NEW YORK -- As transatlantic traffic regained ground despite
ongoing geopolitical and economic uncertainty, top travel players
from the German state of Bavaria and the U.S. gathered here to
discuss the state of the trade and hash out ways the alpine region
-- long a favorite with Americans -- can capitalize on current
trends to speed recovery.
The first Bavaria Travel Summit -- held recently at the Westin
New York hotel and organized by Travel Weekly and the Peek
Marketing Alliance -- attracted more than two dozen of travel's
best and brightest, including 21 official roundtable panel
participants and five observers from leading airlines, hotels, tour
operators, trade associations and tourism boards.
The three-day event also included a V.I.P. dinner and a media
luncheon; the seminar itself was broken into three sessions --
focusing on the current state of travel, the profile of today's
typical traveler and the future of tourism -- that were mediated by
Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, Travel Weekly
publisher Robert Sullivan, and Peek Marketing Alliance President
The consensus of both Europeans and Americans in attendance was
that transatlantic travel, if not yet "back," is certainly on its
way back up: Reservations are on the rise, booking windows are
snapping shut earlier, and flights are full, even to Germany and
France, despite U.S. anger over their opposition to the Iraq war.
But there's still more to do.
For its part, Bavaria -- to the collective American mind, the
quintessential Germany -- is de facto among the European regions
most likely to benefit soonest.
The Bavarian region can lead the way, stressed some
participants, due not only to traditional strengths such as
scenery, cuisine and history but also to a strategic location near
the center of an expanded European Union, which has grown to 25
members with the addition of 10 nations to Germany's east.
In fact, seminar co-sponsor Munich Airport -- which last year
unveiled a state-of-the-art second terminal that more than doubled
passenger capacity -- already is the third-leading transfer hub for
intercontinental air traffic to central and eastern Europe, after
Frankfurt and Vienna, said Thomas Kube, head of travel industry
relations at the facility.
Co-panelist Nico Zenner, executive vice president of rail
marketing at Rail Europe Group, noted marked U.S. interest in
neighboring destinations to the east of Bavaria -- such as Hungary
and the Czech Republic -- which could make for multiple-country
tours that use Germany as a base.
According to panel member Phil Otterson, executive vice
president for global alliances at Tauck World Discovery, bookings
thus far this year to Germany are up 100% over 2003.
"Germany, and in particular Bavaria are bouncing back from a
down trend last year," he said. "That's because there is a large
amount of pent-up demand, which hasn't been waylaid by poor
Bob Whitley, president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association
(USTOA), agreed, noting, "Americans may cut back or downgrade, but
release of pent-up demand will continue."
That was music to the ears of Richard Adam, managing director of
event co-sponsor Bavaria Tourism Marketing. He said tourism to the
region, although strong, "doesn't live up to its even greater
potential," with Americans still following well-worn paths between
U.S. military bases, "even though there's so much more to see.'
So, how can Bavaria further encourage potential visitors to act
on suppressed travel urges, and in new ways?
Suggestions from largely optimistic attendees included:
• Grow local inventory of proven product winners, such as river
• Partner with newly popular neighboring destinations.
• Focus on niches, such as the mature or independent
• Offer experiential tours that explore Bavaria in more
• Develop more stopover product for air passengers transferring
• Ensure supplier and tourist board Web sites are up to
Other U.S.-based seminar participants included Michaela Klare,
director of the German National Tourist Office in New York; Jane
McCroary, general manager of leisure sales at Lufthansa;
Christopher Greco, a regional business development manager at
Globus and Cosmos; Robert McDowell, director of leisure and
specialty sales at United Airlines; Patricia Larocca, regional
director, east partner marketing at Travelocity; Chris Dane, CEO,
Unlimited Travel Solutions; and Kevin Weisner, internal services,
senior director, Carlson Wagonlit.
German attendees included Gerd Lauterback, sales manager,
Nuremberg Tourist Office; Alfred Beer, president, Eastern Bavaria
and Beer Travel and Tours; Michael Dyckerhoff, managing director,
Oberammergau Tourist Office; and Jochem Eylardi, Hotel Eisenhut and
Rothenburg Tourist Office.
To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].