by Ron Bernthal
In April, 2010, in the 2,000 year-old Rhine River city of Mainz, known as the “Wine Capital” of Germany, the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) held its 36th annual Germany Travel Mart, a major trade show that brings worldwide tour operators to Germany to meet with hundreds of German destination, hotel, and attractions sales and public relations managers.
With the U.S. economy on the upswing, and Germany’s economy the strongest in Europe, it was hoped that many American travel buyers would come to Mainz to firm up their summer, fall, and 2011 tour programs. But the Icelandic volcano, which closed the airspace around many European airports, including the major cities in Germany, just before the GTM started, meant that approximately one-third of the 550 registered international buyers were unable to attend this year’s exhibition, where representatives from more than 347 companies, a major sector of Germany’s tourism industry, were waiting for them.
For the buyers who did attend the trade show, however, the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their German suppliers was invaluable, and the host cities of Mainz/Wiesbaden/Frankfurt were generous with their evening gala events. It was also an opportunity to find out what events and special tour programs Germany has planned for international visitors during the coming travel season.
“I flew into Frankfurt a week before the airport closed,” said Gerhard Meng, of Gerhard’s Bicycle Odyssey’s (www.since1974.com), a Portland, Oregon-based company that organizes bicycle and motor coach tours throughout Germany. “The show is a great opportunity for me to meet with my regular travel suppliers, and to get new ideas and meet new people for next year’s tours.”
Christian Tänzler, of Berlin Tourism Marketing (www.visitBerlin.com) spoke about the new documentation museum,Topography of Terror (www.topographie.de) and the recently re-opened Neues Museum (www.neues-museum.de), destroyed during WWII, and restored by British architect David Chipperfield. Julia Grundmann, of the Tourist Board of North Rhine-Westfalia (www.nrw-tourism.com) was eager to bring Americans to Dusseldorf, with its museums, art exhibitions, architecture, and its unique Media Harbor district. The Mercer 2009 Quality of Living survey (www.mercer.com/qualityofliving) listed Dusseldorf as the 6th best place to live in the world, with two other German cities, Munich and Frankfurt, listed right behind Dusseldorf in the top ten world cities.
Of course the big hit of the week was the host city of Mainz, founded during Roman times, and now an important cultural and commercial hub just 30 minutes from Frankfurt Airport. The GTM workshops were held on the west bank of the Rhine, in the city’s glass enclosed congress center, known as the Rheingoldhalle, with a gala dinner for exhibitors and buyers taking place in the city’s spacious Landesmuseum. Before the marketplace started, attendees toured the city, including a visit to the famed St. Stephen’s Church, where the luminous, blue stained-glass windows, designed by artist Marc Chagall, impressed everyone.
Other social events included an extravagant culinary and entertainment get-together at Frankfurt’s three-gabled Römer, the city’s town hall since 1405, and a farewell dinner in the early 1900′s neo-Classical Kurhaus Wiesbaden, located just across the Rhine River from Mainz. A buyer/exhibitor lunch was held one afternoon on the MS RheinEnergie, a Rhine River tour boat that was docked in the river next to the Mainz Rheingoldhalle. Taking advantage of the unusually warm spring weather, many luncheon guests sat outside, on the boat’s top deck, taking in the sun while discussing business with their German hosts.
Petra Hedorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the GNTB, said that “after turning the corner in the fall 2009, with the easing of the world wide recession, we believe that 2010 and 2011 will show an increase of 1-3 percent in visitor overnight stays in Germany.” Ms. Hedorfer stated that the focus in the coming year will be on both the Ruhr region (www.ruhr-tourismus.de), named the 2010 European Capital of Culture, with its historic industrial structures converted into cultural centers and museums, and the theme “Creative Germany,” which will concentrate on German architecture, design, fashion and the arts. The GNTB is also promoting the 300th anniversary of the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory; the 41st Oberammergau Passion Plays, a once-a-decade event that drew more than 500,000 visitors to the last Passion Plays in 2000; and the 200th anniversary of the Oktoberfest.
In 2011, “Health and Wellness” holidays in Germany will take center stage, with local tourism suppliers offering ‘spas and health resorts.’ ‘wellness and beauty hotels,’ and ‘ medical tourism,” as well as the Women’s Soccer World Cup (June 26 – July 27), and the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt.
As the North America economy picks up, Lufthansa Airlines also expects an increase in business travel to Germany. “We are beginning to see an uptick in the number of American business travelers flying Lufthansa to Germany,” said Jennifer Janzen, Communications Manager for North America. “Our meetings and conventions business to Germany has been really good since the beginning of the year, and we are seeing more corporate travel managers, now with bigger travel budgets, allowing their employees to purchase seats in our Business Class cabin, with all the new amenities we are offering in the front of the plane.” Janzen said.
In 2011 the Germany Travel Mart will take place in the cities of Cologne and Bonn, May 8-10. For additional information on GTM 2011, or travel to Germany, contact the German National Tourist Office, 122 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10168; Phone: 212-661-7200;www.cometogermany.com
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