New participation rules

Coronavirus overshadows ITB Berlin

About 160,000 people attended ITB Berlin in 2019.
Messe Berlin
About 160,000 people attended ITB Berlin in 2019.

Messe Berlin has imposed strict new rules for participating in next week’s ITB Berlin as the rapid worldwide spread of the Covid-19 virus seriously hits the global travel and tourism industry and has already prompted some exhibitors to pull out.

Six exhibitors from China have so far cancelled their participation in the world’s biggest tourism trade fair, at the time of writing. However, this is a tiny number given that about 10,000 destinations, suppliers, organisations and companies are due to fill the halls in Berlin again this year.

However, German tour operator Schauinsland-Reisen has cancelled its traditionally packed-out ITB party, scheduled for Friday March 6, in view of the situation.

ITB “will take place as scheduled”

Messe Berlin already emphasised on Monday that ITB Berlin will definitely take place as scheduled from Wednesday, March 4 through to Sunday, March 8. Some 160,000 visitors, including 113,500 trade visitors from around the world, attended last year’s fair.

Today the show organiser issued a detailed update on health-related requirements for exhibitors, based on instructions from the Berlin public health authorities. All exhibitors are now required to fill out a declaration, which is a condition for access to the exhibition grounds and serves to identify persons belonging to a Covid-19 risk group.

“Anyone belonging to the risk group or who refuses to fill out the declaration will not be admitted to ITB Berlin,” Messe Berlin stated clearly.

This ‘risk group’ covers people who have stayed one of various defined ‘risk areas within the last 14 days. This list currently includes areas of China (Hubei Province including Wuhan, and the cities of Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Taizhou in Zhejiang Province), Iran (Qom Province), Italy (Lodi Province and Vo in Padua Province), and South Korea (Gyeongsangbuk-do).

The risk group also covers people who during the last 14 days had contact with persons who have tested positive for an infection with SARS-CoV-2, and people with any signs of typical symptoms, i.e. fever, coughing or breathing difficulties.

Messe Berlin underlined: “This is a precautionary measure in order to protect those participating in ITB Berlin and the public in general. The safety and health of all visitors and exhibitors at ITB Berlin has the utmost priority. The organizers are following the instructions of the relevant public health authorities to ensure that.”

In addition, special cleaning and disinfection measures will remain in place during the show and all ITB participants are being urged to observe hygiene measures recommended by experts from Germany’s Robert Koch Institute: regular and thorough washing of hands, as well as avoiding coughing, sneezing and shaking hands.

Coronavirus cases in cruise ships and hotels

The novel coronavirus Covid-19 has already seriously impacted the worldwide tourism industry, including well-published outbreaks on cruise ships in Asia over the last fortnight. Airlines have cancelled most of their China flights, the Venice Carnival had to be cut short after the outbreak in northern Italy, and bookings to Asia have been affected.

A popular hotel on Tenerife is the latest tourism location to be impacted. About 1,000 guests, including German holidaymakers, have been put under quarantine in the H10 Costa Adeje Palace after an Italian guest tested positive for the coronavirus.

In response, all five leading German tour operators (TUI, DER, FTI, Alltours, Schauinsland) have stopped bookings for the hotel and are switching customers due to stay there into other hotels on the island.

TUI is contacting its 35 guests in the Costa Adeje twice a day by SMS. “All TUI Germany guests are in good health, according to our latest information,” said a spokeswoman. The other tour operators are also in regular contact with their customers in the hotel.

Meanwhile, German bookings for Asian destinations are falling while some customers are cancelling their bookings, according to tour operators and travel agents. In response, free cancellations up to a short period before departure are being offered by TUI (30 days) and DER Touristik (15 days) in an attempt to reassure customers.