ITB Berlin 2020 was this evening officially cancelled by Messe Berlin after days of intensive talks, exhibitor withdrawals and public calls for the trade fair to be dropped because of the potential health risks to an expected 150,000 visitors and exhibitors from the rapidly spreading Covid-19 virus.
Government ministers, Berlin authorities, health officials and Messe Berlin spent today in intensive last-minute discussions about whether the world’s biggest travel and tourism trade fair, scheduled for March 4-8, should go ahead or not. Some 160,000 visitors, including 113,500 trade visitors from Germany and around the world, attended last year’s fair.
The German health ministry, the interior ministry and the government’s tourism affairs expert Thomas Bareiß all called publicly for ITB to be cancelled due to the public health risks. Interior minister Horst Seehofer said on Thursday that in his view the potential risk to so many people at such a large event as the ITB was “incalculable”. “Personally, I believe that it (ITB) should not take place,” he said. Cancellation would be ‘force majeure’, he added.
“This evening at 18.27 hrs, the responsible health authority of the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf in Berlin imposed significantly tighter restrictions on holding the event. Among its requirements the authority stipulated that each participant would need to prove to Messe Berlin that they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person or persons from a risk area. It is not possible for Messe Berlin to satisfy these requirements overall."
Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin GmbH, said: “With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries ITB Berlin is extremely important for the world’s tourism industry. We take our responsibility for the health and safety of our visitors, exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we must now come to terms with the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020.”
Earlier this week Messe Berlin had repeatedly declared that ITB would “take place as scheduled”. But on Wednesday it imposed strict rules for participants, based on instructions from the Berlin public health authorities.