Sunday, August 14, 2011

With business growing, Germany beckons Indian tourists

By Neelam Mathews

Munich, Aug 14

After attracting scores of Indian businesses to its popular trade fairs, Germany is now targeting regular tourists from the country, as part of its focus on India and China, showcasing its spas, art, vineyards, festivals and even casinos.

 "Germany and India have had strong trade relations and this led to a big business travel market. We are now seeing leisure traffic also move up, with family travels and younger couples visiting Germany," Peter Blumenstengel of the country's tourism board told IANS.

"This year, from January to March, 106,151 Indian visitors have already visited Germany. This is an increase of around 15 percent over last year," added his colleague Barbara Leutner, spokeswoman for what is officially called the German National Tourist Board.

Last year, 455,655 Indians visited Germany, up 26 percent over 358,588 in the previous year. Globally, Germany receives 10 million visitors from the Netherlands, its largest market, followed by 4.7 million from the US, and 1.1 million from China.

According to officials, 60 percent of traffic from India to Germany in the past had been primarily for transit -- visitors connecting to flights to Europe and the US. Now a big chunk is coming for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

Little wonder Germany's flag carrier Lufthansa has reserved 20 percent of its seats for the lucrative business class. The airline flies to seven Indian cities and in less than a decade, it has almost quadrupled its flights to India.

Officials explained that Germany is also focussing on some niche products to woo Indian middle class tourists who are becoming significant global travellers.

"We see that Indians are heading to Macau for casinos. So we plan to offer casinos here in Wiesbaden," said a tourist board official, adding the oldest is housed in a grand historical building of 10 halls, function rooms and restaurants under one roof.

This apart, acclaimed Hotel Nassauer Hof in Wiesbaden is also looking to tap the emerging segment. "We are in talks with the Taj Hotels on the possibilities of networking," said general manager Karl Nueser.

Wiesbaden's thermal springs, Nueser said, will attract upmarket Indians looking at spa treatments and packages. These can be combined with vineyard tours to taste the famous Riesling wine. Besides, Wiesbaden also hosts many medical conferences.

The tourist board, on its part, is also gung ho in attracting Indians to the Oktoberfest in Munich. The event is one of Germany's most famous and spirited events and the world's largest fair, with over five million people attending every year.

It runs from late September to the first weekend in October. Only beer brewed within the city borders of the City of Munich is allowed to be served, Blumenstengel said, adding other attractions include the BMW center, beer gardens, baroque and modern architecture.

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