|ITB: A huge stack of cards?|
Friday, 8th March 2013
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB Berlin 2013
Exclusive Feature: The ITB Berlin is indeed the world, however in pocket size: Very colourful and versatile, but on the other hand in some significant aspects vastly globalized there is even something like a global currency.
Impressions from the edge of the fair parquet: ITB is once again a great show. We admire the huge Taj Mahal made of cardboard, which must be at least 12 metres high and is a new booth decoration in the India hall. Really impressive, besides remarkably beautiful and for those who ever were in Agra, deceptively similar to the original.
Too similar: The ITB Taj Mahal turns out to be so huge that our photographer gives up: he cannot catch the dome in his lens, he must get his fisheye. For a few seconds we remain amused and at the same time transfixed by the impression, when a young hostess appeals to us.
Even the hostesses are part of the show they stand around single or in bunches, always very decorative, mostly with brochures in hand (which usually do visitors attract less), and it seems they are available in pattern catalogues: Want a Italian stand? We have a variety of picturesque Italian hostesses. Or Mexican. Or Japanese. Many also bring the hostesses, living decoration of the holiday worlds, from home with them and manage hard not to loose or damage them on the road.
Our hostess is of Northern European pallor and matching crisp manner, and on an Indian tour operator booth, where there are many smiling Indians in saris, she looks very exotic. We come into conversation, and she talks about her job: distribute brochures and make contacts. "Unfortunately this boils down to sell, because I must cheer something among the people", accuses the student who would like to make here only a little money. She knows the travel industry, not at all from the inside - and is therefore a pleasingly unbiased observer.
"It seems," she says suddenly, "as if my clients want to achieve one thing: Pocket as many business cards as possible." What? We are puzzled, but after a brief debate, the comparison illuminates us: business cards are ubiquitous on the ITB. It is all or at least for a quite huge amount for business cards. They are lush on large stands, a generously offered wealth, who expects no return, and each organizer has them in great numbers in his pocket. They are with both hands traditionally reverently accepted by Asians, used by Americans like as a toothpick or for notes, put instantly into a certain album by Swiss people and other masters of organization (definetely excluding us).
But nobody will avoid them. We reminded us a few years ago talked with a PR consultant who oversaw US tourism and African tour operator about this item. There is a real competition among its clients who bring the most exchanged business cards with after ITB home, she told us. Because business cards are an unofficial world-currency of ITB: who has many (not their own, but other's), deemed successful and networked. It's a bit like the Facebook likes: the more, the better. The ITB, a huge house of cards. And everybody wants cards: On every continent, of every culture and age people are just mad with cards.
Questionable only, whether the many colorful business cards with the growing proliferation of smart phones and other mobile devices will disappear. Actually, no one needs any more business cards made of paper or cardboard today: A wipe on the smartphone display, an instantaneous exchange all data - including the top-secret our wife never wanted us to safe - are transmitted via infrared interface to the vis-a-vis. Well secured in the phone's memory - a conventional business card can fall off the pocket at any time. But this prosaic scenario does never cope with the colorful folklore at ITB, we finally conclude: funny cards, wether laminated or in photographic print, garnished with all languages and scripts of the world, simply belong to this imposing annual convention of cultures.
We said our goodbyes to the nice hostess and had still loved to pass our business card on to her. But unfortunately that was impossible: They had gone out. And a Smartphone the Nordic beauty did not carry with her - and besides in this special case the data transfer via IR would have looked somehow unromantic to us. But that is another thing.
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Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing work-live-balance as its best.
Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams for the 5th consecutive year.