This week I was incredibly busy with work. Yes, with real work and not with taking pictures of my toes on the beach. Apparently this is what some people think, travel bloggers do all day. And while I'm guilty of the occasional toe-selfie too, I was a bit offended by the notion too. Not only am I work working this week I was also work working last week. I got back from Berlin on Saturday where I attended ITB for the first time one of the biggest travel fairs in the world.I was supposed to attend last year on behalf of Travelettes, but Emirates stuffed me in business class and flew me to Thailand instead. Sorry, but not sorry.
This year, however, I took the little Elephant on the road and introduced him to the world. That was exhausting, quite unnerving, but also very exciting. It is nice to get feedback from people and leave with the feeling that you are on the right track with what you do.
So last week, I walked between 11 and 14 kilometers per day with a swollen foot thanks to falling down some steps and twisting my ankle the weekend before. No surprise that I was tired and sore, with my shoulders in desperate need of a massage. All I could do is sleep. That, if my mind wasn't buzzing with new ideas and travel plans.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to publish thoughts on the ITB here, because quite frankly - do you care?? I really don't see myself becoming one of those bloggers who give others advice how to become or be a blogger. That is not because I don't want you to be one, I just don't think I have that much value to add to the conversation as I am just starting out myself. However, some very exciting things happened and so I do want to share. By the lack of pictures, you can tell it wasn't planned. I only took pictures of myself to send to my dad as somehow I thought he would get a kick of seeing me in fake Egypt and of course, I took pictures of the mini schnitzel I ate. Well, more than one. I won't tell you how many exactly as it was embarrassing how many times we went back for more. Thanks, Vienna House for not kicking us out for eating too many!
Other than that, I was too busy snap chatting and trying to look nonchalant and not ridiculously silly. Which I think most people on snap chat do, but I guess that is part of the appeal.
Also, judging by the masses of 'normal' people who attended ITB on Saturday (before it was only open for trade visitors, yes, the little Elephant was a trade visitor!) people do care about a behind the scenes look and more importantly about free stuff. I made it my mission to take as little promotional materials as possible and sometimes I even felt I was offending people by not taking their shiny brochures. But a) because I work mainly digital so for me it was a waste of paper and money and b) it becomes heavy really fast. As far as the 'normal' people go - yes, you guys with the 6 shopping bags full of stuff - what do you even do with it? Heat your flat for the rest of the year? I may understand the use of multiple pens, mouse pads and hats (I saw a lot of those), after all, who doesn't need all these pens, mouse pads and hats? But brochures and flyers? Really? I was puzzled and very confused. So confused that I ate icecream for lunch.
Food is whole other issue on these sort of trade shows. There is no decent food to be found. I understand why it is overpriced (because they can), but the quality is just horrid. I ate some chicken nuggets for lunch once that was absolutely glorious in their nastiness because I had simply given up on trying to find anything decent or sort of healthy. Mind you, eventually, I realized you can get far when you just snack with the vendors. I got that icecream, Maldivian cookies, lots of great coffee, hot chocolate, parma ham sandwiches, Turkish delight, and a raspberry coconut tart thanks to a really awesome meeting at the Emirates counter. I still can't believe I passed up lunch there, they even had a menu and all!
All in all, I think I had a very successful couple of days. I didn't fall or stutter or was terribly late. The most embarrassing thing was seeing a really cute guy during my Emirates meeting while I was sitting there with spilled tea in front of me and a stuffed toy monkey on my lap. Mind you, that was their gift so the cute guy better not hold it against me!
I did realize, however, that while I can do small talk when I'm being introduced to someone I cannot just approach random people. It terrifies me, which is also one of the reasons I didn't go to any blogger meetings and get-togethers. I also just preferred to spend time with my friend whom I was staying with, but also - how do you people do it? Presuming that you just don't know everybody or as it often happens in my case - I remember someone but that person doesn't remember me? How? I didn't want to sound snobby by saying I couldn't bother to go, I was honestly too terrified by the idea. Am I the only one?!
That aside, I had a good time and some highlights included meeting the lovely Kenza from the Royal Mansour where I will be staying in a few weeks time. Eeeek! I also finally met Amanda from MarocMama whom I have been online friends with for a while and who is my go-to person for all things Moroccan and intercultural. (If you also want to meet the two of them head over here for an amazing giveaway!)
I heard a very inspiring talk about fair trade tourism and the fate of the Blood Lions that gave me a lot to think about. I am sure I will write more about it in the future as this is a topic that is very close to my heart. Present during this talk was the minister of Botswana of tourism and wildlife. I love the fact that these two issues are handled by one ministry and I think it shows the commitment the country has to its wildlife. Botswana will be partnering with ITB next year and I am curious to see what is to come.
This year's partner was the Maldives and it took about a ten-second stroll through their booth to catapult them high on my 'where to go next' list. Especially because I was also introduced to some very amazing looking resorts there that made my diver's heart beat faster. Breakfast with sharks anyone? Yes, please!
Another island destination that got my interest peaked was Fiji. So much so that I agreed to this picture. I usually detest this kind of promotional images and would have much preferred to chat more with David about his home which got recently hit by a really bad cyclone instead of sitting on his lap like he was Santa Clause. Can you tell that I get easily embarrassed by being photographed?
I also discovered a new country - San Marino - which I didn't know was a country before, learned where the highest wine cellar of the world is - hint James Bond has been there - and won a trip to Sri Lanka. WAIT. WHAT?
Indeed, I am going to Sri Lanka for the TBCasia with Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts. All I can say is, never pass up an opportunity to throw your business card in a bowl. Again, I was slightly embarrassed and also a bit sheepish since I was a bit tipsy after downing a glass of wine too quickly in order not to feel silly alone in the crowd.
Picture of me looking very flushed (thanks to that wine) and holding a giant cheque of sorts coming soon!
After that picture was taken and shaking some minister's hand, I had to excuse myself quickly because I still had appointments to do. To my great relief, I discovered that appointments go really well if you are slightly tipsy. NOT.
Regardless, I am so excited to attend TBCasia and especially to take the pre-tour through Sri Lanka. Dear Sri Lankan minister, thank you for picking my business card!
So if you do care for my tips on how to do ITB, here are my unofficial tips:
ONE Wear comfy shoes, don't twist your ankle the weekend before.
TWO Make friends with the vendors, eat all their food.
THREE Learn about snap chat filters so your face doesn't look too pasty in trade show lighting.
FOUR Get the hall plan on your phone via the app and take a portable battery charger.
FIVE And always, always throw your business card in a bowl if you get the chance!