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Berlin ITB travel fair cancelled over COVID-19 outbreak

Mariyam Malsa
29 February 2020, MVT 11:13
Maldives' stall at ITB Berlin 2019. PHOTO: MALDIVES INSIDER
Mariyam Malsa
29 February 2020, MVT 11:13

Organisers of the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) Berlin Fair, on Friday, announced the cancellation of the event scheduled from March 4 to 8 over COVID-19 concerns.

Earlier in February, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) revealed that 99 local firms would promote Maldives during the ITB Berlin Fair which is widely considered as the world's largest travel fair.

Additionally, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) had also planned to launch the Maldives Travel Agents Guide 2020 during the ITB fair. The annual publication is the only official listing for travel agencies operating in the country.

The travel trade show plays an important role in international tourism especially that of luxury destinations like Maldives. Hospitality professionals surmise its cancellation could potentially be a setback for the Maldives' tourism sector. The effect is expected to be more prominent in the case of newly developed or developing resorts, for which ITB acts as the main platform to unveil their product and attract the attention of the European market as well as grounds to reach deals with investors, high end tour operators as well as niche offerings.

As such agreements typically take place the previous year, for hoteliers in such a position, there may be serious repercussions in terms of business, come the year 2021.

Chairman of organisers Messe Berlin Christian Goeke stated that "We take our responsibility for the security and the health of our guests, exhibitors and employees very seriously.

"With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries, ITB Berlin is of great importance for the global tourism industry. It is with a heavy heart that we have to look at the necessary cancellation of the ITB Berlin 2020."

The ITB China in Shanghai scheduled for May was also cancelled over the COVID-19 fears.

The cancellation of the fair days ahead of the scheduled date was a response to a surge of infections in Germany. With confirmed cases of novel coronavirus rising above 60, more than 1,000 people were quarantined in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

With cases now detected across several German states including Hesse, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria, German Health Minister Jens Spahn stated that the country was "at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic".

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