ITB Berlin cancelled over coronavirus fears

Germany’s ITB tourism fair has been canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus, organisers Messe Berlin GmbH said on Friday.

The fair was due to take place next week, with around 10,000 exhibitors scheduled to attend.

It was called off following advice from Berlin’s health and economics ministries, and after its health authority asked organisers to impose stricter controls on potential visitors, Messe Berlin said.

“In their now 54-year history ITB Berlin and Messe Berlin have never before experienced a comparable situation,” Wolf-Dieter Wolf, Chairman of the supervisory board of Messe Berlin, was quoted in a statement, as saying

“We would like to thank all exhibitors and partners around the world who have supported ITB Berlin in the past days and weeks, and look forward to continuing our trusting cooperation with our partners in the market.”

Germany has seen around 50 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, with officials keen to avoid further contamination.

“With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries, ITB Berlin is of outstanding importance for the global tourism industry,” Christian Göke, Chief Executive of Messe Berlin, said.

“We take our responsibility for the health and safety of our guests, exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we look forward to the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020, which has now become necessary.”

ITB Berlin is considered the preeminent trade show for the European hospitality market.

More than 240 representatives from the Maldives were set to take part in ITB Berlin this year.

The cancellation of one of the most important international travel trade shows comes amidst preventive measures against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Maldives has closed its borders to arrivals from mainland China and cancelled all direct flights to and from China.

The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports. Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had also been established.

No confirmed cases had been found in the Maldives. Close to a dozen Maldivians that had travelled to China were quarantined for possible symptoms, but were later discharged after they were tested negative.

The Maldives welcomed 1.7 million tourists in 2019. It was a 14.7 per cent increase from the 1.48 million tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2018.

Meanwhile, the government has announced an ambitious target of attracting at least two million tourists to the popular Indian Ocean holiday destination in 2020.

The government aims to attract 2.5 million tourist arrivals per year by the end of its first five-year term in 2023.

To achieve this target, the government had added MVR 50 million (USD 3.23 million) to the annual marketing budget of the tourism ministry.

In the state budget for 2020, the government had allocated MVR 154.2 million (USD 9.98 million) for tourism promotion — up from the MVR 104.2 million (USD 6.7 million) in 2019, and MVR 34.73 million (USD 2.2 million) each in 2018 and 2017.

However, challenges remain as the world-famous holiday destination struggles to match demand with a rapid increase in bed capacity.

Over the past few years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands have entered into the market, increasing the number of resorts to more than 150. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open over the next two years.

Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 500 guesthouses in operation today.

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