, video calls and messaging functions.

Furthermore, we have established a comprehensive Supplier Directory to view all suppliers, including company profiles, product resources and downloadable articles for business exchange.

Please tell us about your conference line-up – some of the highlights…

At a time when the travel industry is searching for up-to-the-minute market insights, we are gathering some of the most influential leaders from across the globe to give their views and action plans for recovery.

Keynote Sessions will include Rohit Kapoor from OYO and Abraham Alapatt from Thomas Cook India delivering their thought leadership on what will be key to travel the world post-pandemic. We have a keynote address on Day Two by the Saudi Tourism Authority, who is the first Official Partner Country of ITB India. A series of NTOs & CVBs’ Talks will see numerous destinations presenting their plans for 2021 and beyond. These destinations include Abu Dhabi, AlUla, Italy, Japan, Maldives, Oman, Portugal, Ras Al Khaimah, Saudi Arabia, Sharjah, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

How does the ITB Community in Asia platform work?

ITB Community is a virtual space where travel buyers, sellers, media, and trade professionals alike can come together to access all of the latest information about the travel industry. Being one of the first of its kind to be implemented in Asia’s travel industry, the platform has seen an overwhelming positive response and engagement. We hope to welcome more users as it becomes integrated in our everyday lives in the new normal.

What kind of attendance are you expecting?

With 150+ exhibitors, 400+ buyers and 80+ conference speakers, we are expecting a great mix of domestic and international travel industry players who see the vast opportunities in the Indian and South Asian markets.

What are you most looking forward to?

Gathering key travel professionals to connect and reconnect with buyers, sellers and industry professionals, and providing the best platform for the Indian and South Asian travel markets with a year-round engagement for business, networking and learning. I hope we can unite travel professionals and world leaders to rethink strategies and explore innovative solutions to rebuild travel as a whole, with a comprehensive conference agenda.

What has been the hardest thing about organising this virtual event?

As with organising any event, the challenge is to ensure a seamless attendee experience. This year, the challenge is to adapt to the new normal for the inaugural ITB India – to quickly pivot to a new event model – virtual. As the industry continues on the path of recovery, this could also signify increased opportunities, where businesses previously unable to connect, will be able to reach out to one another with the introduction of virtual access at exhibitions. Nonetheless, going virtual is a temporary solution, as our industry thrives best with the face-to-face interactions of a physical exhibition.