Cologne’s heritage management a lesson for India; Indian influx doubles in the past 5 years

Calling the tourism offerings of Cologne multi-faceted, he hopes to cash in on its growing awareness among the Indian outbound and its positioning as a major centre for exhibitions and fairs. He terms heritage management as a major area of mutual engagement – where India could learn from Germany.

Gregor GosciniakCologne’s recall as a destination, to a layman, is best summed up as the birthplace of famous cologne perfume. However, delving a little deeper into its tourism offerings, one realizes that it has plenty more for the discerning traveller. “It is not only one of the oldest big German cities and a major tourist hub; it is also one of the major centers for exhibitions and trade fairs, congresses and business meets– not only in Germany, but in the entire Western Europe actually,” informs Gregor.

Sharing that these MICE and conferences acted as a major component of the tourism-connect between the Indian outbound and the city of Cologne, he tells us that many of these world fairs were attracting a large number of Indians. “We are also attracting a substantial FIT’s families coming for holiday part of it; they come to see the famed chocolate museum, cathedrals, river cruises on KD cruise and to visit the zoo,” divulges Gregor. “They also visit the 4711 fragrance house, so we have a plethora of offerings to keep our Indian guests engaged,” he adds.

Calling the Indian market an important one, but yet a small portion of the total inbound, he tells us that, “Percentage-wise it is not the biggest market, but is a growing market of course. In 2014, we had approximately 40,000 over-nights from Indian guests. In general, we had 5.76 million overnight, so it is small in terms of overall percentage. In the Indian context, five years ago, we had half the numbers.”

Adding that these numbers were heading north in the last five years, he informs that, “We have doubled that influx. They have been to Munich and Berlin already, so they want to explore other big German cities, and Cologne being the fourth biggest city, it is getting its piece of the cake so to speak.”

He hopes the numbers reaching to 60,000 over-nights in the near future, expressing hope that the overnight component grows. “A lot of tourists come in the morning, visit sites and leave. I would love to see more Indians spend at least a couple of nights soaking in the experience of the city and its vibrant offerings,” explains Gregor.

It remains a fact that Germany bore a major brunt of the devastation that engulfed much of the world during the Second World War. What has been fascinating though is its phoenix like resurrection.  Its top-notch maintenance of heritage and architecture has much to teach to India. “There are great opportunities to learn from each other. What we are doing pretty well not only in Cologne but in other German cities is to preserve our heritage quite well; because in the Second World War a lot of its architecture and buildings were sadly lost. We do not have much left, so we treat what we have as treasure,” he agrees. Adding that India could learn to a certain degree was to promote its nation and cities in terms of tourism. “Germany is very experienced and the German National Tourist Board is doing a great job. We are aggressively promoting Germany as a destination in India; there is ‘Visit India’ in Germany as well, but they are not as active. India could participate a little more and work towards creating more visibility,” he advises. “India has diversity, heritage and is full of architectural gems besides being a culinary delight. It is huge; they are not promoting it as well as they should have. May be this is an area where they could work on and catch-up,” adds. Gregor.

Commenting on the ghastly terror attacks on France and its impact on the tourist numbers, he opines that, “From the perspective of the Cologne Tourist Board, there has been no drop in numbers at all. From a German perspective, as well, we have not noticed any drop in the inbound. Of course, unfortunately there will be an impact on France.”

Adding that terror issue was a ubiquitous component of our daily lives, he believes that it was an issue which was going to be an agenda for the whole world to deal with. “India too had its share. We are not promoting our country as a safer destination than other European countries; frankly speaking these incidents can occur anywhere and everywhere,”he says. “Although, it is an issue we all have to face, it is an issue which will affect the travel industry. But, speaking in general, Europe is a safe destination,” he concludes.

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