ITB Berlin, the world's leading travel and tourism trade show, is set to launch an annual Asian edition in 2008, with Singapore playing host.
With the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and German exhibition company Messe Berlin today, ITB Asia 2008 will be on track for its debut on Oct 22 to 24, 2008.
Messe Berlin, which will invest more than S$1 million in the project, is the organiser behind ITB Berlin, and ranks as one of the world's top ten exhibition companies with some 80 international trade events staged each year.
Inking the deal at the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre were Mr Lim Neo Chian, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, and Mr Raimund Hosch, President and CEO of Messe Berlin.
It was witnessed by Senator Harald Wolf, Senator for Economics, Technology and Women's Issues, and the Mayor of Berlin, and Singapore's Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr S Iswaran.
The globally recognised ITB Berlin opened its doors to more than 160,000 visitors in 2007, with some 11,000 exhibitors from 184 countries, and is an international platform for industry players to network and form business deals.
STB Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Mr Lim Neo Chian is equally upbeat about the success of ITB Asia 2008, and expects the inaugural event to draw some 10,000 overseas delegates, and over 500 exhibitors from more than 50 countries.
"From a tourism point of view, ITB Asia 2008 will provide us with another lever to increase tourism receipts and visitor arrivals to Singapore. In terms of profiling it will entrench Singapore's position as a preferred place for such strategic business events.
"We are not looking only at tourism spin-offs, but in terms of intellectual capital, the branding opportunities, and hence the value it can bring to both Singapore and Germany," said Mr Aloysius Arlando, Assistant Chief Executive, Business Travel and MICE Group, STB.
Messe Berlin will set up a Singapore subsidiary employing 5 to 6 staff to manage ITB Asia, and also to promote Messe Berlin's portfolio of other worldwide events.
Other contenders for the event were Shanghai, Beijing, Macau and Hong Kong, but the exhibition organiser picked Singapore for its accessibility and strategic location, and its excellent infrastructure and good track record.
"Singapore is also a critical hub for business exchange as well as inter-regional and intra-regional trade. With 2.8 billion people within a 7-hour flight radius, it is ideally positioned to attract the largest regional audience," said Mr Raimund Hosch, President and CEO of Messe Berlin.
On whether the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart and Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) will overlap with ITB Asia, Mr Martin Buck, Director of ITB says that associations like PATA are focused on the incoming business to Asia whereas they will concentrate on the booming outgoing Asian market.
"We see the region as a source market, which has dramatically changed over the last five years. Due to rising incomes on the national and individual level, the travel intensity is rising, and this is exactly why we are here now," he adds.
ITB Asia 2008 will be held at the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre, and its initial focus will be on buyers and sellers in the region, with aims to attract tourism exhibitions, buyers and trade visitors worldwide.