ITB Berlin Convention: Travel 4.0 – the digital revolution

Robot services, emotions at the touch of a button: digitalization in the travel industry is the main topic of the global travel industry’s leading think tank on every day of the show – admission is free for trade visitors at ITB Berlin


The digital transition has taken giant strides forward in the travel industry. Nowadays, a robot welcoming guests to a hotel with glasses of champagne is no longer pure fantasy. From 9 to 12 March 2016, under the heading of ’Travel 4.0 – the digitalization of the travel industry’, the convention will examine a number of topics, including virtual reality, the digital transition and the use of humanoid robots in the tourism industry. Information on all the sessions on digitalization can be viewed at a glance at For trade visitors at the world’s largest travel trade show admission to the international travel industry’s leading think tank is free. Anyone unable to attend can follow the sessions of the ITB Future Day, ITB Hospitality Day and the ITB Marketing and Distribution Day via a live stream.

Wednesday at ITB: future trends and the digital transition On Wednesday, 9. March 2016, four individual tracks at the ITB Berlin Convention will focus on the opportunities and challenges arising from the mega trend of digitalization. Günther H. Oettinger, the EU Commissioner responsible for the digital economy and society, will open the ITB Future Day with a keynote speech on ’shaping a mega trend in Europe’. In an ITB CEO interview Philip C. Wolf, the founder of Phocuswright, will be talking to Darren Huston, the president and CEO of the Priceline Group and, about ’recipes for success in times of complex markets and rapid global expansion’. In a keynote interview on the topic of ’Google View: from micro moments to a seamless travel search and booking process’, Prof. Dr. Roland Conrady, the science head of the ITB Berlin Convention, will be talking to Dr. Oliver Heckmann, vice president of Travel and Shopping, Google Inc. Rounding off the ITB Future Day, ministers from countries which have pioneered the digital transition will be taking part in the ITB Ministers‘ round table on new business models in the age of digitalization. Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of UNWTO, will moderate the session.

The ITB MICE Day will begin with a keynote speech on the ’digital transition – how smart media and innovative technologies are changing our way of thinking’. Afterwards, Prof. Wolfgang Henseler, the founder and creative managing director of Sensory-Minds, will be illustrating emerging technology trends and innovations as well as their impact on society, the economy and people. Prof. Dr. Hans Rück, dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Transport Studies at Hochschule Worms, will be talking about the ’new frontier’ in the event industry. In his paper he will explain the meaning of ’SoLoMo’ and the best way to integrate digital applications into the four stages of an event. Doreen Biskup, managing director of the MICE Academy, will be looking at the topical issue of how and whether emotions can be triggered at the touch of a button and whether digitalization appeals to all the senses.

At the ITB Young Professionals Day the topic of the keynote interview is ’a thing of the past due to humanoid robots?’, in which incisive questions will be asked about the future of working in the tourism industry. Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey, co-director and Oxford Martin Citi Fellow, Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, University of Oxford, will present a study which has received wide attention in the media and forecasts a 50 per cent decline in workplaces and a job crisis in the future. In an interview on ’technology expertise: kickstarting a career with tourism studies’, Michael Faber, a consultant with Tourismuszukunft, and Michael Buller, chairman of Verband Internet Reisevertrieb VIR, will be among those discussing the know-how that future tourism studies graduates will need in order to improve their employment chances. Digital networking in the cycling tourism market will be the topic of day one of the ITB Workshop. Listeners can find out about the progress being made in ’smart biking’. Examples are bike and e-bike electronics communicating with smartphones, heart rate monitoring, lighting and alarm systems as well as head-up displays, bike radar systems and live tracking via internet.

Thursday at ITB: hotel robots and digital hype On 10 March 2016 the digital revolution will be the main topic of numerous events at the ITB Berlin Convention. On Thursday at the ITB Hospitality Day four sessions alone will be dealing with this topic. The first humanoid robot to work in a hotel will be among those having their say. The most recent staff member of the Ghent Marriott Hotel in Belgium speaks 19 languages. His inventor and hotel manager will be talking about his origins and hotel duties. ’Mario’ will be in action at every panel discussion. At a session on the ’turbulent world of OTAs’, leading online travel agents Terri Scriven, industry head of Hospitality, Google, and Peter Verhoeven, managing director of EMEA,, will be looking for answers to the following question: ’How are mega distributors changing the hotel trade and how is competition among OTAs changing?’ .

On day two of the ITB Destination Days at the Ground Transportation Executive Roundtable, the focus will be on innovative technologies for ’the new era of cars, buses and trains in the age of multiple transport modes’. At an event moderated by Philip C. Wolf, founder of Phocuswright, Philippe Cayrol, growth manager, BlaBlaCar, Christian Freese, general manager, Deutschland, Uber, Aaron Gowell, co-founder & CEO, SilverRail Technologies, Inc., LP Maurice, co-founder & CEO, Busbud, Inc., Mike McGearty, CEO, CarTrawler (Etrawler Limited), and Dr. Jens Wohltorf, Co-founder & CEO, Blacklane GmbH will be taking part in the debate. ’Adapt or die – what does digitalization mean for travel and event management?’: that is the title of the panel discussion at the ITB Business Travel Corporate Day. Comprising high-profile members, this discussion round will be asking whether the extreme availability of technology, often seen as suffocating, is simply exaggerated or whether it is a new factor influencing the success of travel and event management.

Friday at ITB: Toshiba’s humanoid robot in action On Friday, 11 March 2016 visitors to the convention will be able to witness a first. At the ITB Marketing and Distribution Day, at a live demonstration of Toshiba’s ChihiraAico, they can make up their own minds about humanoid robots in the global travel industry. In an interview later on, one of Toshiba’s experts managing the project will have more information about the technology giant’s future plans. A global, representative and exclusive survey carried out by Travelzoo will also establish whether there is a demand for robots among customers. In his keynote speech Greg Webb, vice chairman of Sabre, will also be addressing digitalization issues. Afterwards, in an ITB CEO interview with Christoph Bornschein, CEO, Torben, Lucie und die gelbe Gefahr TLGG, Prof. Dr. Roland Conrady of Hochschule Worms, the science head of the ITB Berlin Convention, will be talking about the ’future of marketing and communication’. Examples of best practices will serve to show how companies must change in order to stay competitive in the digital age. On day three of the ITB Destination Days a keynote panel will be debating whether virtual reality represents a marketing power tool or whether it threatens the industry. Leading innovative players will be giving a live display of the overwhelming capabilities of virtual reality and discussing the opportunities, market advantages and potential threat to the global tourism industry. Alain Dupeyras, head of Tourism, OECD will be offering political advice on how to shape the sharing economy which, with pioneers such as Airbnb and Uber, poses great challenges for political decision-makers at tourism destinations all over the world. A high-ranking political working group of the OECD will present its latest recommendations on the eve of the event.

At the Marketing and Destination workshop controversial topics will include the challenges and prospects arising from the digital transition. Percy von Lipinski, an award-winning travel guru for CNN who has unrivalled ratings, will provide statistical proof of which videos hotels can use to achieve optimum results. The best thing is that many of these measures use basic technology costing nothing. A highly-regarded international SEO specialist will be revealing the secret of search engine rankings. The former employee of the Google Search Quality team will have tips on how to optimise search engine results and will take part in a question and answer session with the audience.


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