Nearly 600 travel industry buyers from 31 countries—including 36 from the United States and Canada—connected with 340 Germany-based sellers at the 40th Germany Travel Mart (GTM), held May 11-13 in Bremen, with both sides looking to build on Germany’s popularity as a key international travel destination.
“Our core brand is Destination Germany,” said Michaela Klare, of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), who outlined a multi-pronged promotion campaign that GNTB is rolling out this year and next.
According to GNTB, which sponsored the annual deal-making conclave, international arrivals in Germany are expected to increase by about 4.5% in 2014 and continue growing through 2020. In particular, Klare said, last year’s record number of overnight stays, surpassing the 70 million mark for the first time, is a strong sign of Germany’s appeal to a wide range of interests.
Helping to attract travelers to Germany in 2014 are celebrations commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which has become synonymous with the reunification of Germany, and an emphasis on the country’s 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
To bolster inbound travel, the GNTB is actively courting travelers from the U.S. (which, after the Netherlands and Switzerland, generates the third number of overnight stays) as well as from Canada.
In addition to Germany Reunified, the Destination Germany campaign is promoting the Bauhaus, Wineland, the Danube, cultural events and festivals, regional cuisines, the German countryside, and scenic routes, among other themes.
To underscore the diversity message, Peter Siemering, general manager of the Bremer Touristik-Zentrale, the city’s tourism and marketing organization, which hosted the GTM, cited Bremen’s crossover appeal to holiday and business travelers – because the city offers 1,200 years of history (including the only late-medieval town hall in Europe surviving in its original form) and sophisticated meeting facilities.
GTM 2014 Proves Successful for U.S. Buyers
U.S. buyers at GTM 2014 met sellers at Messe Bremen, the major meeting and exhibition complex in the middle of the city (which is situated in northern Germany about halfway between Amsterdam and Berlin). An online networking tool enabled participants to line up meetings in advance, and early reports indicate the event was fruitful for veteran and first-time attendees alike.
Attending his twenty-third GTM meeting, Joerg Kramer, director of European sales for Value Holidays, based in Mequon, Wis., which annually posts about $2.5 million in revenues, said he signed a contract with a hotel near Munich and “discovered a couple of gems I can incorporate in our future programs.”
Fero Bakos, product manager for Tauck, one of the oldest and largest tour operators, serving tens of thousands of guests each year from its Norwalk, Conn., headquarters, participated in his first GTM this year. In addition to strengthening relationships with existing partners, he met new suppliers in Bremen whom he plans to visit in June.
Another long-term GTM attendee, Patda DeLa Torre, president of Travel Times Services, Inc., in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., reported that this year’s event introduced her with several festivals in the Black Forest region that may especially appeal to her clients.
Gina Bang, Germany product manager for Avanti Destinations out of Portland, Ore., took advantage of her second GTM to develop new programs with existing suppliers, and research products and events for 2015, to better serve the 35,000 travelers her company handles each year.
Garrott Kuzzy, product manager with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations in Bristol, Vt., which handles 5,000 travelers a year, following his second GTM said, “I had a great conversation with the tourism board in Saxony who introduced me to hotels in Dresden, a bike tour operator on the Elbe River, and the porcelain manufacturer in Meissen – all in the same room.” Kuzzy said he plans to attend GTM 2015, to be held in Erfurt and Weimer.
Luigia Mangifesta, product development manager for Los Angeles-based Eurobound, which sends about 1,600 customers to Europe each year, said her second GTM experience enabled her to “draw inspiration for new products and packages” and make new contacts.
A Quick Look at Inbound Tourism to Germany
Germany has benefited from the ongoing worldwide tourism boom, which globally saw 5% growth in international arrivals last year and slightly stronger growth in Europe. Together, the U.S. and Canada accounted for 7.7% of all overnight stays in Germany in 2013.
Within Germany, Bavaria is the most visited destination, accounting for 22% of all overnight stays, followed by Berlin with 16%.
Helping to make Germany a desirable destination is its relative affordability. According to the GNTB, hotel prices in Germany average 94 euro/night, compared to 101 euro/night across Europe. Average nightly hotel rates in Berlin are 88 euro, far lower than the average in Paris, Zurich, London, Rome, and Amsterdam, and lower than Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Duesseldorf, and Cologne rates.
International visitors aim for Germany for many reasons, with holiday visitors generating more than half (54%) of all inbound travel. Business travel is the second most common reason people visit Germany, making it the top conference site in Europe – and the second most popular globally, after the U.S.
Getting to and Around Germany
German-bound travelers originating from North America have a number of flight options, including the following:
- AirBerlin provides direct flights to Germany from Chicago, Ft. Myers, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Its recently upgraded Business Class allows check in of two pieces of luggage, each weighing up to 32 kg on all routes, which will be unloaded first at arrival. All long-haul flights Business Class seats are now equipped with seats fully adjustable to a flat position for sleeping.
- Lufthansa offers direct connections to Germany from the U.S. and Canada, including those originating from Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Vancouver. In December, it will launch Premium Economy class seating on its long-haul flights. A hybrid of Business and Economy, the new travel class will provide 50% more space and reclining room than available in Economy, with baggage allowance of two items up to 23 kg each.
Once in Germany, visitors make use of Deutsche Bahn, the German national rail system, which links more than 5,600 stations throughout the country. Of special interests is its Rail & Fly service to and from any German airport on the entire DB rail network. Children under age 15 traveling with a parent ride free of charge.
German National Tourist Board, www.germany.travel