NEW YORK --
Ongoing efforts by German tourism officials, tour operators and
other travel interests to spur heritage-related leisure trips to
Germany are bearing fruit, with such bookings picking up steam just
as new, relevant promotional materials, museum attractions and tour
products come on line.
Two years after
it began promoting heritage travel in earnest, the German National
Tourist Office (GNTO) has published "Discover Your Roots in
Germany," a five-page, fold-out brochure aimed at U.S. travelers of
German ancestry, in partnership with a German operator and a
California travel agency.
the guide comes as finishing touches are being put on the German
Emigration Center (GEC) attraction to open Aug. 8 in Bremerhaven,
historically one of Europe's most important emigration ports. A
second, similar institution is to open in the nearby port of
Hamburg in 2007.
The free brochure
consists of a map of the country highlighting 24 points of
genealogical interest, such as the GEC in Bremerhaven; three sample
travel itineraries; background information and tips; and contact
the GNTO in New York; U.S. travel agency Nonstop Travel, Torrance,
Calif.; the German Embassy's German Information Center in
Washington; and Research and Travel, the Oldenburg, Germany-based
tour operator and genealogy research firm with which the GNTO
launched the heritage-travel effort in 2003.
highlights itineraries such as the Migration Experience from
northern German ports, including
Bremen, Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven and Hamburg; it also traces American
roots in Potsdam, Berlin and Glaisin, to the east.
Germany, the guide focuses on Magdeburg, Radebeul and Muehlhausen,
home to a bridge that was the model for August Roebling's Brooklyn
Bridge in New York.
In the south, the
brochure points to Ulm, where Albert Einstein grew up, as well as
Walldorf, where John Jacob Astor -- founder of the Waldorf Hotel in
New York -- was born.
outlined in the brochure include Buttenheim, birthplace of Levi
Strauss of dungarees fame, and Liblar, home to German-American
patriot Carl Schurz.
ancestry-related tours to destinations such as Ireland, Poland and
Scandinavia have sold well in the U.S. for decades, similar product
to Germany has been scarce -- a surprise, given that nearly one in
seven Americans claimed German roots in the 2000 census.
to Germany is a large potential market for the [U.S.] travel
industry ... [as] Germans are, in fact, the largest ethnic group in
America," said Michaela Klare, regional manager of the Americas at
Two years ago,
the GNTO decided to dip into that 43 million-person pool; it
developed both a map and a Web site devoted to heritage for
German-American travelers in partnership with Research and Travel,
which in turn tapped Nonstop Travel as U.S. distributor for seven
of its guided ancestry tours of Germany.
Now, all have
partnered on the brochure.
"The new brochure
is a start ... to target and develop heritage travel from the U.S.
to Germany," said Klare.
It's been slow
going, but the investment in time, money and effort is beginning to
pay off, according to German-born Elisabeth Wilson-Schmitt, owner
of Nonstop Travel.
surely, people are jumping on the heritage bandwagon," she said,
noting requests for heritage information now come in daily,
compared to monthly back in 2003.
take time to develop; someone isn't just going to jump on a plane
to look for his or her roots," Wilson-Schmitt added. "There's a lot
of work and research to do first."
according to the GNTO, half the Americans who travel to Germany
combine vacations with visits to relatives and friends.
accounted for 4.3 million overnights in Germany in 2004, a 15%
increase from the year before.)
Nonstop Travel, now an official partner of the GNTO, offers its own
heritage product to Germany, in the form of customized FITs and
"We used to have
set departure dates for certain escorted trips, which we don't do
anymore [because] it just didn't work out," said Wilson-Schmitt.
The escorted itineraries and city-stay packages found online at
Nonstop Travel's heritage-travel Web site at www.germanroots.org now serve only as
Klare at the GNTO
said the tourist board is looking to further grow the heritage
"We welcome other
partners from the U.S. travel industry to join us in our effort,"
To order a copy
of the brochure, call the GNTO at (800) 637-1171. For more
information, go to www.cometogermany.com, Research and Travel's www.routes.de or Nonstop
reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].