So it is time for the annual ITB fair in Berlin, the world’s largest travel fair and the numbers are rather impressive. Around 10,000 exhibitors have gathered on 160,000 square metres which have been divided into what is effectively 40 different halls. You can spend a full day just by walking and you really need to have an idea before arriving in Berlin what you want to do and see at the fair. 180 countries are represented from all continents of the world and during the five days approximately 160,000 people visit ITB.
The three large Gulf airlines have always had a major presence in Berlin with large and very expensive stands so it is very surprising to see that the Etihad stand has been reduced from a large showroom with full-scale models of all their products to a simple table, well hidden inside the Abu Dhabi stand. Emirates on the other hand are not here at all. They have had one of the most impressive stands of all exhibitors at ITB for several consecutive years, a huge globe with all their products available inside, including the Airbus A380 business class bar, the A380 first class bathroom and an upper floor with meeting rooms. And this year they have, nothing. Perhaps the economic reality of running an airline in the 21st century is starting to catch up also with the airlines in the Gulf.
However Qatar Airways is still here and with the same amount of energy as usual. The ITB fair has always been used as an important communications platform for Qatar Airways, to both visitors and the media. The new Qsuite, the latest first class seat and the business class seat used on the Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 were all launched at ITB and the CEO Akbar Al Baker is always present one of the days in Berlin to host a press conference.
This year Qatar Airways has a brand new stand, replacing the old one which was used for several years, and of course it is inaugurated by no less than the CEO himself.
Mr Al Baker started the unveiling ceremony with a short welcome speech. giving a brief summary about what has happened during the past year and he also invited guests to attend the press conference two hours later. Present at the inauguration was also the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Germany.
And of course he did not miss the opportunity to highlight the fact that both his main competitors are absent at ITB this year while Qatar Airways instead chooses to unveil a new stand with a new concept. There was no doubt he enjoyed every moment of it.
Similar to the unveiling ceremony of the Qsuite a year ago Akbar Al Baker then pressed a button on what looked like a tablet. A light show started and after about a minute the curtains fell down.
Three very talented musicians entertained with live string music while the guests of honour entered the stand for a first glimpse before the rest of the guests were invited inside.
Drinks were also offered to all guests of the ceremony.
The new stand has a digital screen giving a 360 degrees interactive experience of the different inflight products, including the business class products and the first class product.
The airline also has a full-size mock-up model of the latest Qsuite cabin, “First in Business Class” as they call it. There are also various inflight products such as amenity kits on display.