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Wednesday, 02 September 2015 17:18

Germany Makes it Easy For Travel Agents

Written by  Barbara Radcliffe and Stillman Rogers
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Europe-Germany1Buoyed by the success of last year’s UNESCO tourism initiatives, which resulted in a 5% increase in foreign tourists, the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) is building on this momentum with its 2015 emphasis on Germany’s cultural and culinary traditions.

Europe-Germany2This year’s tourism promotion of Germany’s rich regional culture has supported agents’ efforts by drawing attention to many of the most charming features that appeal to clients. Three themes - Culinary Specialties, Living Traditions and Arts and Crafts – highlight the local heritage of traditional foods, festivals, authentic arts and hospitality for today’s tourists. Traditions as diverse as the Oberammergau Passion Plays, the Rhineland Carnival, Black Forest cuckoo clocks and German breads draw visitors into local life.
Touring routes and regional tourist boards make it easy for you to plan your clients’ trips around themes that interest them. Wine-lovers will want to follow one of the many wine routes, especially in the fall during the harvest celebrations. Few visitors to Bavaria will want to miss the most iconic of all local experiences, a traditional Munich beer garden or beer hall, where pretzels, beer and authentic Gemütlichkeit make visitors quickly feel at home (www.muenchen.de/int/en).
German culture continues to evolve with the times, especially in edgy Berlin (www.visitberlin.de/en). The city has always been known for beer making, but craft beers are taking the spotlight as more micro-breweries serve creative brews with updated traditional German foods. Meanwhile the old mega-breweries are finding new life as venues for culture, performance, dining and art. Suggest clients dine at La Soupe Populaire in the former Bützow Brewery in Prenzlauer Berg (http://lasoupepopulaire.de/en). Berlin’s Kulturbrauerei now hosts events that include the Lucia Christmas Market in December.
Other news in Berlin is the opening of two new museums. Opening his summer, the free Kunsthaus Dahlem features paintings, sculpture, graphics and photography of the Postwar German Modernism period, between 1945 and 1961 (www.kunsthaus-dahlem.de). Also opening is the Berlin Spy Museum, exploring the world of espionage, double agents, betrayals, heroes and the tools they used, including famous German coding machine “Enigma” from World War II. Interactive exhibits focus especially on the role of Berlin during WWII and the Cold War (www.deutsches-spionagemuseum.de/en).

Germany is Accessible
Another theme the GNTO stresses this year is Germany’s accessibility to those with reduced mobility. Munich Airport has added a new-generation boarding platform, the Medical High Loader to transport arriving and departing passengers with disabilities to and from the aircraft quickly and in comfort. Both air berlin (www.airberlin.com) and Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) have specially trained staff to assist arriving and departing passengers with restricted mobility. (Air Berlin has increased its US service, with direct flights from New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Ft Myers.) For clients traveling by train, Deutsche Bahn has a 24-hour mobility hotline. Buses and urban transit in many cities offer easy access for disabled travelers, as well as discounted and convenient parking. The GNTO website has a pdf brochure devoted to barrier free travel (www.germany.travel).
The state of Saxony has made particular efforts to welcome visitors of all capabilities. A dedicated segment of their website includes an interactive map showing barrier-free lodging, attractions, restaurants, spas, museums, even amusement parks, all over Saxony (www.sachsen-tourismus.de/en). You and your clients can search by category or town to plan a barrier-free trip. Leipzig, for example has three barrier free museums, Dresden has three theaters and several towns along the beautiful Elbe River offer barrier-free hotels. In addition to the map are extensive detailed listings that make it easy for you to find destinations and activities that are right for all your clients, including those with physical and learning disabilities.

A Sustainable Destination
Sustainability is another key element in German tourism, and nowhere is this more evident than in Southwest Germany. In contrast to its atmospheric Old World appearance, Freiburg is a front-runner in sustainability, with an entire part of the city solar-powered. You can book an Environment and Sustainability Tour for clients through the Innovation Academy (www.innovation-academy.de) to visit a solar house and the world’s first solar soccer stadium, where 24,757 square feet of solar roof and a large thermal solar site make the stadium completely self-sufficient. Freiburg’s four-star Hotel Victoria is entirely heated with biomass and has received multiple awards for its passive rooms and environmental design and practices (www.hotel-victoria.de). An added plus of using all local natural materials is that it avoids triggering their guests’ allergies.
A year ago, Stuttgart became the first city to receive the official “Sustainable Destination” label for its commitment to sustainability in tourism (www.stuttgart-tourist.de). The ambitious program initiated by Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Tourism accredits based on ecological, economic and social sustainability. The entire region is extending the range of sustainable providers for “green meetings” as well (www.tourism-bw.com).

Smart Luxury
None of this sustainability is accomplished at the expense of something Germany does very well: smart luxury. On the south shore of beautiful Lake Constance, backed by snow-capped Alps, the five-star Hotel Riva’s energy-efficient and environmentally friendly design uses materials that provide natural cooling in summer and store heat in winter. Your clients can feel good about staying there, and enjoy the lakeside restaurant Ophelia, which has two Michelin stars (www.hotel-riva.de/en).  
Michelin stars stud the entire of Southwest Germany, which rates 78 in all – more than any region in the world outside of France. The little town of Baiersbronn has two restaurants rating three stars, as many as London. Both are in hotels, so book food connoisseurs at either the Hotel Bareiss (www.bareiss.com/en) or the Hotel Traube Tonbach (www.traube-tonbach.de), with advance dinner reservations. Also in Baiersbronn is the one-star Michelin restaurant at the traditional Black Forest inn, Hotel Sackmann (www.hotel-sackmann.de). Half an hour away is a two-star restaurant at the Relais & Châteaux Hotel Dollenberg in Bad Peterstal-Griesbach (www.dollenberg.de). Stuttgart restaurants alone have more than a dozen stars.
Until recently Stuttgart and Frankfurt remained destinations for business travelers, but both cities should be on your clients’ itinerary for outstanding dining, museums, cultural attractions and hotels. You can be confident booking clients at either the five-star Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof (www.steigenberger.com) or five-star Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World decorated with fine art and antiques (www.hessischer-hof.de). Fun-loving clients will like Frankfurt’s relaxed 25hours Hotel by Levi’s, where each floor is decorated in the style of a particular 20th-century decade (www.25hourshotels.com/frankfurt-levis).
Restaurants and hotels are not the only ones to rate five stars. Munich Airport has been named by Skytrax as Europe’s first five-star airport, and continues to add new passenger comforts and diversions. The third free recreation area has recently opened in Terminal 2, with plants, subdued lighting and lounge chairs, along with 16 business stations equipped for laptops, phones or tablets (www.munich-airport.de).

Cruise News
Germany is catering more to your cruise clients with enlarged port capacity at Hamburg and new packages tempting river cruisers to longer stays. Hamburg is rapidly becoming a major Northern European cruise destination, opening its third cruise terminal in June and hosting Seatrade Europe this month. The industry convention coincides with the first Hamburg Cruise Week, bringing together passengers, visitors and industry leaders in a week of cruise-themed activities and events. The new Hamburg Cruise Center Steinwerder can handle up to 8,000 passengers in separate entry and exit areas, for simultaneous boarding and disembarkation. With more than half a million passenger arrivals, Hamburg is Germany’s top cruise destination (www.hamburg-tourism.de).
Baden-Baden, Germany’s former summer capital of European royalty, encourages your clients cruising the Rhine to stay a while longer, with attractive four-day pre- or post-cruise packages. Clients can relax in the thermal spas, stroll through lush gardens, shop in chic boutiques, sail over the Rhine Valley in a hot-air balloon, enjoy world-class performances or play golf at any of eight champion courses. Packages from EuroBound offer a choice of hotels in different price ranges; Baden-Baden is a short train ride from Frankfort Airport or the Rhine cruise port at Basel (www.eurobound.com).

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