Cologne 2011 GTM
Cologne-Bonn. May 7-11, GTM (German Travel Mart) - this section would be more of interest to travel trade ....
May 7, 2011. We arrived Cologne.
Spa fam trip is over, and we are back to reality - travel mart starts tomorrow.
In Cologne our group split since different nationalities were booked by their country's tourist offices at different hotels. Chinese delegations stayed at Renaissance, Scandinavians at Radisson SAs (of course!), Russians at Le Meriden, Americans in Marriott and Europeans spread out in different hotels. Asians and Australians were at 4* hotel near Convention center.
Marriott was populated with Americans, Canadians and Israelis.
We arrived Marriott and checked in. My room was adequate but comfortable. Comparing to other Marriott's this hotel feels lower than 5*. It has tired interior, scratched walls. Unpleasant surprise is when you enter the main revolving door, there are few steps stairs! Hard to lag suitcases. Service wise, not too many doormen available at the door. Room did not have robe. So I would rate it 4* as opposed 5*. Anyway I am here to work. 12.50 euro per day internet! One of the delegates told me she got internet stick for 17 euro for a month. Probably will be my next choice in Europe.
I refreshed, and with my newfound friend Cindy from USA whom I met on fam trip, we went to explore Cologne. The positive thing about Marriott is it's location. 3 minutes walk to train station. Unlike other cities, train station is right in the center by famous Dom- Cathedral. You walk to the train station, then walk through it and you are at the Cathedral where you find stores, pedestrian shopping district, museum and river promenade. Great location. That also mades easier if you travel by train - you do not need cab ride. For people looking more upscale 5* hotel, I recommend Excelsior, traditional hotel, also few minutes from Dom and train station.
I walked at pedestiran district, did some small shopping, got delicious pretzels at the bakery and had meal from the bakery in my room. I got internet for 12 euro for 24 hours and caught up on my work since I knew next few days will be hectic. It was a long day so I went to bed early.
May 8. Had some time until 10:30 bus transfer to the convention center so I decided to sleep more. Big mistake - when I came to the breakfast, it was a zoo. Hard to find table for buffet and looks like they were finishing breakfast. After breakfast I went to the bus and we were off for a short ride to the Koln-Messe convention center. The manager of US delegation announced that the fam trips are over (other group explored food and wine), so no more spa treatments, food, wine tasting, back to reality!
Prior to convention, GTM came up with social media networking system so you find contacts and network with them and make appointments for travel professionals. I am not sure what function journalists had, since they had more sightseeing, interviews and press conferences. We were supposed to make minimum 10 appointments, I made more. It was great idea to communicate to people through network before decide to make appointment or not. In other trade shows, you just look at suppliers and make an appointment, here you can network in advance. If you set your profile with right keywords, suppliers will find you. For example, I asked for a question how to get to Munich ghotel from airport and received many suggestion from different contact and even one supplier, vounteered to pick me up! Thank you Michael!!! However the glitch of the system is appointment setup process. The system does not search available time for both parties, you select time and send request to supplier, then they reply if they accept or decline. Since there is no way to see there available time, it was going back and forth for each appointment especially at the end and who has time for that? As result, many people have double and triple booked and many of my appointments were overlayed including my first one.
First day were opening session and seminars. I've seen my fam trip companions but now the delegates were congregating by their country. We listened to presentation from Lufthanza and Deutsche Bahn. It reminded me to offer more to clients rail pass with flexible travel. German ICE trains are very comfortable speed trains, equivalent to French TGV. It is relaxing and convenient way to go to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and of course neigboring Austria and Switzerland.
Then there was presentation about Health and Wellness tourism segment. By that time I already had an idea after fam trip about German spas. It is very popular European destination for spas, why not offer this to Americans? The speaker was talking about different aspects medical tourism, but the one I remembered is that they provide quality medical care at fraction of cost in USA. Also, they provide (according to the speaker) better quality, quicker access for plastic surgery, eye care. Of course Germany and other European countries insurances cover this expenses but not from USA. In addition to treatment unlike in USA, the treatment in Germany is combined with rehabilitation and 4* resorts, excersize, nutrition, organic food etc..
After lunch break, there was presentation for student hostel travel. We tried to skip this session, I do not sell student travel and hostels, but we decided to stay. Our manager said he could not talk us out of this session. We were grateful that he got us out of next presentation for one hour: panel discussion on BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). We were excused from that one - nothing of interest for Americans! Instead, he booked us for a walking tour of Cologne.
We went back to hotel, refreshed and met in the lobby for walking tour.
Cologne Tour and Jewish Heritage.
The tour was for Canadians and Americans. The guide took us for 1.5 hour tour of Cathedral and old town and gave me some interesting facts about Jewish community in Cologne area. We also visited Rathaus and there is Roman excavations next to the old city walls.
This archeological site will be the site of Jewish museum. It is pending now due to the lack of funds. It is admirable to show the world that this German Catholic city, with its famous Cathedral, claims to be the oldest home of Jewish community North of Alps, dating back to at least 321BC.
He also told me that Cologne Jewish community was active at Medieval Cologne's due to strategic location on the river Rhine at the crossing of trade routes which brought it prosperity. Its Jewish community thrived until pogroms and explusions in the 14th and 15th centuries but perished at Holocaust, Now it is about 5,000-strong Jewish community, it tripled in the last 15 years, mainly due to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who account for most of the country's 105,000 registered Jews. Part of the resurgence is due to former German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl who invited Jews from the former Soviet Union to settle in Germany to help revitalize the Jewish community. With neo-Nazi crime on the rise, police guard synagogues round the clock and the community is haunted by the memory of the Holocaust in which Nazis killed about 6 million Jews. Although not on the scale of Berlin's Jewish museum which opened to great fanfare in 2001, locals say the historical connection will give Cologne's museum special appeal.
We finished our walk at the Brauhaus where we had presentation from the owner with a snack of sandwiches, beer and sausages. Then we walked by the river, enjoying good weather and people watching in the park by the river. Back to hotel, we had some time to change for grand opening reception at the Cathedral itself!
We gathered at reception at hotel prior to going to cathedral. I had chance to meet Israeli colleague to have chance to network. Israeli had big delegation about 17 people - it is a lot for such a small country. Germany is a big destination for Israelis and Russians, I found out.
We walked to the cathedral. I never dreamed that I will be part of the reception by town officials at famous cathedral! It was very special. At Dom's square, they had group of local youth dance orchestras standing by. We walked inside Cathedral and the opening ceremony started. We were greeted by mayor of Cologne and tourist office officials. There was a minute of silence to remember victims of Japanese tsunami. Afterwards the Cathedral architect gave a speech regarding cathedral, and its construction statistics and facts. At the end organ played. It was beautiful. Afterwards we all walked through the old town (they closed the traffic!) to the venue where dinner being held . Dinner was buffet, delicious choices in the beautiful setup. The music band thankfully was not loud :-) . We did not want to walk and three of us caught taxi earlier to beat the traffic to the hotel. Next morning was busy day at trade show. The work started...
May 8, Cologne-Bonn
I ordered wake up call at 6am to avoid late breakfast fiasco. We gravitated to same single tables, yet being close to each other so it made nice conversation with newly found collegaues. Marriott elevators turned out to be very slow, always staying in lines. Definitely not 5* standard. It keeps bugging me since I am kind of lost on German classification system. Some 5* hotels did not look like 5* hotels and some 4* hotels we look like 5* hotels. I asked and was told that due to corporate travel and also very large share of medical tourism, health insurances only cover stay at 4* hotel so many hotels lower their qualifications, same with corporate travel. Go figure. So it helps to have local suppliers to guide us through this maze.
Arrived trade show and started my route for apponitments. Since everything was in the computer and you just print your schedule, I had to find internet for my laptop and checked my schedule. I was indeed triple booked my first supplier, so it gave me chance to acclimate to the trade show and get oriented.
Lunch was served in the convention center, just outside of trade floor, very nice buffet with salads, variety of salads and hot foods and desserts.
To my pleasant surprise, I was impressed that after networking and finding what my niche is (FIT's and private tours for Jewish Heritage itineraries), many tour operators and tourist boards prepared programs just for me!
New Interesting Products and ideas.
I reconnected with my suppliers who already were working on my client's requests.
I found some new interesting products, for example:
- Fairy tale route - it is 650 km from Frankfurt to Hamburg, following on steps by brothers Grimm. Most people traveled and know Romantic Road, but Fairy tale route is the oldest and most popular scenice route in Germany . Diversified romantic villages with typical half-timbered houses, castles, ruins and monuments, fairy tales and legends are becoming alive. The German Fairy - tale route was founded in the historic city of the Brothers Grimm Steinau. The route is worth a detour if you travel this area with children, fairy tales are resurected on the way. There are open air theaters, puppet shows and festivals. The tourists will be greeted by fairy-tale characters (Mother Goose, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel), or we can create package deals to experience fairy tales for the young and old. Did I stir your imagination? If yes, contact us for this delightful tour for the whole family.
- I've had a meeting with a representative from Israel who works in Berlin and can arrange for us kosher meals for my clients at Crowne Plaza hotel.
- There is a small town Erding not far from Munich airport which has mineral springs. Nice to relax before flying home if you already toured Munich. For kosher travelers, we have connections to provide kosher food there.
- I've met representatives from tourist board of Nuremberg, Furth, Bremenhofen and Erfurt, who prepared itineraries with inclusion of Jewish interest sightseeing.
- I've met with specialists who design and run their wine tours
- Tours In the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI
- Music tours - in the footsteps of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach
- WWII interest tours (the fall of Berlin wall) and unification of Germany
- Christmas markets
Evening was another reception at Bonn (former parlament ) with music and entertainment.
I finished trade show to see people who were not at my appointment list. After trade show, we had brief bus tour of the Bonn. Afterwards were came to hotel and I ran to change to be on time for our final dinner and inspection of Maritime hotel. The hotel was very nice, 4* with a lot's of lights, atrium inside, and very nice appointed rooms. Honestly, it looked better than Marriott. We had nice dinner and finished with desert in lovely restaurant. We toasted our host at hotel and our completion of this very busy but productive event .
Next day I had breakfast, checked out from hotel, walked to the train station and boarded train to Frankfurt airport. The train was ICE high speed, "quiet car" and a pleasure to ride. Beats inter-european flights. It arrived into Frankfurt airport (pay attention since final destination was Munich!) and there was internal connection to the terminal with luggage check-in. After that, it was uneventful flight back home.
This concluded my exploration of Germany.
For more information or book your trip to Germany, travel agents, please contact us at 877-466-2934, email@example.com
Final thoughts and Jewish Heritage itineraries.
Bremerhaven and its emigration museum. My researchers in Germany used this museum to track people left Germany for Ellis Island. Susan Reinitz, the museum representative showed interesting project they developed for Heritage research. They have extensive database for tracing emigrants. This museum has been honored with "The European museum of the year 2007" and is planning to cooperate with Jewish museum in Berlin offering joint exhibitions and ticket combination cards. Visitors to the Emigration center in Bremerhaven gain and compelling insight into emigrant's lives and their life stories. This is a great resource and highly recommended for Jewish visitors to find out about their family heritage.
In the area there is town Bremen where is also had Jewish community dated to 19c and counted 1300 Jews. In 1933, Kristallnacht was particularly cruel there, with 5 people killed and Jewish men deported to Sachenhausen concentration camp and synagogue destroyed. A new Bremen Jewish comunity was founded after the war and synagogue was opened in 1961.
In Celle (pronounced Tselle), a town in in Lower Saxony, the synagogue circa 1740, was damaged in 1938 and reclaimed in 1945 by Hassidic survivors of the nearby concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. It is considered one of the oldest synagogues and has been restored in 1974 and also houses museum.
In Chemnitz, Jews lived from 1308. There was Grand Romanesque synagogue from 1899. As in other towns, the population 3,500 Jews, suffered at Kristallnacht . Synagogue was burned and Jews either been deported or fled. After the war, only 45 Jewish survivors left. After the war, when West Germany admitted holocaust however, Eastern Germany denied all responsiblity. Chemnitz has been under Soviet rule in Eastern Germany and was renamed as Karl Marx Stadt (not sure why since Karl Marx was born in Trier). In 1999, there were only 17 Jews left. Finally, the city recognized contribution of Jews under mayor Peter Seifert, and made an effort to ask forgiveness, instituted days of Jewish culture and invited Jews from former Soviet Union to come and live there. The invitation to Soviet Jews began as an act of redemption by East Germany's first democratically elected government after the fall of the Wall in 1989 it was incorporated into the reunification agreement between the divided Germanys. Each year since 1991, at least 5,000 Jews and accompanying family members from the former Soviet Union have received visas.
And for non-Jewish Germans, the renewal of communities can feel like a form of atonement. "It is not the task of the Jewish community to build a synagogue," said a member of a committee supporting the new Chemnitz synagogue. The $4.5 million building is being paid for by the city, the state of Saxony and $250,000 in local contributions. "Germans destroyed the synagogue and Germans should rebuild one. We cannot bring back one life, but we can do this." The synagogue was completed in 2002 and now it is served to new revived Jewish community.
Every year in March the Days of Jewish Culture come alive with a program that is a highlight in the Chemnitz event calendar which showcases Jewish art, everyday culture and life style.
Then I've met with representatives of town Erfurt, who told me a story of Old Erfurt synagogue. The original synagogue building dates to 13C but it was destroyed in middle ages in Black Plague massacre and Jews were expelled . The building was served for other purposes therefore centuries later it was not recognized by Nazis as synagogue and it was overlooked and was not destroyed. It was purchased after the war and rebuilt and now serves as a museum of the culture and history of Jewish community. For more information, see http://alte-synagoge.erfurt.de/jle/en/oldsynagogue/
I already wrote articles on Jewish Franconia http://www.jewishtravelagency.com/JewishTravel/JewishFranconia.htm
So I was happy to brainstorm new ideas with Nuremberg and Furth tourst board representatives. For travelers departing on a cruise from Nuremberg, it will be a good pre-cruise exploration.
And of course there are vibrant Jewish communities in Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin and many other cities. areas. Of course they have issues since the Jews came from former Soviet Union and they are different from German Jews of Pre-WWII . There are still issue in assimilation and culture. I offer no opinion on but here are some links - food for thought.
But I am happy to report that it is a good time for Jewish travelers to go to Germany. There are a lot's of Russian and Israelis going there, so why not us?
Disclaimer: this report presents just an opinion of individuals who's been there.... Tastes Differ...
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