After a busy couple of days at work and getting my head around the various roles & responsibilities of Tourism Australia in Germany, I was off to Munich for the weekend!
The train ride down to Munich was amazing, incredible countryside and quaint little villages, I managed to have a few hours of chilling out and doing some reading in between taking in the views.
Arriving in Munich strain station I was greeted with more sausage stands and pretzel stands. Can you believe I’ve never had the inclination to eat a pretzel? After a browse of the foods, I decided I wasn’t really hungry but had to taste one of the pastries on offer.
While some streets provided opportunities to buy beer every 200 meters, some had them 30 meters apart, this was Munich! Although no time to sit down & taste one (yet) it was great to get a taste of Munich!
The purpose of the trip to Munich was to attend a tourism trade event of one of the big German wholesalers with over 100 travel agents also in attendance.
After a briefing and welcome, we were off to our welcome event – exploring Munich aboard the ‘party tram’! A four hour tram ride throughout Munich aboard a couple large carriages, plenty of food, a bar (on each carriage), some music, a few toilet breaks, 100+ people with a passion for travel & there’s a great time to be had!
Plenty of discussions about travel destinations, both in Australia & other parts of the world, my interest in finding out more about Germany & the culture, the agents interest in finding out more about Australia & the Aussie culture (most had never been before) lead to some great chats. Who needed a guided tour of Munich, I had my own guides pointing things out as we travelled through Munich. And, yes, now all my new friends are coming to Melbourne especially to drive the Great Ocean Road & spend a few nights exploring all the Grampians has to offer!
The chats lead to some dancing on the ‘dance floor’ with everyone singing (shouting) the words to the popular German songs…no Bon Jovi for me to sing along to! One thing is for sure though, no matter what language you speak, music (and a few drinks) is a great thing to connect people – I was however able to manage singing a few words during the choruses though! Maybe my dancing made up for the lack of words I knew, then again, maybe not! Ha!
The next day was a full day of speaking with agents (in some cases again) about all things Victoria on the Tourism Victoria stand! Some travel agents had been to Australia and knew it reasonably well, some didn’t know alot at all, but most were interested to learn more about what Australia had to offer their customers & more importantly why they’d send them on a 23 hour flight to the other side of the world. The free holiday to Australia by answering questions at all the stands did no harm in encouraging them to come & say hi!
Communicating adds to the fun at trade events like this, most of the agents had enough English to know what I was on about, of course lots of pointing on maps & showing pictures helps fill in the gaps, while the rest was up to me to gradually learn a few German descriptions to help the communication process.
It’s not until you come along to an event like this that you realise the scale that your operating in within the tourism industry. Of course being at huge tourism events like ATE (approx 2,500 people) gives you a great indication of the size & scale of the tourism industry in Australia, but a relatively small tourism trade event like the one I attended, with people from destinations across the world – Namibia in Africa, various USA states, Canada (including Yukon), campervan hire companies from Australia, USA, Canada & Africa & even a Harley Davidson company from the USA, it really wakes you up about the competition out there for the tourism dollar & the need to be innovative & highlight the strength of your region/product & have a clear point of difference.
If you’re really wanting to lure the international tourist (and dollar), there’s no real use trying to establish yourself as a mini-Italy or mini-Germany for that matter or some other take-off, but instead look at what makes you & your experience unique, authentic, REAL… The TA There’s Nothing Like Australia (Einfach unvergleichlich) campaign resonates so well in Germany, it fits so well for everything they want in a holiday.
After lots of chats with agents, and more picture & map pointing, the day was over with just a dinner to come back to later on. Rather than go back to the hotel and rest, it was off to see some more of Munich with a local this time!
First it was off to a beer hall that’s attached to one of the well known breweries in Munich. A couple of beers there with a taste of my first ever pretzel – freshly baked (still warm) and sat on the table to enjoy while chatting to a great couple from Canada who were drowning their sorrows on the last day of a 5-week European adventure. And yes, two more people coming to visit the Grampians as part of an Australia holiday!
Then it was off to the Spring Fair, a mini-Oktoberfest, although as you generally stay drinking in one of the huge tents during Oktoberfest, you wouldn’t really know it’s a mini-event. I’ve heard all about Oktoberfest & the fun and boy this Spring Fair was one to remember! Bavarians all dressed up in their traditional attire (lederhosen & dirndl) beer being drunk by the litre/s (did you know Bavarians drink 170 litres of beer per person per year compared to the German average of 112 litres) and much singing and dancing on the seats of the tables to the traditional German bands! 7 million people going to Oktoberfest each year can’t be wrong!
There was no dolling this event up & making it something else, this was largely a stack of Bavarians doing what they love, drinking a beer or two and having a sing-a-long with their friends. Some stopped for a feed, some didn’t worry, but the atmosphere was unbelievable!
A quick stein (geez that’s a big beer) at the Spring Fair and meeting some more locals & it was back to the hotel to drop off my bag and head back for the farewell dinner & more chatting with the travel agents.
A wet day in Munich the next day meant I needed to change my plan of attack of walking & photographing all over the city as I did on day one in Frankfurt. So it was onto a hop-on, hop-off bus (more hop-on & stay-on) to travel all around Munich & see the sights during the day. I did the Grayline tour which I must say had exceptional guides that were engaging & only too happy to answer your questions. After a couple hours of being on the bus and seeing most of the sites (although often from a distance) & with the rain easing, it was time to walk the streets.
I loved Munich, a feeling of old world charm that meets trendy sophistication, friendly locals, friendly tourists, music on the streets, it really was a great place to explore. As always, you never have long enough & as I was getting the train back to Frankfurt early evening, I simply ran out of time. Marienplatz, the old area of Munich & the Englischer Garten (English Garden – bigger than Hyde Park in London or Central Park in New York) were a couple of definate highlights.
As I said farewell to Munich (until next time) via the underground train system (also very easy to use) and onto the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), I sat back for the 3 hour (fast) train ride to Frankfurt and started chatting to the passenger next to me, a guest University lecturer at Frankfurt University from Moscow and another interesting story to be told. At that moment I thought just how lucky we are to either work in the travel industry or for those not working in travel, to be able to have travel experiences whether it be locally or internationally, and just how lucky I am to be able to work in a great industry like the tourism industry while also be able to experience the joys of working & traveling all around the world!