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13.03.2018 Travel : Hospitality : Youth

We round-up the top conversations at ITB and Berlin Travel Festival, including overtourism, Airbnb’s fruitful future, LGBT travel and the next-generation guide book.

1. Teens find their independence

Ruf, Germany Ruf, Germany

Youth travel played an important part in this year’s event, with many talks and stands representing the market. A key theme that emerged was parent-free travel among Generation Z, who are becoming increasingly independent.

Ruf, a supervised travel group for children aged 11 to 23 years, promoted its new programs at ITB Berlin's Youth Travel pavilion. The established German company organises European, long distance and ski packages for teenagers to experience travel without the rules of parents or the structure of school trips. In 2018, Ruf will expand its portfolio to include cruise trips, allowing those of over 16 years to embark on cruises around the Mediterranean, Adria and Cuba. Typically associated with the much-older Baby Boomer generation, the cruise programs will be youth-focused, including pools with water slides, evening entertainment, trips to street food markets and dedicated party tours.

Youth and student travel organisation WYSE also addressed how young people are funding their travel experiences in a panel discussion. While youth travel has long been associated with privilege, in the US 75% of trips among young people are self-funded and parental funding is also on the decline in the UK.

2. New territories welcome LGBT travel

Open to New Shades by Tourism Thailand

According to the show, 2018 saw a record number of exhibitors at the Gay & Lesbian Travel Pavilion, with destinations such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Bilbao and Chicago all vying for the LGBT tourist.

A country that stood out among the list was Thailand, who were endorsing LGBT tourism for the first time as the official presenting partner for ITB Berlin, following a 2018 advertising campaign entitled Open to New Shades. Thailand has unofficially enjoyed popularity among the gay community for years, but critics considered this partnership a milestone for a country that has been slow to openly promote the segment.

The show also highlighted the tour operators willing to take a stand in destinations that are less LGBT-friendly. John Tanzella, head of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), said his company created a foundation to help ‘emerging LGBT destinations in difficult contexts’. This includes Uganda, a country where homosexuality is illegal, where Tanzella has a local team working to encourage safe LGBT travel.

3. Overtourism is the buzzword of the week

At this year’s ITB Berlin, the topic on everyone’s lips was overtourism. McKinsey and the World Travel & Touism Council (WTTC) presented findings from their major study, which proposed solutions to the worldwide issue.

The toolkit outlined five tactics to help destinations overcome crowding in concentrated areas. The first is spreading visitors, which Venice tested with its Detourism campaign – a monthly magazine and newsletter sends tourists to quieter areas of the city. Another method is to implement new pricing models, such as the dynamic pricing at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Countries are also limiting access to certain destinations. In Thailand, the famous Maya Beach Bay has closed to tourists and the Galapagos limits the time visitors are allowed to stay, capping how often they visit the same site.

With the top 20 countries currently accounting for two-thirds of all arrivals, governments must act to stop this tourism disparity. Otherwise this is likely to continue – by 2020, the top 20 most popular destinations will add more visitors than the rest of the world combined. The risk of travel becoming McDisneyised is something we discussed with sociologist George Ritzer.

Singapore for Explorers by Visit Singapore Singapore for Explorers by Visit Singapore

4. Airbnb co-founder tackles the paradox of choice

Airbnb Categories Airbnb Categories
Airbnb Categories Airbnb Categories
Airbnb Categories Airbnb Categories

One of the biggest keynotes from the event was delivered by Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Airbnb.

In his talk, Blecharczyk discussed how Airbnb has a home for everyone, but just too many options. This problem stems from the website design - Airbnb was created to feature a small number of homes as opposed to the millions it now offers. To tackle this, he announced the launch of categories, subcategories and collections.

Right now, navigating the website's 4.5 million listings can only be filtered based on three categories: shared room, private room or entire place. With the upcoming categories, users will be able to search according to a large range of preferences, such as the uniqueness of the home, architectural style and the option to stay with someone with a specific personality. Homes suitable for families, honeymoons, work and dinner parties will also be easier to find with its dedicated collections.

The co-founder also presented the Airbnb's plans for its forthcoming luxury expansion. Alongside awarding its top users discounts and perks as a Superhost or Superguest, Airbnb Plus will collate listings verified by a specialist team for their quality, ensuring they have a rating of over 4.8, a stocked kitchen, comfortable bedding and good wifi.

5. Guide books are growing up

Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin
Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin
Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin
Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin Take Me to the Lakes by The Gentle Temper, Berlin

Meanwhile, on the east side of the city, the Berlin Travel Festival celebrated its inaugural year. At the weekend event, the trusty guide book got a much-needed update. As a travel essential that hasn’t changed in years and has struggled to compete with digitalisation, numerous exhibitors presented their modern alternatives to the show.

Publishing house The Gentle Temper brought its range of Take Me to the Lakes books, a series of minimally-designed guide books that highlight Germany’s lesser-known lakes. Its Berlin edition enables people living in the city to escape to serene spots as close as twenty minutes away. By clearly outlining routes by public transport and providing Google Maps co-ordinates, the books acknowledge that most young people looking to venture on day or weekend trips don’t have easy access to a car, and encourages serendipitous getaways.

Also taking a youthful approach to the physical guide book was Carl Goes, an independent publisher with city guides for travelling entrepreneurs. In its Berlin, Leizpig, Amsterdam, London and Kassel editions, the book provides information on how travellers can fit into the city as a local, find a job, an apartment and make friends. By interviewing local residents from different backgrounds, those intending to live in the city short-term or long-term can bypass the feeling of being a tourist.

6. Thought-starter: Is ITB Berlin ready for competition?

This year, a travel show for the next generation made its debut and took over a warehouse in Kreuzburg, miles from the international crowds of ITB Berlin – both geographically and symbolically. This was the Berlin Travel Festival, a three-day weekend event for young travellers seeking something new.

It also provided a refreshing alternative to ITB Berlin, which, given its corporate nature, felt slightly tired. While the keynote slots attract the biggest names in the industry and the exhibitor halls are populated with hundreds of countries, each trying to out-do the last with their displays and free-flowing happy hours, the show was lacking representation from younger, more innovative travel brands. It's no wonder these types of companies are shunning ITB.

Instead, the Berlin Travel Festival is positioning itself as a space for spotlighting these types of brands, including Barcelona’s Casa Bonay, post-pharmacy brand Biocol Labs and architectural home rental service Boutique Homes. Could the Berlin Travel Festival garner a reputation as ITB’s cooler, younger and more attractive sibling? Considering the diverse mix of industry newcomers in just its first year, it's off to a good start.

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