Digital trendspotting at ITB Berlin

Cat Hai at ITB Berlin

March 23, 2018
Cat Hai Chiem, Business Development Manager at Eurail.com


Last week, the 52nd edition of ITB Berlin took place. With 10.000 exhibiting companies from 186 countries and regions, it is one of the biggest travel trade shows in the world, held once a year in the German capital. A large section of the event, both on the exhibition floor as well as the convention program, is dedicated to travel technology focussing on topics such as the blockchain, social media and voice recognition. This year’s highlights: video content, customer engagement using live sessions on social media, and China leading the way in digital developments in tourism.

Trends in tourism marketing 
Whilst many trends in tourism were discussed at ITB Berlin, there was a focus on what was going on in tourism marketing. Two major marketing trends were identified and presented, the use of video marketing, and using live sessions on social media platforms.

Video marketing has been trending for a while now but now it is more prominent than ever. The use of video is increasing due to consumers preferring to experience content visually rather than have to read all the information themselves. This was a hot topic at National Geographic’s presentation: Masters Of Storytelling: How National Geographic Engages 350m Fans On Social. National Geographic is the number one non-celebrity brand on Instagram, with over 102 million followers, and they revealed that a key to their social media success has been video marketing.

If there’s one common denominator that applies to all tourists, it is that they take pictures and like to share their memories with friends and family via social media. But for companies in the tourist industry to actually engage with your audience via social media takes time and effort.

At ITB, a number of companies showed their best practices. Live sessions on social media platforms, are becoming increasingly popular recently, and result in high engagement volumes. Authenticity is key for success and often more important than smooth, technical perfect production. It has become a successful way to answer consumers questions on the spot so they receive instant feedback, and create a real connection between the company and the consumers.

Conference insights – China 
China is the tourism market of the future. Many western travel companies try to get a piece of the pie and look into ways to adapt their online strategies to Chinese channels like Weibo and WeChat. While these tools typically focus on the initial part of the customer journey (information, booking and payment), other companies go a step further. Some European organisations, for example VisitHelsinki, are introducing Alipay, allowing Chinese tourists to pay without cash.

Similar, the Chinese travel industry is looking to western markets for their products and services. A good example is Ctrip, one of the largest Chinese travel platforms, comparable to Booking.com or Expedia. One of the highlights from ITB Berlin’s conference was Ctrip’s strategy on how to use influencer marketing in tourism. The major insight regarding using influence marketing was that there are different tiers within what is known as an influencer.

Ctrip’s insights into influencer marketing showed that there are three specific tiers. The first is the direct network; a consumer’s family or close friends. The second tier is key opinion leaders within the travel industry. Vertical influencers are the third, which are people that the target audience look up to, such as celebrities or people with a big online presence.

Ctrip’s conference also mentioned some other notable factors within tourism marketing. Whilst utilizing these tiers in influencer marketing, quality of content is just as important, as well as using a multichannel strategy to share the content.

Of all travel tech trends presented at ITB, many will remain error prone for a while, and often a costly business. The low hanging fruit for most travel companies is to adopt new strategies optimally making use of existing technologies. Using social media channels? Don’t rely on advertising strategies only, but look into new ways of engagement with your customers via these channels. The same goes for influencer marketing. Yes, it is still relevant, but new strategies may be worth considering. Finally, keep an eye on the Chinese market and it’s key players. Look beyond the potential of the markets only, and keep an eye open for new strategies and new technologies we can learn from as an industry.