Manuela Schwesig, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Minister President says the region stands for naturally grown and well-maintained sustainability
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is this year’s Official Partner Region of ITB Berlin. In this exclusive interview, Manuela Schwesig, the region’s Minister President, tells ITB Berlin News that since 1990, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has made excellent progress as a tourist destination. We asked her about how Mecklenburg-Vorpommern will benefit from being the official partner region of ITB Berlin…
According to a study conducted by the Foundation for Future Issues in 2017, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ranks second among the most popular holiday destinations within Germany, trailing closely behind Bavaria. Miles and miles of sandy beaches, a unique lake district, and the impressive architecture of the many palaces and manor houses make Mecklenburg-Vorpommern particularly popular among families.
The infrastructure is of a high standard, as is the quality of service. However, we do not intend to rest on our laurels. It is time to move on to the next level of development, which is based on an even higher quality of service, more internationality, improved infrastructure, and better links between our offers. This is the only way we can unlock existing potential on an international level as well.
ITB Berlin, where decision-makers and experts from around the world gather, provides the right platform to take a major step forward. We aim to create a spirit of optimism which will allow us to conquer new frontiers after the fair. In this context, our new status as ITB’s first official partner region will help turn the spotlight on the holiday destination Mecklenburg- Vorpommern.
OUR MESSAGE AT ITB BERLIN AND BEYOND IS “MECKLENBURGVORPOMMERN – THE SPIRIT OF NATURE
What are some of the key trends which attract tourists to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern?
Consistency, authenticity, and nature are the trends in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Nature is by far the most important reason for holidaymakers to travel to Northeast Germany. About a third of the area of Mecklenburg- Vorpommern consists of nature reserves. Hence, our message at ITB Berlin and beyond is “Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – The spirit of nature”.
We also aim to appeal to international visitors through nature. In addition to that, the good air quality and the good climate are factors which make the region attractive for tourists. It is not a coincidence that an increasing number of sport events have been established here in the past few years.
Furthermore, health tourism plays an important role. Mecklenburg- Vorpommern offers, among others, a great variety of natural remedies, such as Rügen’s healing chalk, sea water, or Heringsdorf’s iodine brine. Recreation is one of the three most popular travel motives. Visitors will find opportunities for recreation along the seemingly endless coastline, at the beach chair cinemas in Baltic Sea resorts, on hiking trips across Rügen, the largest and – according to many – most beautiful island of Germany, or while enjoying the view on the Baltic Sea during classical concerts. Every year, there are new, interesting hotels, such as the Dock Inn in the seaside resort Warnemünde, which won the German Tourism Award in 2017, as well as new leisure time formats, such as the “Seaborn”, a join-in festival in Kühlungsborn, or innovative accommodation sites, such as the “Sleeperoo”, cubical rooms quickly and easily built with the help of a plugin arrangement, allowing guests to spend the night at unusual places, both indoors and outdoors.
It is this mix of favourable natural conditions and new holiday opportunities that makes Mecklenburg-Vorpommern such an interesting destination. We want to show these opportunities at ITB Berlin through our presence in several halls as well as at the new Berlin Travel Festival.
What new things can we see at your stand at ITB Berlin?
Many individual pieces of our presentation at ITB Berlin will come together to form a unified whole. As always, Mecklenburg- Vorpommern will be present on 400 square metres, an exhibition space as big as a basketball court, attracting several thousand expert visitors, among them tour operators, tourism organisations, transportation companies, digital solution providers, elected officials, and media representatives. Our programme has a different theme during each day of the trade fair, and the events we provide at our booth are oriented towards these themes. For the first time, our booth will feature a social media wall showing pictures, opinions and videos posted by Mecklenburg- Vorpommern enthusiasts . Moreover, Mecklenburg – Vorpommern will be more visible than ever before throughout the entire fairgrounds.
In hall 4.1, we will focus on youth travel and sustainability; in hall 22b, we will offer a children’s obstacle course, thus introducing the topic of family holidays; at the Medical Tourism Pavillon, we will inform visitors about health tourism, and at the Buyers Circle in the Marshall House, we will offer advice to byers.
Last but not least, visitors can look forward to numerous beach chairs which will be placed throughout the entire fairgrounds, most of them at the South Entrance.
THE INTERNATIONALITY AT ITB BERLIN PLAYS INTO OUR HANDS – MECKLENBURG-VORPOMMERN STILL HAS SOME CATCHING UP TO DO HERE
In your opinion, which are the three key USPs of Mecklenburg- Vorpommern as a destination?
It is definitely the mix of a long coastline, a unique lakeland with 2,000 lakes, and a large number of palaces and manor houses that sets Mecklenburg-Vorpommern apart. Official tests have shown that the lakes have an excellent water quality.
The palaces and manor houses are as diverse as the region and provide some 5,000 comfortable, lordly beds. At summer solstice, they will be in the limelight at the so-called Mittsommer-Remise midsummer celebration. During that night, visitors can listen to classical sounds in front of impressive palace sceneries, walk through beautiful parks, or chat with manor house owners over a glass of wine at a bonfire.
Another eyecatcher is Schwerin Palace, which is situated on an island on Lake Schwerin, Germany’s third-largest inland lake. From Lake Schwerin, it is possible to travel down to Berlin by boat. The coast with its wide, sandy beaches and placid lagoons offers countless opportunities to celebrate or to go surfing, sailing, hiking, and fishing.
How does Mecklenburg – Vorpommern promote sustainability? Can you share some examples of sustainable projects in the region?
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern stands for naturally grown and wellmaintained sustainability. After all – as I mentioned at the beginning – roughly a third of the region’s area consists of nature reserves. Between the Baltic Sea coast and the lake district alone there are three national parks, more than in any other German federal state. Furthermore, there are three biosphere reserves, seven nature parks and two UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Based on the regional tourism plan, which is set to be published in 2018, we intend to attach greater importance to the issue of sustainability. There have already been many promising sustainability initiatives. Take, for example, the forest share, which was one of the reasons why Mecklenburg- Vorpommern was chosen as the official partner region of ITB Berlin. The idea behind it is the following: Holidaymakers in Mecklenburg- Vorpommern get the chance to leave a zero carbon footprint during their stay by purchasing a forest share. The forest share enables an extensive reforestation project. Five square metres of mixed woodland can be planted for ten euros. A total of 85,000 shares have already been sold.
Other good examples include climate-neutral hotels, ecological energy generation, or the “FeldBürger” project, which is committed to the preservation of biodiversity, especially of bees (www.feldbuerger.de). By the way, a high proportion of the energy supply of the International House of Tourism in Rostock comes from renewable sources and is secured through the use of geothermal energy. Furthermore, the house is equipped with electric charging stations for bikes and cars.
How important is ITB Berlin as a global platform for your DMO and individual exhibitors?
ITB Berlin is a showcase of the travel world. Over the five days of the fair, more than 10,000 exhibiting companies from 184 countries will present the latest products and trends in the global tourism industry on 160,000 square metres. According to trade fair information, the exclusive ITB Buyers Circle will gather 1,000 top buyers from Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia. Roughly 80 per cent of the participants are, according to ITB Berlin, direct decision-makers and have a large purchasing budget. This is a huge opportunity for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and, of course, especially for tour operators. Personal contact should not be underestimated even in the digital age.
We want to seize this opportunity for the industry. The internationality at ITB Berlin plays into our hands, given that Mecklenburg- Vorpommern still has some catching up to do here. The good news: International buyers and journalists can pay a visit to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern right after the ITB Berlin visitor days in order to confirm the impressions they gained at the fair. In the best case, this leads to long-term cooperation circle.
Photo: Manuela Schwesig – Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Minister President