STUTTGART, Germany -- Welterbe, or "world heritage," may be the
most germane term in Teutonic tourism this year and next.
News that three historic regions in Germany have won World
Heritage Site status from the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), bringing the
country's total to 27 such attractions, follows the launch of a
joint German-Austrian effort to develop -- in partnership with tour
operators -- first-ever, cross-border tours taking in Unesco sites
in both countries. And now two U.S. operators to central Europe say
they plan to offer itineraries based on that effort in 2003.
"I've been working with the Austrians on this, and I plan to
publish brochures combining Unesco in Germany and Austria next
year," said Michael Barszap, president and chief executive of
I.T.S. Tours and Travel, College Station, Texas. "It's a very
popular country combination, given the cultural ties and common
I.T.S. already incorporates stops at Unesco sites in existing
products to Austria and the Czech Republic, and will develop
similar tours to Hungary. "I'm very much interested in this whole
project," said Barszap. "I hope we can become the main operator for
Unesco site programs."
While sample 10-day and five-day itineraries -- from Frankfurt or
Munich to Salzburg and Vienna -- have been devised by a binational
committee of tourism officials, no U.S. operator has committed yet,
said Birgit Dittmar, Unesco product manager for the German National
Tourist Board (GNTB) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
But Austria specialist Smolka Tours also is crafting
Unesco-themed FIT packages to both German-speaking nations based on
those recommendations, said Doris Percht Clark, president of the
Tinton Falls, N.J.-based company.
"It's simply the nature of World Heritage Sites that you really
shouldn't concentrate on just one country, but instead combine them
in one tour," she said.
Smolka's first Unesco FIT packages should be ready for April or
May. Group itineraries may follow, Clark added.
For its part, I.T.S. also plans to combine its German Romantic
Road tours with a similar Austrian itinerary next year, said
That jibes with Unesco's recent decision to add the 40-mile-long
upper middle Rhine Valley, similarly dubbed the "Romantic Rhine,"
to its list of heritage sites in Germany, along with the medieval
Baltic trading towns of Wismar and Stralsund.
German World Heritage sites of longer standing recommended by
the GNTB in its Unesco itineraries include Speyer Cathedral, the
Wuertzburg Residenz Palace, the Wieskirche at Pfaffenwinkel and the
historic city center of Bamberg.
Austrian stops include the Semmering Railway, Hallstatt and the
surrounding salt-mining region, and the historic centers of
Salzburg and Graz. Importantly, Graz will reign as the European
Union's sole Cultural Capital for 2003.
The packages, as conceived by the GNTB and the Austrian National
Tourist Office, would consist of accommodations at Unesco partner
hotels, guided town tours, city and museum passes and visits to the
World Cultural Heritage sites.
Officials from both countries are interested in devising similar
Unesco tours in partnership with Switzerland.