After the official opening event for GTM 2015, attendees gathered at performing arts space Theater Erfurt to dine and mingle. // © 2015 Michelle Juergen
Feature image (above): St. Mary’s Cathedral in Erfurt, where the official Germany Travel Mart opening event took place // © 2015 Thinkstock
No trip to Germany would be complete without some history, culture and, of course, beer. And this year’s 41st annual Germany Travel Mart (GTM), held April 26-28 in Erfurt and Weimar, did not disappoint, offering attendees live cultural performances, historical tours, traditional food and drink alongside the opportunity to network at the German travel industry’s most important B2B platform.
The main event — a two-day B2B workshop held at the Messe Erfurt trade fair center — welcomed approximately 340 German exhibitors from the hotel, inbound tourism and transport sectors as well as from local and regional tourism organizations. In addition, 600 buyers, travel professionals and journalists from 45 countries, were also in attendance, accounting for some 18,000 networking appointments.
“Attracting more than 1,000 key players from the international travel industry, GTM is firmly established as an exceptional B2B platform for Destination Germany,” said Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), during a press conference. “I am delighted that we are in Thuringia this year to present our most important workshop on inbound tourism.”
During the press conference, participants received news about incoming tourism and trends from Hedorfer; updates on German railway company Deutsche Bahn from Bjorn Bender, head of area management for southern Europe at Deutsche Bahn; and information on Thuringia from Barbel Gronegres, managing director of Thuringer Tourismus GmbH.
Especially of note were Germany’s incoming tourism numbers from 2014, which boasted record results for the fifth consecutive year. The destination recorded 75.6 million international overnight stays, an increase of 5.1 percent, with the U.S. breaking the 5 million mark for the first time ever. The U.S. is Germany’s strongest overseas source market, with a year-over-year increase of 5 percent. Other overseas markets showing strong growth are the Arab Gulf States and China, each contributing around 2 million overnight stays last year.
Additionally, in 2014, the volume of travel to Germany expanded at a faster rate than the European average. The country was the second-most visited European destination (behind Spain) for the fifth consecutive year, with 49.7 million intra-European trips last year. The number of longer holiday trips (four nights or more) increased by 17.3 percent to 16.2 million. Overall, Europeans spent $32.9 billion on trips to Germany in 2014, and overseas visitors spent $16.7 billion.
The upward trend in inbound tourism continues for Germany this year, as well. In January and February, the number of international overnight stays increased by 6 percent. The GNTB forecasts more than 121 million international overnight stays per year by 2030, an expected growth of nearly 80 percent.
“Germany is now in the top tier of international travel destinations,” Hedorfer said. “We will build on last year’s strong performance and take a bigger than average cut of the growth.”
During the travel mart’s opening events, GTM attendees were delighted with cultural performances in historic settings, in line with the year’s theme of “Traditions and Customs.”
Additionally, pre-convention tours were held for trade and media that explored different parts of Germany. These tours ranged in themes from “Luther and the Princes” and “Routes of Emperors and Kings” to “Nature and Sustainable Travel” and “Barrier-Free Travel.” Fam trips explored cities throughout the country, including Dresden, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Regensburg, Hannover, Potsdam and others.
The pre-opening event, held on April 25 at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, gave guests the chance to watch musical highlights from Richard Wagner’s “Tannhauser” opera; dine on traditional Thuringian sausages and dumplings; and explore the castle in which Martin Luther translated the New Testament from Greek to German.
GTM’s official opening event was held on April 26 in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Erfurt and featured various musical and dramatic performances, from a Johann Sebastian Bach aria by the chamber choir and the orchestra of the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar to an impromptu cello performance (instead of speech) by Wolfgang Tiefensee, Thuringian minister for economic affairs, science and digital society.
“Thuringia stands for so much that tourism in Germany has to offer — important cultural artifacts, historic monuments and unique natural landscapes,” said Iris Gleicke, parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and federal government commissioner for the new federal states, small and medium-sized enterprises and tourism, in the evening’s opening remarks. “For me, what is special about Germany is its great wealth of culture outside the major centers of population.”
After the international press forum and day one of the B2B workshop on April 27, attendees were bussed to nearby Weimar for an evening event that featured a walking tour of the culture-rich city, with musical and dramatic performances along the way, including scenes from literary works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. The night ended with dinner, live music and dancing at Weimarhalle congress house.
Next year’s GTM will be held in Magdeburg, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The B2B workshop will take place from April 17-19.