Michael Buller, President at Verband Internet Reisevertrieb VIR e.V. l HSMA eDay 2020

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Hi everyone. We are here today – live – at the HSMA eDay in Berlin with me is Michael Buller. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us, Michael. – It's a pleasure. First question – obviously – briefly, who are you? And VIR – what is VIR doing, what do we need to know about it? Sure, my name is Michael Buller. I am president of the VIR for many years already, since 2009. We are the representation of the digital tourism. Among our members are the leading online travel portals such as HolidayCheck and Expedia, but also IT providers, such as payment service providers basically the entire ecosystem of the digital tourism industry.

My first question – regarding the current situation we are in – the travel industry for sure was one of the first industries to be impacted by the crisis and not too little, What, in your opinion, are the main learnings for the industry from the past months? One is, from the association's perspective speaking, that the years of work we've done prior to this during all these years, are now starting to pay off. We quickly were in dialogue with the politicians, we quickly received solutions, we were able to influence the solutions, that usually are made for all, Second being certainly, there's a turbo digitization taking place. All the things we wildly discussed in the past years, also within the association and what we have earned nothing but astonishment in the past for now that's all totally normal, as for example us sitting at home knowledge is in the cloud now, it can be worked remotely from anywhere processes in companies can be altered and changed contact-less that's established now.

Third is, that we really need to ask ourselves honestly if all the governmental support we have received and are receiving currently, if that is truly helping to further develop companies and to arrange with the situation? That's what keeps me thinking currently. That leads to my next question, I hope you are able to answer it: What do we need for a successful restart of the travel industry and who? Well, we speaking for the sector of leisure travel, the issue of travel warnings is important, naturally. Which are very strict. But if one looks at test results from the airports, then one has to realize that for example in Spain 0,23 had a positive testing of many tested persons. On the other hand we have consumers that are feeling insecure and to regain their trust is also difficult if Mallorca opens up, just to lock down again after 6 weeks already I just believe we need reliability, maybe the industry has lost some trust by how they handled things, and mostly it was comprehensible, but maybe due to weak communication they've lost trust and that trust has to be rebuilt. You, in your role as president of the association, being actively involved on lobbying daily, what are the main three topics that keep you awake currently? Lobbying.

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Lobbying – that sounds really bad. – Oh, I am sorry. (laughter) There is a lobby register to be built, and we will then be part of this, too. But I think, what we are doing really is to educate. We look at laws, developments we give recommendations, we work closely with the ministry of economy, either in Bavaria, but also here in Berlin currently we are very involved with how the 'Überbrückungshilfen' (governmental support) are being set up for the companies, also the topic of insolvency law, will it be extended longer than the 31st December, at least for the ones that are in debt only on the balance sheets, the topic of 'Insolvenzabsicherung' is currently also a topic that is really, really difficult, because we are having a very old system, that is slowly running out of dat, but there's not a new one to take over at least there are only rumors, but no concrete suggestion that has been published yet, and that worries us.

– Okay. Understood. We are here at a conference with 150 hoteliers. You are speaking to an very hoteliers-heavy audience accordingly Mhm. The lion's den. – The lion's den? – Speaking as a digital person. If you had one free wish, that you could direct to the hoteliers, assuming they'd act accordingly – what would you wish for? – It's a bit also covered in my presentation, but it's not only directed to the hotel industry, When we achieved that we were granted the 'Überbrückungshilfen' and we actually really received quite some financial support maybe it's not perfect, especially for the hotels but there was so much money granted and spent, a minimum of 1 billion we were all hoping that everyone will use the time to change and currently what I am experiencing and also with the short-term labour support, currently I am rather experiencing that everyone is using the support to create a standstill – just don't move – hoping that once we'll have a vaccine and everyone is hoping that at 31st December or 1st January the world will be different.

But everything we know, and everybody we talk to, nobody feels that business will be back by then by 100%. And that's what we have to prepare for and there is in my opinion happening way too little. In my opinion the support is being used to sedate, but not at all for change. But that's where we have to move towards. That's the new normal. What are we going to do if there will be no vaccine? Do we imprison ourselves for the coming 24 months? And that's where entrepreneurs have to become active and to start moving and to develop new concepts. Very Good. Thank you for taking the time, Michael. Thank you. – I am wishing you an eventful remainder of this HSMA eDay. – Yes, Thank you..

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