|The St. Thomas Boys Choir performs at the famous St. Thomas Church.|
The opening in Leipzig's Opera House of the 38th German Travel Market on May 13 delivered a strong blend of local entertainment combined with greetings from hosts from the German National Tourist Board, the region of Saxony and the beautiful host city.
The surprise stage hostess of the evening was a New York City-born local celebrity here in Leipzig who is little known to Americans. She was Cheryl Shepherd, an actress who received a roar of recognition from the mainly German audience because of her stardom in a local German TV soap opera. Shepherd portrays a plastic surgeon named Dr. Elena Eichorn, who appears to be as popular here as Hugh Laurie's portrayal of Dr. Gregory House on U.S. television.
Shepherd gave a flawless hosting presentation in her native American English, introducing the host speakers and a stirring lineup of Leipzig classical musical performances.
The evening opened with Leipzig’s St. Thomas Boys Choir, a tourism attraction in the city now celebrating its 800th year as a music organization. The landmark year for the group affiliated with the city’s Thomasforum music school for boys is a main tourism theme for Leipzig this year. The boys sang two pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, who lived and worked at their school as a music director from 1723 until his death in 1750.
With the historically eye-opening Bach Museum serving here as a major visitor attraction, a guest is tempted to name the master composer as Leipzig's top favorite son were it not for the fact that other classical musical giants, including Richard Wagner, Felix Mendesohn Bartholdy, Robert and Clara Shumann, Edvard Grieg, Gustav Mahler and many others lived and worked here.
One of Leipzig’s year-long tourism themes in 2013 will be a celebration of the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner. It is not a stretch to agree with the assessment of Dr. Jurgen Ernst, the executive director of the Leipzig Mendelsohn Foundation who hosted our visit to the Mendelsohn House Museum where Mendelsohn lived and died, that only Vienna compares with Leipzig as an unchallenged historic center of the classical music universe.
Other opening ceremony performers included Amarcord, a popular quintet of a capella singers who are all St. Thomas choir graduates, and the Leipzig Ballet, which performed a winning segment of the original ballet “Chaplin,” which the Leipzig Ballet premiered here in 2010. The corps de ballet was especially engaging as an army of identical derby-attired little tramps performing dance variations of Chaplin’s patented movie struts.
Appearing at the GTM’s opening press conference at the Porsche Manufacturing plant in Leipzig, German National Tourist Office CEO Petra Hedorfer said tourism now represents 4.4 percent of Germany's gross national product, exceeding the country's construction industry at 4.3 percent and auto manufacturing at 2.3 percent. “Germany is moving towards a service society and tourism is now twice the size of the auto industry,” Hedorfer noted.
In 2010, Germany received income of 20.6 Billion Euros from international leisure travelers and 13.5 Billion Euros from international business travelers, for a combined 34.1 Billion in income from international visitors. This represents 30 percent of Germany's overall travel income when compared with the 66.7 Billion Euros the country received from its own domestic travel market.
Travelers to Germany spend an average of 171 Euros per day., including 33 Euros on average per day in shopping and 33 Euros per day in dining, with the balance in accommodations.
North and South America combined represent about 10.1 percent of Germany's source markets for arriving international travelers, compared with 76 percent of visitors coming from European countries and 9.6 percent from Asia.
U.S. visitors spent 4.7 million overnights in Germany in 2011, a decline of 2.3 percent in overnights from 2010, which is considered an excellent result since Germany normally experiences a significant, often larger decline in each year following the Oberramergau passion play performed every 10th year. The play was last performed during summer 2010.
U.S. arrival figures are up 0.4 percent for the first two months of 2012 compared to Jan.-Feb. 2011. The U.S. market to Germany is projected to grow two to four percent in 2012, compared to an expected overall growth of 4.2 percent in international visitors to Germany.
The national tourism themes announced by Hedorfer for the GNTO in 2012 include “Wine & Heritage in Germany” and “Business Travel in Germany.” Next year, 2013, will carry the theme “Germany for Young People,” with unspecified promotions to be launched targeted at student groups in the 14 to 19 age group and independent trips for young adults aged 19 to 29 traveling in Germany with friends. The buzz around Leipzig, however, was about the 200th Wagner anniversary to be celebrated next year in cities such as Leipzig, Dresden and other cities where the composer lived and worked.
There were 1,200 to 1,300 registered delegates for the Leipzig GTM. Their reactions to the events and news of the show from some of the 30 invited tour operator and travel agent buyers from the U.S. will be part of an upcoming report on www.travelagentcentral.com.