ITB Berlin

ITB Berlin 2016. Image via ITB Berlin

APEX Insight: ITB Berlin is big. As one of the world’s largest tourism trade fairs, it gives airlines the opportunity to showcase the best of what they have to offer on board, while raising attention to the unique comforts of their home markets. We caught up with APEX CEO Joe Leader who is attending this year’s event, taking place March 8-12, to learn about what he’s experienced, from Qatar’s QSuite unveiling to Airbus and Routehappy’s data-based merchandising strategy.

From hall to hall, ITB Berlin takes visitors on a rich tour of the world. We spoke with APEX CEO Joe Leader to get his impressions of one of travel’s biggest trade shows.

Why is ITB Berlin an important event for airlines?

I’ve never seen more airlines in global advertising mode in the same place. Seeing every airline show the best of what they have to offer is quite unique. It shows the industry from the other side of passenger experience, how airlines want to be portrayed to travel agents on a global basis.

Would you advise airlines to participate, even if they don’t want to have their own booth, by partnering with their home country?

Participating with their home country is logical for airlines. In country after country, I’ve seen the airline either inside of or adjacent to their nation’s area. An exception is the Lufthansa Group having all its brands under one roof. That’s understandable for them, and it’s a great approach. But it’s good to put a stake in the ground with your home country.

Joe Leader ITB Berlin

APEX CEO Joe Leader at the unveiling of Qatar’s QSuite at ITB Berlin this week. Image: Marisa Garcia

You participated in an IATA event during the EXPO. Tell us about that.

IATA had a networking event. We view IATA as a key strategic partner and look forward to working with them on the ground on NDC (New Distribution Capabilities) initiatives, as they help us bring more ancillary revenue to airlines via passenger experience enhancements.

Speaking of NDC data sharing and ancillary revenue, how significant is the trend towards greater data sharing to promote the cabin experience?

Data sharing is already a competitive sphere and I believe airlines are finally awakening to the potential of data. Some airlines view Google as an existential threat, as a disruptive business. I don’t believe it is. Airlines need to better personalize their offerings to passengers and data points to that.

“Some airlines view Google as an existential threat, as a disruptive business. I don’t believe it is.”

You have Airbus working with Routehappy to better reflect how passengers will feel on particular aircraft, using unique product attributes. It’s a great approach. Every airline should be looking to display unique product attributes and capture passenger feedback. That’s a major part of what we’re doing with the APEX Official Airline Ratings. We will be sharing that data with all the airlines and they will be able to cross-reference that with how an objective observer, like Routehappy, may be ranking it.

Emirates A380 bart

Emirates showcased their new luxury bar for the A380. Image: Marisa Garcia

What were your main take-aways from your tour of ITB Berlin?

I think the competition among the ME3 carriers is the strongest at the show. You have Qatar unveiling their Qsuite, taking business class to a new level. Emirates showcased their new luxury bar for the A380. Etihad showcased the best of what they have, including The Residence. It’s remarkable to see full-scale replicas of the cabin in a trade show environment.

Would you want to come back to ITB Berlin ?

I will definitely be here next year, and set up more meetings with airlines in advance. The reason that I want to come back is that it allows me to see the airlines from the other side; to see them present their products, whereas what we’re accustomed to in the airline passenger experience vendor side is the suppliers presenting to them.

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.