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Leipzig was buzzing as attendees of the 38th Annual German Travel Mart (GTM) descended upon the city on May 12. How were initial welcomes delivered? With hellos from owl-faced monkeys, dik-diks and pygmy hippopotamus at Gondwanaland, a domed, tropical rainforest at Leipzig Zoo that is home to 500 different plant and animal species.
The GTM's opening night celebration at the Leipzig Opera House featured the voices of the St. Thomas Boys Choir, which is celebrating 800 years of the triad among the church, choir and school. Amarcord, a quintet made up of former St. Thomas Boys Choir graduates, also entertained guests with an a cappella performance. Stealing the show, however, was the Leipzig Ballet staging its original 2010 ballet, "Chaplin."
The GTM only gained momentum throughout the week with outings that celebrated Leipzig as a world-class city of music and highlighted the city's history, architecture and art.
Getting down to business, GTM participants attended a press conference on May 14. Appropriate for a country known for superior automobile engineering, the event was held in Leipzig's Porsche production facility, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Automobiles weren't the only mode of transportation gaining the media's admiration. Getting their due as well were air and train travel.
Kicking off the event, Petra Hedorfer, the CEO of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) announced that, in 2011, Germany was established as the number-two destination market for Europeans. Of the $145.36 billion in expenditures during visits to Germany with overnight stays, 30 percent was from visitors from abroad. One of the country's primary goals is to move upward from its fourth position in 2011 as "most shopped in destination in Europe." Germany is currently behind France, the U.K. and Italy.
Other future plans for GNTB includes travel themes that introduce visitors to the country's wine regions, festivals and culinary scene. Next year's theme is Wine Heritage and Nature in Germany.
The theme for 2013, Germany for Young People, comes with a social media bent.
Throughout the promotion, this demographic of travelers to Germany will be asked to check in on Facebook, as well to use radio frequency identifiers (RFID) wristbands at photo boxes and check-in points so that Facebook friends can follow their journeys.
Air and Rail
Announcing what's on the horizon for Deutsche Lufthansa AG was Christian Tillmans, vice president global leisure and online sales. Making its debut on June 1 with a flight from Frankfurt to Washington, D.C., was the first aircraft in a new fleet of Boeing 747-8s. A total of 20 of these aircraft are scheduled for delivery, and five will be added to Lufthansa's fleet each year.
As for other future plans, Lufthansa will be investing money in its main hubs, Internet connectivity onboard flights, lounges for frequent travelers and the opening of a new terminal at the Frankfurt Airport.
Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn are collaborating to offer a convenient Rail and Fly program over the Internet. Through the program, passengers can procure German railway tickets prior to their flights. Making travel between air and rail easy, this allows travelers to go by train to any airport in Germany that is serviced by Lufthansa. Fares (one-way and roundtrip) range from about $37 to $125. Tickets are valid one day prior to departure and one day after returning to Germany, as well as on the date of travel.
News From the Trade Show Floor
At the GTM's trade fair, exhibitors, including the Munich Airport (MUC), further highlighted the ease of travel within Germany. Indeed, this year, Skytrax voted MUC the best airport in Central Europe. Earning such rave reviews in view of MUC's "mini-city" structure that requires no terminal changes for passengers with connecting flights and efficient 30-minute connection times. In addition, the airport offers VIP service in its own wing of the airport. VIP guests have access to a separate immigration area as well as baggage pick-up services, showers and limousines.
After attending the GTM, one thing is for sure - from Saxony to the Rhineland and Berlin to Bavaria, there is plenty in store for visitors to Germany.