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Reflections On ITB – The Most Important Travel Trade Show You’ve Never Heard Of


In the interests of explaining one of TravelLocal’s founding principles – that we only partner with locally-owned travel companies – we thought it would be useful to reflect on our recent visit to ITB (International Tourism Bourse). ITB is one of the biggest and most important trade shows in the travel industry, held every year in Berlin.

The biggest contingent of companies that attend ITB are from the actual destinations that travellers go to – from Armenia to Zanzibar, and everywhere in between (welcome this year to Iraq, Chad and Congo). These locally owned travel companies are embarking on a great adventure – to try to create a profitable business, using the resources and brains of the people around them, in competition with their peers.

The ‘buyers’ of these companies’ services – international tour operators – don’t distinguish between locally-owned and foreign-owned. So you can be based in, say, France, book with a French travel agency, who books with a French tour operator, who books with a French-owned company in your destination of choice. Many local people work for these companies, and that’s a good thing. But as we saw first hand in Asia, these foreign-owned companies repatriate their profits abroad rather than spending the money in the country whose cultural and scenic resources they are exploiting.

We’ve always believed that if more travellers knew this then some might prefer to travel with, say, a Cambodian company in Cambodia, or an Indian company in India. Thus was born one of TravelLocal’s founding principles: we will only ever work with locally-owned travel companies.

Of course the real gain for the traveller needs to be more than knowing that a greater percentage of your money is staying in the country you’re travelling to. That doesn’t matter if the trip isn’t any good. Or the price is too high. Or the guide doesn’t meet you at the airport.

But our local partners are highly experienced and knowledgeable, they’re cheaper than any comparable travel company where you live, and they use the same guides for you as they do for big international travel companies. In fact we think they’re some of the best travel companies in the world. So next time you pass the shop window of a travel agency, or browse the website of an international tour operator, remember that the true skill and expertise is situated in your destination, in companies owned and staffed by local people.

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