Travel Fairs go from strength to strength in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

| March 12, 2011

The presence and performance of travel trade shows are surely an indication of the importance of tourism and a clear sign that a country has developed the industry sufficiently to merit the interest of other regions and indeed the international tourism market. It is testimony to the huge importance of the industry that despite the global economic downturn, new shows are setting up and developing markets are seeing their events grow year on year.

Azerbaijan, in Eastern Europe, Kazakhstan in Central Asia and even Siberia in the heart of Russia, are all markets with travel shows that are going from strength to strength. ITTFA looks at its member shows in these areas and at how they are prospering.

AITF, run by the ITE Group and held in Baku, is Azerbaijan’s largest exhibition for the tourism industry with over 4000m2 of exhibition space.  The event celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and has grown considerably since its launch, with an increase of 20% in space in last year.  AITF caters for both the tourism trade and consumers.  In 2010, 72% of visitors, over 7,600, were tourist industry professionals.

Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Tourism is an important part of the economy of Azerbaijan and the country’s large abundance of natural and cultural attractions make it an attractive destination for visitors. Following the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the 1990’s, tourism was crippled in Azerbaijan and it is only in the last decade that the tourism industry has begun to recover. The country has since experienced a high rate of growth in the number of tourist visits and overnight stays and in recent years, has also become a popular destination for religious, spa, and health care tourism.

Azerbaijan’s outbound tourism industry is growing at an even more rapid rate than inbound tourism due to increases in disposable income caused by the country’s impressive growth rate.  Even with the global financial crisis, Azerbaijan’s economy is predicted to grow by 9%.

ITE also operate two shows in Kazakhstan, KITF and Astana Leisure. Kazakhstan is in fact the ninth largest country in the world, five times the size of France, and boasts a very diverse landscape of mountains, lakes, rivers and coastline along the Caspian Sea. One could say that they are competing shows but both have been running happily alongside each other for seven years now so there appears to be enough demand in the market for both.

KITF is the more established of the two and is the larger show, with 8000 m2 of space and 500 exhibitors. KITF, held in Almaty, runs its 11th edition this April and is organized jointly with the Ministry of Tourism & Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan. According to Kazakhstan’s Ministry, outbound tourism increased by 23% in 2009 – generating a total of 3,687,000 Kazakh tourists.  Online bookings are also growing in Kazakhstan, particularly in its main cities of Almaty and Astana.  In fact, online transactions for air travel are forecasted to record double-digit annual growth to 2013.

Astana became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 and is the second largest city after Almaty. By offering a second travel event, Astana Leisure, companies now have an opportunity to promote themselves in both of the country’s two major cities, first in Spring and again in Autumn. Astana Leisure continues to grow year on year and last year covered 700m2 and attracted over 2700 visitors.

Maria Badakh is Head of Sales for the ITE Group and also current President for ITTFA. “All of these markets offer high spending tourists, so we have a lot of interest from many luxury destinations and properties around the world. I have noticed that in the past few years we have a considerable number of new exhibitors from exotic destinations such as South America, Asia, Africa. A very important factor is that many countries have cancelled visas for Russians and this has definitely improved the tourism flow”. There are currently 7 travel trade shows in the ITE portfolio, including the larger shows of MITT and UITT.

Moving North, TourSib focuses on the Siberian region of Russia – a vast area with a population of 24 million. Siberia is well known for its extreme weather conditions, so it is no wonder that its inhabitants are showing an increasing interest in travel abroad. For over 20 years, TourSib has served the travel and tourism industry in Siberia. Held in Novosibirsk, it offers almost 5000m2 of space with 240 exhibitors from 21 destinations. Initially it may seem like a hard sell destination for inbound but things look set to change. The area has been steadily growing in popularity among adventurous travellers over the past few years and in October last year Hilton opened the city of Novosibirsk’s first internationally-branded hotel and it seems that other international hotel chains, Intercontinental, Accor and Swissotel, have properties in the pipeline too.

Another sign of Novosibirsk’s growing appeal to visitors, is nearby Tolmachevo Airport, which inaugurated its second runway in September. It is expecting passenger traffic to reach 2.2 million by the end of the year with an increase of between 10 and 15 percent annually thereafter.

Maria Badakh tells us that Turkey is a key destination for the whole region, as is Dubai in the UAE. There is clearly potential in all these markets and the shows, three of which are held next month, would definitely be worth a visit. You might be surprised at just how much potential there is in this vast and diverse region.

Tom Nutley has been chairman of ITTFA since he helped to establish the original association in 1992. “Growth markets are an integral part of the future development and success of travel exhibitions. Encouraging new and improved relationships in the international tourism trade fair industry is a key objective for the association which will further enable all of our members to obtain maximum benefit from opportunities worldwide”.

ITTFA is dedicated to the continual development of the travel trade show industry, increasing participation and setting high standards across Europe and worldwide. Striving to reinforce the travel trade environment as the best place to do business, where suppliers can meet buyers from all over the world, face to face, under one roof.

For more information on ITTFA and all our members, please visit or email us on


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