Adventure Manufactory


Press photo: ITB Berlin
160,000m2, 10,644 exhibitors, over 100,000 trade visitors. Flags are flying. Entrepreneurs, travel agents, travellers, ministers and performers from around the globe are converging on Berlin as they do each March to discover the latest trends in travel and revisit tried and true destinations. And for the second year running, TAM are in the thick of it all: Welcome to ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin), the world’s largest travel exposition!

Press photo: ITB Berlin
From Bavaria to East Timor, everyone is in Berlin to show you their home land with lavishings of local hospitality, cups of tea, traditional snacks, colourful costumes and, by the end of each day, even the local beer! With over 180 destinations in close to 50 halls, I feel like Phileas Fogg – would even eighty days be enough to get around the whole venue and visit the world condensed into this one location?

Tajikistan


Meet: TAM, SomonAir & Tourism Authority of Tajikistan
I have a rendezvous with our friends from Tajikistan. First on the list, Vice-minister of Cultural and Tourism Affairs, Lochin Faizulloev, who is always always quick with a joke. He is the opposite of the stereotyped bureaucrat from an ex-Soviet state and has come fresh from a meeting of tourism ministers from across Central Asia where he was not impressed with the same old talk as every year, about freeing borders between countries famous for their visa restrictions and other economic barriers. Luckily for us, Tajikistan have one of the most streamlined visa processes in the region and we are able to get down to other business – the Tajik Rally in it’s eponymous destination, Tajikistan. This brings more people into the conversation - SomonAir, the only airline flying direct to the EU (most of us prefer not to drive home) and the Zerafshan Tourism Board, keen to help us develop a cultural programme for the rally using their network of community groups.

Press photo: ITB Berlin
A lot of talking takes place when one wants to arrange a spectacular finish line event for such a grand rally and with the help of friends like these, we will be able to build a great programme to welcome the teams on arrival in Dushanbe. We also need a venue, a good one. "In front of the Somoni Statue", the national monument, is suggested. I ask what the realistic chances of this are (just taking a photo of this civic spectacle can be an issue). The minister laughs and shrugs, it is out of even his hands. But luckily Dushanbe is a beautiful city and plenty of more realistic and more dramatic suggestions come to light. We look forward to being there in September!


 Beyond Tajikistan...


Press photo: ITB Berlin
Tajikistan was just the start of the journey around ITB. In total, we visit stands from seven other nations (and skim many more). I won’t spill the beans on plans for future rallies just yet, but can say we visited one cold snowy country, while the rest were the polar opposite, excuse the pun, with sand replacing snow and palms replacing pines. I can tell you that these future plans will be bringing you a kaleidoscope of colourful culture, spicy food and vehicles that may not always have four wheels. And where we bring your relaxing beaches with hammocks, we will also send you down many potted roads leading through small villages and the ubiquitous mountain passes that make a good rally great.

"...so you want to run the WRC in our country, but you don’t want to have cars? Maybe you are interested in our 4WD tours”...

 The key aim of ITB is to find information, partners and products for tourism companies. TAM's adventurism travel is not the usual form of business and explaining the concept to operators from regions as far flung as sub-Sahara Africa, island nations of Asia or the steppes of the Arctic can get some interesting responses: “ah, so you want to run the WRC in our country, but you don’t want cars? Maybe you are interested in our 4WD tours” says a rep from Sumatra.

Well, not exactly! But the world is a vast place with many adventurous people keen to get involved in a new and intrepid form of tourism. For me, having travelled every non-frozen continent over the past decade, ITB opens my eyes to a myriad of new destinations and gives me a chance to meet many great people who are able share a vision of extraordinary adventure. What a busy and fantastic week it was! So what's next? We are looking forward to sharing the results of a great trip to ITB Berlin with you in the form of new rallies very soon!

Hugh.

Check out ITB for yourself: http://www.itb-berlin.de/en/ 

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