World's biggest travel fair opens in Berlin

7th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

7 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Calls for increased taxes on air travel in the name of fighting global warming received a rebuff Tuesday from German Economics Minister Michael Glos at an opening gala for the world's biggest tourism fair, the ITB in Berlin. The fair opens its doors to travel agents Wednesday, with India in the spotlight as this year's "partner" country. A record 11,000 companies from 184 nations will be displaying their attractions March 7-11. On the eve, India showed off its rich cultural div

7 March 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Calls for increased taxes on air travel in the name of fighting global warming received a rebuff Tuesday from German Economics Minister Michael Glos at an opening gala for the world's biggest tourism fair, the ITB in Berlin.

The fair opens its doors to travel agents Wednesday, with India in the spotlight as this year's "partner" country. A record 11,000 companies from 184 nations will be displaying their attractions March 7-11.

On the eve, India showed off its rich cultural diversity at the gala attended by Glos and Indian Tourism Minister Ambika Soni.

Glos said a tax on aviation fuel, as demanded by environmentalists who are keen to reduce air travel, would hit airline jobs.

He added that one nation taxing aviation fuel while others did not would be unfair.

"What's the sense of one airline paying a kerosene tax and its competition flying the same route without added costs?" he said. Any moves to make flying dearer must be done without distortions to competition and had to be practicable on an international level.

Glos added that aircraft were only responsible for 1.5 per cent of climate-damaging emissions worldwide. "Given these figures, I think the current hysteria about the topic is exaggerated," he said.

This year's fair comes amid signs that European tourists are worrying they bear significant blame for global warming.

With Alpine ski resorts struggling with a lack of snow and Indian Ocean islands threatened by rising sea levels, organizers have asked experts to visit the ITB to talk about the future of travel.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said worldwide arrivals had grown more than 20 per cent in the past three years to 842 million. UNWTO President Francesco Frangialli said, "Increases of about 4 per cent annually will be common, according to our figures."

He warned that more rapid gains would not be repeated because of the growing awareness of environmental issues.

Leena Nandan, director of the Indian Ministry of Tourism, has been urging Europe to take advantage of India's potential: a country which has chalked up annual growth rates of more than 15 per cent in the tourism sector over the past three years.

One complete hall has been set aside for India to showcase its booming tourism industry and to host cultural activities and serve Indian food, organizers said.

An India Forum was set to take place Wednesday at which well-known personalities from the travel and tourism industry will be discussing India's potential over the coming years.

Two sectors that appear to have enormous growth potential are religious and medical tourism, according to tour operators.

For Germans, who spent 60.5 billion euros (79 billion dollars) on travel last year, India lags well behind leader Thailand as a popular tourist destination in Asia.

South Africa is another popular overseas destination, but Italy, Spain, Portugal and Morocco remained the favourite vacation spots for Germans, according to Klaus Laepple, president of the German Tourism Federation.

The ITB's growing importance to travel operators means that trade representatives will be given more time to make their way across the vast 150,000 square metres allocated to fair's exhibitors.

For the first time, the ITB is to include a pavilion for real- estate and time-share sales to rich tourists who cannot get enough on sunshine destinations.

Among the large number of ministers and officials expected in Berlin are South African Minister for Environment and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who will be visiting the fair as part of his nation's build-up to hosting the football World Cup in 2010.

Likewise, the hosts of the 2008 European football championships - Austria and Switzerland - are also expecting to attract a stream of visitors.

DPA

Subject: German news

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