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Last year, the event attracted a total of 10,000 exhibitors from 181 countries and 160,000 visitors /Photo: Berlin Messe/ITB

ITB Berlin: World’s biggest tourism fair cancelled over coronavirus

After days of uncertainties over the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the organisers of the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) Berlin has cancelled the event, which was to hold from 4-8 March.

“With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries ITB Berlin is extremely important for the world’s tourism industry. We take our responsibility for the health and safety of our visitors, exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we must now come to terms with the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020,” Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin GmbH, the event’s organisers, said in a press release on Friday.

“Due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics have stated their opinion that ITB Berlin be cancelled.”

The decision followed withdrawals of exhibitors and public calls for the event, the world’s biggest travel and tourism trade fair, to be cancelled because of the potential health risks to an expected 150,000 visitors and exhibitors from the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The German health ministry, the interior ministry and the government’s tourism affairs expert Thomas Bareiß had all called publicly for ITB to be cancelled due to the public health risks. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Thursday that in his view the potential risk to so many people at such a large event as the ITB was “incalculable”. “Personally, I believe that it (ITB) should not take place,” he said. Cancellation would be ‘force majeure’, he added.

Ahead of this decision, more and more exhibitors had pulled out of ITB 2020 due to the potential risk to their staff and other show participants. Last year, the event attracted a total of 10,000 exhibitors from 181 countries and 160,000 visitors.

Femi Awoniyi

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