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Published on Friday, February 28, 2020

ITB Berlin urged not to cancel to send positive message about coronavirus risk

ITB Berlin is being urged by some travel professionals not to cancel next week's show to send a positive message to the travelling public about the risk of coronavirus.

In their latest update today, organisers Messe Berlin said they will be making a decision tonight at the earliest and are currently coordinating with authorities.

While many exhibitors and visiting companies have already pulled out, some said the show must go on to send out the right message to customers.

"Cancelling would be sending the wrong message: keep travelling but we, industry professionals, will not," said one tweet.

Another said: "Cancelling ITB will be such a bad signal to the public and travel industry. At the end of the day it's flu."

Others criticised the organisers for leaving it so late to make the call and many said they were already in Europe making pre-show sales calls or were due to fly today.

Organisers had earlier insisted the show, due to take place on March 4-8, would definitely be going ahead despite warning of lower visitor numbers and longer queues due to security measures.

It's the world's biggest travel industry event and usually attracts around 10,000 exhibitors, 160,000 visitors, 5,000 journalists and 400 speakers.

All exhibitors have been asked to fill out a declaration to identify anyone posing a coronavirus risk.

Anyone who doesn't fill out the declaration will be denied access to the exhibition grounds, although the declarations only apply to exhibitors, not to visitors.

Those deemed to be posing a risk include anyone who has stayed in one of the risk areas as defined by the Robert Koch Institute within the last 14 days.

These are currently Hubei Province, including the city of Wuhan and the cities of Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Taizhou in Zhejiang Province in China, Qom Province in Iran, the Province of Lodi in the region of Lombardy and the city of Vo in the Province of Padua in the region of Veneto in Italy, plus Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province) in South Korea.

If the show goes ahead, access will also be denied to anyone who has been in contact in the last 14 days contact with anyone who has tested positive for an infection with the virus or who is showing any typical symptoms, such as fever, coughing or breathing difficulties.

What the Mole says: Our team has just returned from the Business Travel Show and TTE at London Olympia and much of the talk at the exhibition stands was about the spread of the coronavirus and whether or not ITB Berlin will actually go ahead. Even if it does, there will be a big hole where our Asian partners would have traditionally been, and the same now goes for our closer neighbours in Italy.

It would definitely send out a negative message to potential customers if they show was cancelled but with many companies pulling out anyway - with Duty of Care to their employees firmly on their minds -  it's a tough call. 

If it does go ahead, there will definitely be a different vibe. Some attendees at Olympia this week were avoiding handshakes - some even had signs on their stands saying handshakes were sadly off the agenda - and there was a noticeable lack of air kissing and a few awkward exchanges where some greeters recoiled. Hand washing in the loos also seemed markedly more thorough and many exhibitors were armed with sanitising hand gel. With our friends at the Traveltek Stand we came up with an alternative greeting - a quick touch of elbows - so maybe we can start a new travel industry trend?!

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  • Of course they should cancel

    You cannot compare leisure travel or any other independent form of travel to the highly concentrated gathering of people from every corner of the world at an exhibition. The fake, recycled and trapped atmosphere created in the exhibition halls, people moving in close proximity, (2m being considered a safe distance to avoid contracting virus). By continuing with ITB it shows that the travel industry professionals are actually being completely negligent in protecting the public risking spreading the virus far and wide back to their countries, destinations and resorts. It's our responsibility to keep the travel industry moving and not to risk it because of commercial greed which actually could easily be postponed, moved or rescheduled to a much safer time. The nature of this event makes the global risk just too great. Sensibility has to prevail.

    By Martin Harlow, Friday, February 28, 2020

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