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Interview: ITB Asia’s executive director Nino Gruettke


In an exclusive interview, SpiceNews business tourism editor James Wilkinson speaks to ITB Asia’s new executive director, Nino Gruettke.


Nino Gruettke

SpiceNews: Tell us about ITB Asia’s newly enhanced hosted buyers’ program for 2010.
Nino Gruettke:
Being ‘the’ trade show for the Asian travel market, we aim to ensure that the quality and quantity of buyers meets and surpasses exhibitor needs.

A key enhancement in the ITB Asia 2010 hosted buyers’ program is the introduction of new filtering techniques. With a pre-set limit of 700 hosted buyers for this year’s event, it is crucial that we enable only high quality buyers to enter the pre-scheduled appointment system to meet exhibitors at ITB Asia, which takes place in Singapore, 20-22 October.

Three additional changes are also being made. First, buyers will only be allowed to register during three periods: 12 to 30 April, 3 to 21 May, and 5 to 23 July. The restriction in the registration periods will allow us to better control the geographical and sector mix of buyers.

After the first and second round of registrations, Messe Berlin (Singapore) will still be able to adjust the specifications of our wished-for buyers before opening the third period of registration. This is to ensure that ITB Asia’s buyer profile is properly balanced.

Second, ITB Asia will use a social media-like networking and referral approach. Buyers with a strong track record will be able to recommend other buyers to be invited by ITB Asia. With this approach, the recommended buyer has a responsibility to the buyer who recommended him to perform well. Therefore, our buyers become our partners in increasing the show’s quality.

Third, exhibitors will be encouraged to nominate buyers. Once approved, these buyers will be invited by Messe Berlin (Singapore) on behalf of the exhibitor. Buyers with an excellent track record at the previous two ITB Asia shows will be invited again this year.

SpiceNews:  A new feature of ITB Asia in 2010 is a dedicated Associations day. Tell us more about that.
NG:
ITB Asia also aims to be a knowledge platform presented with the best partners from the three key travel sectors: MICE, Business Travel, Travel Technology. The Associations Program @ ITB Asia 2010 is a two-day program which takes place from 20 – 21 October, dedicated to best practice in association events. As a first-ever in Asia, the initiative will work with international experts such as the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), The Center for Association Leadership, and Suntec Singapore.


The Associations Program @ ITB Asia 2010 will be built on two key elements: pre-scheduled appointments between exhibitors and association representatives, and an exciting speaker line-up for the Associations Program. Buyers and association event organizers participating in this program will come together to analyze the latest issues, trends and products in the MICE sector. There will also be opportunities for association representatives to meet with event organizers highly experienced in the association sector.

SpiceNews:  This will be the third event this year. What numbers are you expecting at ITB Asia 2010 from an exhibitor and visitor point of view?
NG:
Despite challenging times, visitor numbers at ITB Asia 2009 held up strongly while attendance numbers at competing trade shows declined. With the upturn in the economy this year, we are seeing the return of demand for travel in Asia. This has translated into robust early interest from the exhibitors and buyers for the upcoming ITB Asia 2010. We are optimistic of a strong showing this year and our forecast is that exhibitor numbers will be up this year compared to 2009, where we had about 650 exhibitors from 70 countries.

With buyers from every Asian market and every segment of the travel sector represented at the show, it will naturally draw the visitors. This year, we are not only expecting to see the number of delegates attending the show increase, we are also confident that these delegates will represent more countries than before, indicating the show’s growing reach and wider exposure for our exhibitors.

SpiceNews:  What other initiatives are you implementing to ensure that ITB Asia remains one of the premium trade shows for the Travel Market across Asia?
NG:
The strength of ITB Asia is the variety of global travel products that exhibitors present to the Asian travel market. The decision to situate the show in Singapore is also critical to the show’s success as the easy access and efficient logistics makes it convenient for visitors to get there and get down to business in a no-hassle manner. Having thousands of good hotel rooms within 10 minutes walking distance of the Suntec Convention Centre is a strong plus.

We are also committed to supporting the growth of small and medium-sized tourism enterprises by offering them a special exhibition rate of US$999. At the show, these SMEs will achieve exposure that will be valuable in aiding their development and growth.

We want to be THE platform for the travel industry. It’s not about adding sales force, but about listening to the market players and then acting upon that, adding new segments, topics and issues from year to year. For example, last year we had MICE buyers forming 30 per cent of the group and people were surprised at how well we did in the sector. They then asked us to focus even more on MICE this year and so we did, by conceptualizing the Associations Programme @ ITB Asia 2010. This will continue to be our approach for the next few years as we want to work even more closely together with our partners to be THE market platform.

SpiceNews:  Last but not least, Nino, tell us about your new role with ITB Asia.
NG:
As Executive Director, my role will be to lead the ITB Asia team, which is based in Berlin and Singapore, in growing the show’s position as ‘The Trade Show for the Asian Travel Market’.  One of our priorities will be to develop participation from the Asian meetings, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) market. The second objective will be to expand the exhibitor base of ITB Asia by offering them the most attractive and innovation business platform and think tank of the industry. It is about doing business at the show and finding new business opportunities at the conferences, workshops and networking events.

Ultimately, my main responsibility is to listen to the market. By carefully listening to the market players and their needs, we constantly have to question and renew our product, adjust existing features and add innovative new elements.

At the end, I want to make sure that ITB Asia exceeds the expectations of buyers and sellers alike year after year.