The Cologne Cathedral served as the venue for the 2011 Germany Travel Mart opening gala. // © 2011 Janice Mucalov
The renowned gothic Cologne Cathedral — one of Germany’s top tourist attractions — was a fitting venue for the opening gala of the 2011 Germany Travel Mart (GTM) on May 8. Attendees were even treated to an organ recital inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The annual flagship sales event for Germany’s incoming tourism industry began in Frankfurt in 1972 and is organized by the German National Tourist Board (GNTB). The travel mart’s focus is to maintain existing contacts, cultivate new business and close deals. This year, 499 travel agents and tour operators from around the world met with 350 German exhibitors, and more than 13,800 appointments were made.
The GTM is credited with helping to substantially boost Germany’s incoming tourist figures.
“Having set a new record of more than 60 million overnight stays by international visitors last year, we are seeing growing demand and expect to hit the 80 million mark in 10 years at most,” said Petra Hedorfer, chief executive officer of the GNTB.
The U.S. is the second-largest international market for inbound tourism to Germany (after the Netherlands). In 2010, 4.8 million tourists from the U.S. visited Germany, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.
The U.S. is an important pillar for tourism to Europe as a whole, Hedorfer added.
“We need to make sure that people will continue to visit us,” she said.
With that in mind, the GNTB is tapping into the growing interest in wellness, health and medical tourism. Today, 15 percent of all foreign visitors to Germany arrive with the idea of doing something health- or physical fitness-related. With more than 350 quality-certified spas and health resorts boasting everything from radon treatments to thalassotherapy, as well as excellent medical facilities geared toward international visitors, Germany is well positioned to meet the increasing demand for health and medical tourism services, said Hedorfer.
Another marketing theme for 2011 is the 125th anniversary of the invention of the automobile. Celebrations, which include go-kart championships and theater performances based on car-related topics, will continue for 125 days this summer in Baden-Wurttemberg, where Carl Benz patented the first car.
For 2012, the GNTB will promote Germany’s 13 vineyard regions as travel destinations. It will also promote the country’s nine trade venues as ideal places for business travel and conventions.
The GNTB also relaunched its Germany.Travel website in April, adding, among other extensive changes, attractive videos on the Riesling, pinot noir and other wine regions.
The GTM takes place in a different German city each year. Next year, Leipzig — the “City of Music,” where Bach headed St. Thomas’s Boys Choir from 1723 to 1750 — will host the event.