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A travellers' paradise

PTI | ByBERLIN DIARY | Varupi Jain
Mar 16, 2005 07:45 PM IST

India as an emerging market enjoys a special focus at the International Tourism Exchange, writes Varupi Jain.

Berlin is hosting the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) Berlin from March 11 to 15. The ITB is market leader among the world's tourism events and underlines the role of Berlin and its trade fair as the world's most important platform for the tourism industry.

This year, the fair is committed to the rapid recovery of the tourism regions affected by the South Asian tsunami. According to a press statement issued by Dr Christian Göke, Chief Executive Officer of Messe Berlin, "As the world's most important trade fair for the global tourism industry, we feel a particular bond with the people of South Asia.

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Prior to, during and after the ITB, we shall do everything in our power to assist the tourism regions that have been affected ... every vacationer, who continues to travel to Asia is helping to support the victims."

The ITB Berlin 2005 is expected to attract some 10,000 exhibitors from around 180 countries and territories, who will be displaying their tourism attractions on an expanse of 150,000 square metres.

India enjoys a special focus. Widely acknowledged as a highly underestimated "emerging market" with a remarkable development dynamic, the spirit of the fair highlighted India's stable democracy, excellent growth potential and the spending power of a large middle class.

Representatives from Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, Travel Corporation of India, the Taj Mahal Hotels & Towers, Holiday Resorts Ltd and other leading brands in the Indian tourism landscape discussed current tourism trends in India.

The Latin American forum, on the other hand, investigated how "healthy" tourism growth can be ensured in Latin America. Questions regarding security at a wide variety of destinations and the need for sustainability in tourism were explored. The African forum focused on the fascinating areas of unspoiled nature in Africa.

With its diverse palette of programmes and conventions, the ITB Berlin continues to deepen its role as a think tank for the global tourism industry.

Life imitates Art - hardly!

Talking of travel, most train stations in Germany are dotted with wonderful Easter decoration - bunny rabbits are digging up gardens and sowing gladiolas. These decorated stands amply evidence German devotion to detail - real grass and real flowers have been transplanted on some mackintosh-like material sitting inside state-of-the-art buildings of glass and concrete - only the bunnies and their doll-houses are fakes. Spring and its cute harbingers have been impeccably recreated in this make-believe world - if only the reality outside were not so snowy!

One final thought on the ways and roads in Berlin: During my initial days in this charming city with labyrinthine tram networks, I found myself marooned in quite a middle-of-nowhere location and had an important appointment to reach. In a mood of self-congratulation, I marvelled at my luck, when a tram passed by but soon left me disturbed when it kept running and halted only at a distance of almost half a kilometre from me.

I knew I had to catch it, if I wanted to keep my appointment. I sprinted - through snow and mud, against time and against myself. Lo and behold, I see a handsome guy extending his hand towards me, à la Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge. In those seconds in which my body seemed to defy all my standards of speed, I wondered if I was about to become the heroine of a grand love story, finally? I also remember wondering - given a sense of missing heart-beats - if I was ever to reach that hand - dead or alive.

Reach, I did - but oh, the wrong tram and the wrong hand. The tram was headed in precisely the opposite direction. I missed my appointment. Worse still, the Greek-God figure did not turn out to be my Raj. He slipped off at the next tram station.

I got down at another deserted location, musing, self-consolingly, at the unfairness and banality of life.

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