Dr. Carmen Hildebrandt: Capitalize on synergy – City-overlapping co-operation in tourism

In 1994, the cities Erfurt, Weimar, Jena and Ilmenau combined with a further 15 Thu­ringian cities to form the association, “Städte­tourismus in Thüringen” eV (a Thuringian city tourism association). To­­­gether they want to promote tourism in Thuringia and a stronger positioning on the national and international tourism market as well as actively lobby for city tourism in local and national government politics. In worldwide competition for city and cultural travellers, conference and incentive clients, the city agents rely on the bundling of individual strengths. For successful marketing activities, it is necessary to capitalize on sensible sy­­n­­­ergies without forsaking own autonomy.

Half of all guests registered in hotels and guesthouses in the Free State of Thu­ringia spend the night in the cities. It turns out that the amount of international guests is markedly higher. 76 per cent of all non-German overnight guests come to the cities of Thuringia. It is they that are observed on the international market for Thuringia.
In addition to the association cooperation, several member cities work very clo­­sely together in their respective re­­gions or also as regards certain annual themes. Since 1999 very close cooperation has existed between the three central Thuringian cities of Erfurt, Weimar and Je­­na, in particular. In that year Wei­­mar was the European Capital of Culture and in the realization of the “cultural city year”, it involved the neigh­­bouring cities as well as the surrounding area. The cities are each situated only 20 ki­­lometres apart along the A4 motorway. Their tourism organizers and those re­­­s­ponsible for cul­­tural activities have com­bined in order to strengthen the already practiced joint trade fair ap­­­­pearances through intensive cooperation in additional tourist marketing fa­­cets.

 

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Culture with three cities in-step
In this manner, since 1999, a joint re­­gio­­nal cultural calendar has been re­­leased, wherein the regionally significant cultural events – of the cities Erfurt, Weimar and Jena as well as the Weimar county rural area – are published.

Under the motto “Kultur im Drei-Städte-Takt – Musiksommer” (three cities in-step with culture – music summer) the unique summer festivals of the three ci­t­­ies are therein specially advertised to­­­gether. The “DomStufenfestspiele” (dome festival games) in Erfurt, the arts festival in Weimar and the cultural arena in Jena characterize the cultural highlights of July and August. Likewise the most diverse other open-air performances of the region are presented, for example the Erfurt summer theatre in the “Bar­füßer­­kirche” church, in the school of music court­yard and in the Micha­elis church courtyard or the Köstritzer glass marquee in Weimar. With all these events, the idyllic beer gardens and ice-cream parlours the cities possess an abundance of experiences for the locals as well as guests from around the world.

Conferences with three cities in-step
A second focal point of joint marketing for the cities is the communication of the conference and congress region “Er­­furt-Weimar-Jena” under the motto “Ta­­gen im 3-Städte-Takt” (conferen­ces with three cities in-step), supplementary to the respective advertising of the individual cities as meeting locations. For the first time in 2003 a joint destination report materialized. Already in 2004 the conference region was introduced by a joint study tour for conference and congress decision-makers, event management agencies and travel operators. A current activity focal point lies in the conception of the regional “congress plan­­ner”, a sales guide that is specially oriented towards the acquisition of congresses for 500 or more participants. The three cities are introduced with their specific conference facilities, for example: the congress centre of the “neue weimarhalle”, the Erfurt trade fair, the Erfurt “Kaisersaal” (hall) and the
St .Augustine’s Evangelical Monastery in Erfurt or the Zeiss Planetarium in Jena. The extraordinary event sites of the re­­gion are also presented in order to pro­­mote att­ractive social programmes.

Even for the realization of the financially intensive trade fair participation, the following is necessary: on the one hand, regrouping in the financial budgets of the three tourist operators in favour of this cooperation project and in in­­­­stances to the expense of independent projects. On the other hand, sensitization of the conference sites and hotels of the re­­spective cities is vital for city-overlapping collaboration. Neither can be taken for granted. The advantages of this bundling of strengths for market presence must constantly be communicated.

 

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Erfurt, Weimar and Jena are centrally lo­­­cated in the middle of Germany and offer historic and modern conference centres, an attractive accommodation market as well as a comprehensive se­­lection of incentives and social programmes – ideal for conference and con­­gress hosts as well as event management agencies.

Long-distance cycle trail
„Thuringian city chain”
A workgroup is planning the development of the long-distance cycle trail “Thu­­­­ringian city chain”. This workgroup includes members of the city tourism centre and traffic planners of the seven adjacent and mem­­ber cities Altenburg, Gera, Jena, Weimar, Erfurt, Gotha and Eisenach and local agents of the six adjacent administrative districts. This long-distance cycle trail has been classified in the Germany-wide network plan as part of the D4 Route and will in future be one of the most important East-West connections. On a 225 kilometre stretch it connects seven of the most beautiful cities in Thuringia, well-known landmarks and cultural highlights and it leads through scenically attractive areas. All the cities along this cycle trail are on the German railway route network, enabling the uncomplicated cycling of a section of the trail. In addition, the long-distance cycle trail is connected to numerous other cycling trails, with which the cyclist can reach further at­tractive regions in Thuringia, for example, the Ilm cycle trail in Wei­mar leads to Ilmenau.
The workgroup wants to unify the signpost status on the entire route and further optimize the construction level as well as release professional geographic material in cooperation with publishers. Through the combined efforts of the project groups the coordination of all schemes and plans for the long-distance cycle trail “Thuringia city chain” is promoted.
Joint marketing projects at national and international level should further increase the popularity of this long-distance cycle trail in Central Germany. Last but not least, the quality improvement of the cycling trail is also of use to the residents of the participating cities and regio

Taking stock of success in city tourism
In the medium-term analysis, the balance tilts very favourably towards tourism development of the three cities Er­­furt, Weimar and Jena. From 1998 until 2006, the commercial accommodation could be raised by 36 per cent, while in contrast a mere seven per cent could be achieved for the entire Free State. The significance of tourism in the cities of Erfurt, Weimar and Jena in relation to the state level in consideration of the annual comparison of 1998 to 2006: 71 per cent of the in­­crease of all commercial accommodation in the Free State comes from the three central Thuringian cities.

 

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Outlook
The cities of Thuringia offer a central position, an excellent traffic connection, an attractive and diverse accommodation market, excellent regional catering and historical and modern conference centres, first-class cultural events, market places and folk festivals. The tourism organisers of the cities of Erfurt, Weimar and Jena are optimistic that tourism development can be stimulated also in the years to come. Further national current theme campaigns, for example “Bauhaus 2009”, are jointly supported to increase the popularity of the cities. In particular, the permanence of presence at the financially intense public fairs and trade-visitor workshops in important in­­ternational target markets like Swi­t­zer­land, France, the USA or Japan will also in future be promoted by the bundling of instruments and strengths.
The city-overlapping cooperation in the different themes of tourism marketing will complement the activities of individual cities, strengthen combined priorities and overall contribute towards the stabilization of tourism development in this region.

HildebrandtDr. Carmen Hildebrandt is the chair­woman of the “Städtetourismus in Thü­rin­gen eV” association and heads the workgroup for the long-distance cycle trail “Thüringer Städte­kette”, as well as the workgroup “Tagen im 3-Städte-Takt” (meetings with three cities in-step). Sin­­ce 1998, she has been the managing di­­rector of the “Tourismus GmbH Er­­furt” (a tourism company).