As the partner region of ITB Berlin 2018 the federal state in the north of Germany attracted an unprecedented amount of attention from international buyers, opinion-formers, the media and potential visitors. In the following interview Wolfgang Waldmüller, president of the Regional Tourism Association of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, gives an assessment.
What is the long-term impact of your appearance as the partner region of ITB Berlin 2018?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: Our assessment is a positive one throughout. Together with tourism companies at home we took the opportunity to place the spotlight on the federal state that is Germany’s most popular holiday region. This was a successful joint effort, and the media response alone was overwhelming. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern attracted more media attention than any other partner region in the history of ITB Berlin. According to an analysis by Argus Data Insights, a media monitoring organisation, from October 2017 to May 2018 there were more than 4,500 news items on Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany alone. In order to achieve that result we would have had to invest close to 13 million euros in corresponding advertising. The opening gala featuring a wealth of stars from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern also provided an impressive display of the region’s attractions, and also opened doors.
What were your aims and what have you achieved so far?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: Our aim was to create a mood of change in this holiday region, and for ITB Berlin to give tourism in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern a boost. It definitely achieved that. By showcasing the best of everything that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has to offer from the Baltic to the Lakeland region, particularly nature attractions, we were able to attract the attention of international buyers, opinion-formers and potential visitors on an unprecedented scale and, as I mentioned, drew a huge response from the media. If one were to assign a product life cycle to tourism in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern one could say it has now reached maturity. A further impetus is needed to ensure this holiday region stays the course. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern enjoys great popularity with holidaymakers from Germany, something it still lacks on the international market. As the World’s Largest Travel Trade Show, ITB Berlin provided the region with an impetus that will further boost its attraction at international level.
What was the response from trade visitors at ITB Berlin? Were you able to establish any new or worthwhile contacts?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: During the period open to trade visitors, In order to focus the attention of international buyers a team belonging to the Regional Tourism Association (TMV) presented Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on an information stand at the ITB Buyers Circle and at the gallery at the Marshall Haus. Afterwards 40 buyers, including from Japan, Israel, Vietnam, Georgia and Poland, as well as media representatives went on three trips to explore the market in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This resulted in bookings and a new partnership with tour operators. We addressed topics that included sustainable tourism, health tours and adventure travel at meetings with trade visitors in Halls 4.1, 21b and 22b, and also attended the ITB Berlin Convention, where the response was also very positive.
On the weekend for the public special events took place which showed consumers how diverse this federal state is. What was the reaction?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: There were crowds on the stand of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and we were able to organise numerous fascinating events for visitors. They included sampling beer from the local brewers Störtebeker Braumanufaktur, the ’Rostock Cruise Festival Photobox’, whose aim was to whet visitors’ appetites for the new Rostock Cruise Festival (14 to 16 September), and a beach armchair maker demonstrating his craft. Not to mention the beach armchairs created by a 3D printer, as well as those which attracted a lot of attention around the grounds and provided a perfect backdrop for selfies.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is Germany’s most popular holiday region in the north. What will you be focusing on to ensure future growth?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: We represent Germany’s most popular holiday region. In 2017 more people from Germany spent their holidays here than in any other part of the country. However, we see future growth no longer just in terms of numbers. Instead, the focus must be on improving and networking the infrastructure and services, as well as creating and expanding sustainable tourism and setting up attractive transport concepts.
At the World’s Largest Tourism Trade Show your aim was to attract not just the domestic market but foreign tourists as well. What is the focus of your new concept for attracting international tourism?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: We are not pursuing a new international strategy, but are continuing to invest substantially in our main markets abroad, i.e. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. Through our partnerships we are also represented in Poland and Spain. Cruise passengers from around the world are making Mecklenburg-Vorpommern an international destination, which offers good prospects for Rostock and the entire state.
ITB Berlin was an important step towards attracting more international tourism. We are currently working on the Germany Travel Mart which will be taking place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in May 2020, yet another stop on the road to success.
You were an important player at ITB Berlin 2018. Are you planning to return in the future?
Wolfgang Waldmüller: Yes, and that is something we look forward to. In 2019 we will not be occupying the same floor space, but instead will have many new and exciting products.