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ITB Berlin lifts cruise profile, airs Concordia, VAT hike impacts

ITB Berlin lifts cruise profile, airs Concordia, VAT hike impacts

The ITB Berlin travel trade fair had a stronger cruise presence than ever before, including a new Cruise Executive Panel and a Hamburg Cruise Day on Friday that drew 250 industry representatives to activities including an 'Operators' Talk' featuring interviews with Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten's Sebastian Ahrens and AIDA Cruises’ Michael Ungerer.

Also, Stefan Behn was honored as Hamburg's Cruise Personality 2012, acknowledging his pioneering work in cruise tourism. Behn is the chairman of Hamburg Cruise Center.

Operators on the German cruise market expressed optimism about 2012, adding that they do not expect lasting impacts from the Costa Concordia and Costa Allegra incidents.

In contast, in the river cruise segment, the VAT rate hike to 19% in Germany is expected to have lasting impact. Nicko Tours has announced it will reduce the number of cruises on German rivers. Some capacity will be switched from the Rhine River to the Danube and to the rivers of the Netherlands and Belgium starting in 2013. Also, the number of sailings on Portugal’s Douro River will increase.

In the ocean cruise segment, AIDA Cruises took the opportunity of ITB Berlin to announce it will deploy one of its Mitsubishi newbuilds from Germany on a year-round basis. Various northern ports are competing for the business.

The German daily newspaper Die Welt reported the ship would operate from Hamburg, news that AIDA’s Ungerer, svp operations, would not confirm. He told journalists at ITB that a decision had not been made. Other possible candidates include Bremerhaven, Warnemünde and Kiel.

It also emerged at ITB Berlin that travel agents remain a key distribution channel for the German source market. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, used the fair to unveil details of its ‘Partners First’ program in Germany. The program, in place in the US for many months, aims to boost agent sales through a number of trade-friendly initiatives.

ITB Berlin had 113,000  travel industry visitors, including 44,000 from outside Germany, and 55,000 consumer visitors, according to Messe Berlin GmbH. Christian Göke, md of Messe Berlin, said the number of trade visitors increased by about 2,200 over last year.

There were 10,644 exhibitors from 187 countries.

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