Fond Memories of Berlin, and the Many ITBs Covered

fond-memories

As ITB Berlin, the Internationale Tourismus Borse held annually in the German capital, gets set to celebrate half century of its majestic reign over the travel and tourism landscape of the world, nostalgia engulfs and overwhelms my thoughts.

For anybody who is somebody in global tourism, ITB is akin to Mecca, Benares and Jerusalem rolled into one, the ultimate pilgrimage destination for all who want to tell the world that ‘hello, I am here and better take note of me!’

My first foray into ITB was in 1995 in my capacity as the Director-Operations & Executive Editor of Travel Market India, a spread-sheet publication run by the ATE Group of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India.

I happened to be the only media person from the entire Indian Sub-Continent, and had a field day with the VVIPs from India, accompanying them all around the Asia hall, discussing over tea about potential of Kerala to grow and develop into an alternative to Kashmir, by then a lost cause thanks to sectarian clashes and terrorism.

I still vividly remember Ghulam Nabi Azad, a Kashmiri, the then Union Minister for Tourism, asking for me in the Kerala stall so that he could share some ‘breaking news’ with me. It still amuses me no end to recall Pratap Singh Rane, the powerful Chief Minister of Goa, waiting patiently in his stall for my convenience to interview him. I reached his stand half an hour late from the media centre!

In 1998, I was in Berlin again, this time as Editor & Publisher of Destination Kerala. By then, this magazine had garnered international attention and entry into certain overseas pockets with the message of Kerala, the first-ever such attempt to promote the State as a stand-alone destination. Over the ensuing eight years, I was a regular at ITB, and by then almost all the travel-related publications in India had discovered the importance of the Berlin event and followed our path. Well, we were the pioneers, and that sets us apart!

Fond memories of the brotherly affection with which the small band of Keralites in Berlin adopted me as one of their own, is still warm and fresh in my heart. Leading them was B Mohnachandran Nair alias BMC, from Harippad in Kerala, who generously welcomed me into his large heart and the sprawling apartment he kept in the city. Mohanan ensured that the place became a home away from home for me. Realising my inability to digest anything other than home-made Kerala food, Maniamma (Mrs. BMC) took pains to feed me with an array of Kerala dishes, personally cooked in the kitchen of the India Taj Restaurant owned by them near Tegel Airport. A debt I can never repay, the kind of care and affection they showered on me. Itb berlin opened many doors for me to reach out to the happening spots of global tourism. An invitation as State guest to visit Israel in 1996, and a similar one to Thailand in 2000 materialised thanks to the Berlin meet. Another was the close personal friendship developed with K V Ramesh and Gita Ramesh of the Kairali Ayurvedic Group-Delhi, whom I met for the first time in January 1998 at the Satte. They both were regulars at ITBs, WTMs and ATMs. The relationship grew warmer as years went by, and is still alive, as they have grown into a formidable presence in the global Ayurvedic tourism scenario.

Though, today, I am personally unable to make it to Berlin, Destination Kerala in its new avatar will be there as the brightest media envoy of a land so vibrant and beautiful, as also as the point of convergence for all the super brands of India’s God’s Own Country.