Germany woos the Middle East at Dresden

The GCC is one of the top 20 source markets for Germany and the third largest non-European source market, after China and US.

The recently-concluded, 44th Germany Travel Mart (GTM) took place in Dresden with 527 participants from 51 countries – and TTN was invited for the event. Some 338 German tourism companies showcased their product offerings to the international buyers and 19,000 appointments were recorded via the networking tool. Established in 1972, the GTM is the most important B2B platform for Germany’s inbound tourism industry.Since 2012, the GNTB has been running the GTM as a green event, and this year is no exception when it comes to matters of sustainability. Sustainable measures include supporting eco-friendly international travel for the delegates, providing catering that uses locally sourced ingredients, not using disposable plates and cutlery, and making better use of public transport. The concept for the 2018 GTM has once again been awarded the Green Note quality seal.

Petra Hedorfer, chief executive officer of the GNTB, said: “Germany is very well positioned in the international tourism market. In 2017, we were once again able to build on our status as the second most popular destination for European travellers for the 8th consecutive year. 2018 has a positive start with January and February at an increase of 5.2 per cent over the same time last year. We are forecasting a 3 per cent to 4 per cent overall increase.”

Europe remains Germany’s largest source market with 61.3 million visitors, with 56 per cent being holiday trips. Overseas visits had an increase of 6.8 per cent and of these visitors, holiday trips are at 63 per cent of overall visits. The Gulf states had shown a decline in visitor and spend in 2017, however, January and February 2018 have shown positive figures, which is encouraging as these months are in the off season. 

Dirk Hilbert, mayor of GTM host city Dresden, presented his city to us. At 4.43 million overnight stays, Dresden continues to rank seventh among the top city travel destinations in Germany. Two days are the average overnight stay and over 20,000 jobs area associated to tourism. With over 50 museums in the city, history and culture stands out here in Dresden with the most popular being the Green Vault displaying the 41-carat natural green diamond.

After the historical city of Dresden, the capital of the eastern German state of Saxony, was destroyed in WWII, the city and its historical buildings have been rebuilt to their former glory. With over 800 years of history, you are never short of museums, churches (the renovated Church of Our Lady is well worth a visit with its stunning altar and pillars) or theatres housing some of the most amazing paintings from the world’s most renowned painters, sculptures and other artifacts dating back to the 16th century. 

Inside the Royal Palace, you will find clothing the Royal family wore. Nowhere else the world will you find pieces like this so well preserved. At the same time, you can also visit the hip neighbourhood of Neustadt (new city) across the river Elbe, where you’ll find lively cafes and restaurants. Even here, art is part of the city’s charm with murals on the facades of many of the buildings, offices or apartments.

In line with GTM’s Green Initiative, Dresden is a green city where within 10 or 15 minutes, you can walk to a number of places of interest.  However, the public transport makes it so easy to move around the city with trams and trains easily accessible. 

To take the load off the feet after touring the many sites in the city, take the Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt (The Saxon Steamship Company) that operates a fleet of historical and modern riverboats. This boat ride down the River Elbe is a lovely way to spend the afternoon or watch the sun go down while experiencing Dresden from the water. Here are great photo opportunities of the historical town centre, ministry buildings and palaces, some beautiful homes on the water front, and wave at the local’s enjoying fishing or picnicking on the river bank.

In keeping with being green, Volkswagen has its centre of Future Mobility in Dresden for car enthusiasts. Here you can walk along the production line and see up close the final production stage of these electric cars, the newest model being the E-Golf. The highlight of this visit is a free-of-charge test drive through Dresden in Electric and plug in hybrid vehicles. The Transport Factory is not only a production centre, but with its location near the Botanical Gardens, they also stage concerts and events making them an integral part of the community. 

There are a number of hotels in the town centre including Hilton and Kempinski and German brand Maritim. I stayed with the Martim, which is conveniently located on the bank of the Elbe, next to the ICC as well as a 10-minute walk from the train station, shopping and the historical city centre. Featuring 328 rooms including Executive, junior and Presidential suites, and even the standard the rooms are modern large and comfortable. The daily breakfast was plentiful and a cozy lounge for a relaxing refreshment from early evening. There is also indoor pool and sauna to help unwind. Free wi-fi is also on offer and the friendly staff at reception were helpful and knowledgeable not just on Dresden, but the surrounding area.

An easy 30-minute train or car journey northwest of Dresden is Meissen, home of the famous Meissen porcelain and like Dresden, it is rich with history. The Albrechsburg Castle, the Gothic Miessen Cathedral and the Meissen Frauenkirche are all walkable from the three train stations or the car park. There is quite a climb to the castle and cathedral, however, there is the option of a funicular lift.

A visit to nearby Pirna and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains is a must. The town of Pirna is set in the picturesque landscape of the Elbe Valley, between Dresden and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, and is the gate to Saxon Switzerland. Welcomed by the president of culture and tourism of Pirna, Christian Schmidt-Doll, we started our journey at the recently restored Sonnenstein Castle, which sits at the top of a rocky plateau overlooking the old town. Within the fortress of the castle, they have created a unique exhibition space now showing the works of Hans Sheib and curated by Chistaine Stoebe Summer of Sculpture. 

A short walk down steps takes us to the old town of Pirna, where the Mayor of Pirna, Klaus-Peter Hanke, tells us about his medieval city. Pirna may have become known due to  the paintings by Venetian artist Bernardo Bellotto, but it has kept its medieval town feel due to being spared from war and fire damage.

Just another short distance from Pirna straddled between the borders of South East Germany and the Czech Republic are the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and the Saxon Switzerland National Park. These mountains are ranked among the most spectacular natural and cultural landscapes in Europe. What used to lie under the ocean over 144 million years ago, these formations were formed from wind, water and frost erosion. There are over 2,000 kilometers of walking tails and cycle routes as well as for the more enthusiastic, over 21,000 rock climbing routes. 

This writer fell in love with this part of Germany and would suggest you recommend this to your clients.