Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the former territory of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany to you and me) is marketing strongly its unique offer for international meeting organisers in search of something different.
Certainly budgets stretch a lot further the further East you go in Germany, and budget airlines are also forging new trails beyond the Western hubs of Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich.
I hopped aboard the German Convention Bureau’s 2009 festive fam trip for international agents, with first stop the city of Leipzig. (International agent of a different kind, Vladimir Putin, was reportedly stationed in the city in the 1980s). The Saxon city was also home for the student Goethe and composer J.S. Bach.
The city has landed some big congress and exhibition wins in 2009 and has traditional German Messe facilities to handle the really big business.
Hotel infrastructure has come on apace and prices in the big chains such as Westin and Best Western are attractive when compared to Berlin and Frankfurt.
While the trams wind their way slowly around the city, our group found an even slower mode of transport, the trusty Trabant. More dodgem power than motor car, you can take a teambuilding group on a Trabi tour for a taste of ‘Ostalgia’. (Yes, I drove the car across the city and lived to tell the tale).
And, from the slow sublime, to the ridiculously expensive: Porsche’s new factory in Leipzig offers conference facilities at its test track with exciting driving packages to soup up delegates’ interest. The assembly lines are so clean that you can practically eat your dinner off them and the new Panamera is already rolling out into China, Russia and India in big numbers.
The GCB tour moved on to Erfurt, where the local Messe was packed out on 8 December for the Last Night of the Proms, with Roxette and John Miles topping the bill. The exhibition halls have apparently seen business hold up well in 2009, thanks to a reliance on mostly local, German, business, and a price differential with the likes of competitors in Munich and Hanover.
With Christmas markets, beer cellars and Gothic cathedrals and a potential cultural overload if you’re not careful, the festive season in Saxony and Thuringia can be an exciting time to take meetings business East.
For really big conventions and events, the air logistics to the region may prove challenging, but I have no doubt that once your delegates arrive, they will find a region full of potential, and maybe a good price differential to exploit.