New travel technologies, using social media in industry and holiday destinations in the 'bad lands' are just some of the hot topics to be highlighted at the 48th annual ITB Berlin 2014, the world's leading travel trade show.
"There are intelligent information technologies in high demand this year, primarily concerned with the automation, centralization and dynamic packaging of single functions," said Maximilian Laborenz, a consultant at Tourismuszukunft, who will be leading a guided tour of the technology and software for the hotel industry to give an insight into current developments.
"Ultimately, complete solutions, with added value are needed to simplify the everyday life in the travel businesses, with examples including internet booking engines," he added.
Running from March 5 until 9, the conference will be packed with insights into the travel industry with a number of leading experts talking about developments in travel methods and management of business.
Later in the week, the general public will be welcomed into the exhibition grounds with stands from various countries and hotel and tourism providers with the aim of giving visitors the desire to travel.
"There will be more people and more exciting activities (this year)," said Martin Buck, director of Competence Center Travel & Logistics at Messe Berlin, speaking in a pre-recorded video at a press conference previewing the event. "We have put a program together that people will be enthused about."
However, the conference really kicks off on March 4 with an opening ceremony and the first every ITB summit in Hall 1 of the International Congress Center in Berlin (ICC Berlin) where delegates will be entertained by live music dance performances and culinary delights from this year's partner country, Mexico.
Then from March 5 on, the conference will unveil sessions looking at travel trends, resources for customer needs and added value and big data in the tourism industry.
One of the major issues to be discussed by speakers at the conference will be the role of technology in the tourism industry. For the first time at the conference, there will be workshops on e-tourism debating competitiveness in regard to social media and big data.
The International Federation for Information Technologies in Travel and Tourism jointly with ITB Berlin has organized the workshop, which will highlight the potential of business intelligence and data mining for the travel and tourism industry.
"One challenge for the industry is definitely the data and the volume of data that hotels have available today through the internet," said Fabian Sprecht, managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa at revenue management firm IDeaS.
"There's your own data, so you have to factor in the room data, but then you also have external data and market data, what your competitors are doing and how they price their products, etc. The volume of data is critical for hotels going forward and trying to bundle that into an intelligent system," he added.
As well as focusing on technology, panelists and speakers will explore the art of travelling in style and luxury and whether it clashes with ecotourism – protecting and sustainably circumventing the globe.
Ecotourism is becoming more popular as people attempt to see the world and different cultures while also protecting the environment. But if you factor in the luxury of state-of-the-art hotels and transport, it can appear that they do not make a good fit – this is something analysts will discuss in panels throughout the conference.
Then there is the topic of travelling in the "bad lands", which will also be part of discussion. Following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ongoing troubles in countries such as Yemen, one would think they are not the best places to visit.
Still, for those who are adventurous and are interested in crisis tourism, as well as for those building up business in such countries, panels will talk about the best and worst ways for such ventures.
Meanwhile, as well as the sessions and workshops, which will take place between March 5 and March 8, more than 10,000 exhibiting companies and organizations are expected from more than 180 countries in the 26 halls of the exhibition center.
On March 9, members of the public will be allowed to peruse some of the delights of the trade show, sampling cuisines and culture from a variety of countries as they wander around the busy exhibition rooms. Last year saw more than 60,000 private individuals enjoy the trade fair, with even more expected this year.
Asia, the Middle East and Europe will all be represented at the event providing an insight to the best ways to travel around the world with information on tourist destinations, ways to get off the beaten track, hotels and transport all on show.
With such an exciting array of exhibitions to see and sessions to attend, David Ruetz, chief of the ITB, told journalists at a preview conference, that it would be one of the best ITB conferences yet.
"What a spectrum we have," he said. "I believe there was never more inspiration."This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
Besides the ITB Berlin 2014 live coverage, Louise also writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com