What's up with the ITB Berlin Bears?
In 2016, ITB Berlin celebrated its 50th anniversary. The anniversary was the festive occasion for us to visit various destinations worldwide to thank them personally on site - under the motto "From Berlin With Love!"
50 topics or events from 50 destinations worldwide were selected as a hook for the visits, each related to tourism, politics, social issues, nature or history. 50 ITB Ambassadors (Ambassadors) from Berlin each visited a local Representative on site, with both people having a personal connection to the topic.
During the personal meeting, an interview was conducted and each was presented with an ITB Buddy Bear.
Today, we are reviving these emotional stories, true to the motto: "What's up with the ITB Berlin Bears?"
Namely, we wanted to know how the Representatives have fared over the past 5 years, what they have experienced and learned, how the pandemic has impacted their work, and what their biggest wish is for the future.
In the coming weeks, we'll be posting the old and new interviews online here - as text and as a podcast.
Join us on this adventure!
London | United Kingdom – Travel Technology
Interview from 2016
Tech makes the world go round
As well as being a leader in education, arts, fashion and media, London is also Europe's financial center. It is therefore no surprise that it has the third-largest technology start-up cluster in the world after San Francisco and New York City. Silicon Roundabout is located in East London and features over 2,000 start-ups, 30 accelerators and 48,000 people employed in the digital economy. This is partly thanks to governmental efforts such as big PR initiatives, tax incentives and the 'Entrepreneur Visa' for people from non EU-founder nations. These advantages are coupled with the present availability of capital and a driving entrepreneurial spirit to make London a buzzing scene in this field.
Travel technology is a hot topic in many start-up scenes. In a broader sense, the term means the application of IT, software and e-commerce solutions to the travel and tourism industry.
London has a very active travel tech scene with several events and activities hosted every month by, and for, start-ups and tech companies. The UK's capital even has a designated travel tech co-working space, the Traveltech Lab, which adds to its reputation as a vital hub for the travel industry.
Sales Expert meets Data Specialist
Although these travel tech insiders had never met before, their connection was such that the interview in London felt like a meeting of two old friends. Both have a great deal of experience in the travel tech sector and are excited by the impact it has had on the global travel industry.
What is travel technology exactly and what challenges does it face?
Charlotte Lamp Davies: Travel tech represents evolution and is a necessary evil; we wouldn't be here without it. In the past few years, technology has grown up and with it the needs and habits of the consumer. This combination is a real challenge for the sector because it is still behind some others, e.g, retail, which knows exactly how to reach its clients.
Steffi Schweden: For me, it's the invisible heart of the travel industry. It keeps it running and connects the billions of providers and in-between sellers with billions of customers. The Internet has changed the industry, today's consumer is much more educated and self-confident, and they have the chance to buy directly, which has brought new players and completely new business models to the industry.
Where is travel tech heading?
StS: I think, with the help of big data, we can expect more personalized solutions. For instance, I am a kite surfer and I'm waiting for the day when my smartphone tells me: your calendar shows a free weekend in three weeks and a weather site points out that there is going be windy conditions in Denmark. It will then suggest a way for me to get there and allow me to book it all at a push of a button. This is what | see happening with travel tech. CLD: More and more gadgets are coming into the market which will enable consumers to have the experience they want. Bizarrely enough, we talk and talk about big data and we collect it, vet, for all the information gathering, travel companies are still unable to tell Steffi when to go kite surfing in Denmark. I strongly believe we'll address this successfully in the future through technology. We have to.
What makes London and Berlin meccas for start-ups?
CLD: London is such a fertile breeding ground because it is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities and it has venture capital It just epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit. I fell in love with the city for this reason.
StS: Berlin was lucky to get the chance to redefine itself after the wall came down. There was a sense of "now we can do everything” and a great level of enthusiasm which is still there. Great minds come to the city to start companies because rent and living costs are still relatively low. Still, I see room for development regarding real travel technology. For example, we could create companies that use ideas to improve mobile travel solutions.
Is there gender equality in travel tech?
StS: In fields like marketing and product management, it is already quite balanced, but there are still more men working in software development. What we need are schools quiding young girls and women into, for instance, Ruby on Rails (a programming language). We should give them first rate programming ideas and show them success stories, so they get excited about working in this field.
CLD: We definitely see more women going into software development. We are also seeing a culture shift as more women are encouraged to go down a path previously seen as male-driven. To maintain this, the educational system has to make it enticing and exciting for women to want to get into tech. It is not for a lack of ability that we have gender imbalance in technology. Millions of women have mathematical talent, are process-driven and fit right into the world of technology. It's not a matter of gender, it's a matter of education and a desire to work in what is a very challenging, fun and sexy industry.
Stockholm | Sweden – Pippi Longstocking
Interview from 2006
The strongest girl in the world
Astrid Lindgren's stories are known to almost everybody throughout the world. Pippi Longstocking, Emil of Lönneberga or Karlsson-on-the-Roof have been children's favorites for many decades. It's this popularity that led to the building of Junibacken, Sweden's most visited children's museum, on the island of Djurgärden in Stockholm.
The first stop for visitors is Storybook Square, where each house is devoted to a Swedish children's writer (not Astrid Lindgren in this case). Children step into a world of story-book fantasy and meet well-known literary characters like Alfie Atkins, the Moomins, Gary Gadget, Pettson and Findus. It's then time to jump on the Story Train, a journey through Astrid Lindgren's stories where the narration, music and lighting are a delight.
The train ends its journey at Villa Villekulla, home of the strongest girl in the world, Pippi Longstocking. Here you can ride her horse and romp around her house.
Junibacken is a whole lot of fun for children of all ages. Moreover, it is also home to one of the largest Swedish children's theatres and the largest children's bookstore in the country. As if that isn't enough to do, for those not worn out by Junibacken, there is the nearby village of Vimmerby where you can visit Astrid Lindgren's World and play with the six Bullerby Children.
Junibacken Manager meets lucky winner
Jenny Helldahl welcomes Eric and his family to Junibacken in Stockholm and helps them experience the plentiful attractions at the magical children's museum.
Ms. Helldahl, what is the meaning of Junibacken?
Jenny Helldahl: Junibacken is the place where Madicken lives. Madicken is a character from a novel by Astrid Lindgren. The founder of this museum asked Astrid Lindgren for a name and she chose this one.
How old is the museum?
JH: We opened twenty years ago in 1996.
Eric, what do you like most about this museum?
Eric Paul Steuernagel: I like the Pirate Island and Pippi Longstocking's horse (Old Man). And I like the Villa Villekulla.
What can you do at the Junibacken Museum?
JH: We have lots of exhibitions and they are all based on children's books. They are all 3-dimensional, so it's like stepping into the books. It's common in museums to see signs that read "Please don't touch" ". Our motto is: "Please touch!" So the kids are allowed to interact and experience everything. We also have theater pieces every day.
EPS: The slide of Villa Villekulla I like the most. I enjoyed sliding.
What is your vision for the museum?
JH: We want to focus even more on the literary aspect. People are reading less, it's therefore our challenge to inspire children to read and, what is very important, to inspire adults to read to their children. Our other aim is to expand, we want to get bigger.
Many other 'modern' child heroes and heroines have been created in the past 70 years. Why do today's children still know Pippi? Why is she timeless?
JH: In the case of Pippi, I think she is very independent, strong and does her own thing. At the same time she has a very good heart and wants the best for everyone. I think it's this combination that makes her so attractive. It works today as it has for many years.
Do the Pippi Longstocking stories connect generations?
JH: Yes, of course! My first childhood experience is of my mother reading the stories about Pippi to me all the time. I remember the smell of the old books and then I remember that she had scribbled in them. So, as a young girl, it was nice for me to see the scribbles my mother had made in the book when she was my age.
EPS: My mama also reads Pippi Longstocking to me and I like it very much. That's why 1 am happy I won.
In 1999, Astrid Lindgren was voted the most popular Swedish person of the century. Why did people vote for her?
JH: At least four generations know her and have a relationship with her through her stories. She was also engaged in issues like children's and animal rights. When she said something, people listened. She had a real big impact on society and still does.
Are there other places in Sweden that Lindgren fans should visit?
JH: Yes, they can go to Vimmerby, outside of Stockholm, where Astrid Lindgren was born they can pass the house where she lived, if they want. Astrid Lindgren's World theme park is also there and has many attractions.
Cape Town | South Africa – Luxury Ecotourism
Interview from 2016
In Harmony with your Soul
South Africa is one of the most diverse tourist destinations in the world. It offers jaw-dropping landscapes, breathtaking flora and fauna, and national parks that provide the irresistible promise of adventure. Visitors can vacation there in a number of ways with a variety of accommodations to suit their needs: privately owned lodges and guest farms, bed and breakfasts for backpackers, family hotels and luxury resorts.
There is one luxury retreat hidden in the dunes of the picturesque fishing village of Paternoster, a haven of unspoilt West Coast, just 150 kilometers north of Cape Town, where thousands of years ago the indeginous Strandloper tribe lived. The hotel complex blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape and the peacefulness is interrupted only by the reassuring sound of surf breaking on the shore. This is a place of restful contemplation, which offers its guests the ultimate luxury of space and time, and this being South Africa, the possibility of a chance meeting with the odd whale or dolphin.
Architect meets Hotel Owner
This is a meeting in beautiful Paternoster, near Cape Town, of two people who have German and South African connections. In their respective roles, they are at the forefront of a redefinition of the term *luxury tourism', which they explain in more detail in our interview.
Ms. Jacke, what did you do before you opened your hotel?
Simone Jacke: After receiving my journalism degree in Berlin, I left for Mauritius, where my husband Deon and I met while volunteering at an animal welfare organization for the island's stray dogs. Deon is originally from Paternoster so we came here and opened the hotel in 2011.
Dr. Mpahlwa, as ambassador for the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, how did you get to know Simone?
Luyanda Mpahlwa: After returning to Cape Town from exile in Germany, I made contact with German citizens living here and she is in the same circle of friends.
Parts of the Strandloper land are heritage sites, right?
SJ: When we were starting out, an archaeological team came here and explored the area. One of the areas next to the hotel was declared a heritage site. We are lucky, because cultural heritage is extremely well protected in South Africa.
How do you combine the natural surroundings with your luxury concept?
SJ: It is part of our strategy to be an integral Part of nature. We hope that little by little every guest becomes a Strandloper; that they connect with nature and regain selfawareness.
As an architect, do you find this successful?
LM: With its magical views across the landscape, I regard Strandloper with its bright rooms, furnishings and in-door-outdoor experience to be very successful in achieving ultimate luxury and relaxation.
Do you incorporate sustainability into your approach?
SJ: We feel it is our responsibility to preserve this beautiful planet. That is why we work with solar energy and try to generate as little waste as possible. We have an organic garden and cook with regional and seasonal products from local farmers and fishermen.
What made you decide on luxury tourism?
SJ: We made the conscious choice to build a five-star hotel on the beach front. Although Paternoster has become a very popular tourist destination, there is no other such facility in the area. For us, luxury doesn't stand for opulence or wastefulness, but rather it's about being close to nature in a laid back way.
What is your experience with luxury tourism?
LM: I agree with this definition. Hotels like Strandloper care for every individual in a personal and high-quality way; guests get to know their hosts on a personal level. This makes a difference
What are guests looking for nowadays?
SJ: I have the feeling that modern-day guests are looking for concepts, where sustainability is important; close to nature, to find one’s roots again, as modern society disconnects us from where we really come from. Our simple approach to an easy barefoot luxury being oneself and establishing balance in one's life and to reconnect with nature like the Strandloper tribe - is very appealing.
LM: I believe that size also plays an important role. Boutique hotels such as this one are rather small, manageable and offer intimacy.
Kozhikode | India – CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility
Responsibility from the heart
The southern Indian state of Kerala is well-known for its stunning backwaters and beautiful traditional house boats, its wildlife sanctuaries, its long coconut tree-lined beaches, Ayurveda retreats, home stays, tea and spice farms, temples as well as its art and traditional dances.
One place in Kerala well worth a visit is Kozhikode, formerly known as Calicut, until it was renamed to its original Malayalam name in 1998. It is the state's third largest city, with an illustrious history as a major trading hub, which came to be known as the 'City of Spices'. Arab merchants were commercially connected with the region from as early as the 7th century. They were followed by Chinese traders, Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists, until India's independence in 1947. The religious diversity that grew out of that period in the past is still reflected in the vast number of Hindus, Christians and Muslims that frequent its numerous beautiful temples, churches and mosques.
The heart of this vibrant city is Manachira Square - once the courtyard of the Zamorin Ruler's palace. Not far from the city, lush green nature with waterfalls and unexploited serene beaches invites the visitors. Kappad Beach, with its old lighthouse, is a wonderful escape not far from the center. It is also the place where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama first set foot on Indian soil
CSR Representative meets Community Activist
Both interviewees share, a deep commitment to business Born social responsibiliy. To this end, they are promoting Sustainable, meaningful practices as the future basis for tourism.
Ms. Jean-Francois, what is ITB Berlin's perception of corporate social responsibility?
Rika Jean-François: For ITB Berlin, CSR is not a trendy topic but a social necessity. We have to be aware of our industry's responsibility to society and this requires a holistic approach from all tourism stakeholders. ITB Berlin wants to provide a platform to tourism development that respects and protects the world's nature and fosters human dignity, security and justice.
Mr. Nair, what does CSR mean to you?
Prasanth Nair: I agree with Rika, CSR isn't a fashion nor does it mean temporary involvement - it's just a duty. The term CSR is sometimes misused. I would like to see activity with compassion coming from within the teams of a company. Social responsibility should become part of everybody's way of life. And this mode of behavior should not be displayed for self-promotion but should support the causes in a discreet and enabling manner.
Mr. Nair, what social initiatives are you initiating?
PN: We try to do small things, to address basic human issues and create a better place to live through real community participation and individual compassion For example, with the help of Kozhikode's restaurant owners, we introduced 'Operation Sulaimani/Food with Dignity' to feed people who cannot afford a meal. 'Compassionate Kozhikode' is the large umbrella project of all these activities. It deals with the basic requirements of every individual human being: hunger, shelter, mobility, and so on. We try to find solutions with dignity.
Which was your first social project related to tourism?
PN: I was once involved in a resettlement of tribal families, and it was clear, there were health and nutrition issues in the community. We provided a small holiday resort for the community to take over. As owners of this tourism project, they soon earned enough money to safeguard their nutrition, thus health improved and business even expanded. In the meantime, the younger generation as trained in tourism and it goes on in a sustainable way.
Can tourism help to foster peace and understanding?
RJF: As Mr. Nair just described, if we support communities through initial participatory intervention, which enables the people to take charge themselves, and promote a non-exploitative, environmentally friendly and fair sharing tourism, we can help to create better places. Tourism can be a strong vehicle for positive change, tearing down barriers in our minds.
PN: It is the fear of the unknown that makes enemies. Tourism is one way to get to know the other person, get to know the good things. You will discover that they are just like you! We need to focus on these positive experiences and tourism will bring peace and prosperity. I am not exaggerating when I say that ITB Berlin, as a platform for responsible tourism, co-promoting the compassionate element in humans, can transform the world!
Fuerteventura | Spain
Interview from 2016
The founder of club-type holidays was a Belgian by the name of Gérard Blitz. His first resort was called "Le Club' which catered to 2,300 vacationers sleeping in army tents in a pine forest in Majorca. This concept of group vacations under the Southern European sun was developed further when Blitz teamed up with Frenchman Gilbert Trigano, who had provided the tents for this resort. Using this idea, the two of them opened a second club in 1954 in Italy based on this concept. These tented resorts that focused on getting close to nature and sporting activity proved to be a major success.
Club holidays are still popular today, although they have undergone a few changes since their formation. For a start, the tents are gone, which is probably a good thing now that you can enjoy winter club vacations. Also, since the 1960s, and the opening of resorts in Tahiti, for example, vacationers are able to enjoy group vacations at various locations around the world
Over the years, other companies, including Aldiana and ROBINSON Club, have also established themselves in this sector. These organizations, along with Club Med, are among Europe' leading club vacation operators.
Club manager meets loyal guests
ROBINSON Club manager Tom Pick meets frequent quests Rosemarie and Rainer Rehnisch, who have been frequent visitors to the Jandia Playa, the first ROBINSON Club, since it opened 40 years ago. It is no surprise that they are treated as part of the family each time they come. They have a friendly relationship with the staff who welcome them with open arms on each visit.
How did you come to choose ROBINSON?
Tom Pick: After my apprenticeship I submitted an application to ROBINSON. At that time they were looking for personnel for their food & beverage department. I didn't know anything about ROBINSON, the only thing I knew was that they had an office in Frankfurt. I went there and knocked on their door and asked whether they had received my application. They laughed and showed me an enormous pile of applications. We placed mine on top of the pile and three months later, in 1987. I started working at Club Jandia Playa.
Rosemarie Rehnisch: My sister put the idea in our heads. She visited Club Jandia Playa with her husband in 1971, the year that it opened. However, she actually advised us against going, because she thought that since we were young, we might not enjoy the club, which is quite secluded and away from everything else. However, we liked the sound of it, so we took our first trip to the Club Jandia Playa in 1973 on our 10th wedding anniversary. We also spent our golden wedding anniversary here and have celebrated many other anniversaries at various ROBINSON resorts.
Mr. Pick, do a lot of anniversary quests come to your club?
TP: Yes, a lot of our guests celebrate milestones like birthdays, wedding anniversaries or other important personal dates here because they get hands-on service and feel well looked after. We adjust to the preferences of each quest and individualize their special day.
What is so special about the Club Holiday concept?
TP: The great thing about these types of vacations is the communication amongst everyone. Nobody remains anonymous, guests get to know each other and employees mingle with them and get them involved in things. This is why people such as Rosemarie and Rainer come once and then come again and again. Many guests build friendships and arrange to meet others at the club at a certain time each year.
How has Jandia Playa developed over the years?
Rainer Rehnisch: Nowadays, the number of guests has tripled and the whole club has gotten bigger. Back in the beginning, it was a small family but now it is a big one. I remember that, back then, there weren't any self-service buffets, the food was served at every table. If a table of 6 wasn't fully occupied, it wasn't served and so guests were encouraged to come together.
Do you still remember how you were welcomed on your arrival?
RoR: In the past, arrivals and departures took place only on Mondays. We all arrived on the same day, addressed each other casually and were one big group.
RaR: There was a sign in the reception area that displayed the arrival times of new guests on this Monday. We were asked to come to the reception at these times to welcome the new guests.
TP: Nowadays there is no need for Rosemary and Rainer to introduce themselves, they are welcomed by name.
Lanzarote | Spain – Architecture by César Manrique
Interview from 2016
In harmony with nature
César Manrique was a passionate painter, architect, sculptor and environmentalist and has become an immortal figure on the island of Lanzarote. He actively influenced its image by pushing for sustainable and traditional construction on the island.
The natural beauty of Lanzarote, which is highlighted by a combination of art and nature, bears all the hallmarks of Manrique. His fundamental aim of making it the most beautiful place on earth is reflected in all of his work. He pursued the goal of making Lanzarote an example for sustainable tourism, one that respects tradition and carefully handles resources. His vision was that no building on the island should have more than two floors and that the architecture should be modeled on the structure of the island's traditional small white houses.
The island's government supported Manrique in the sixties and early seventies - and Lanzarote was, thanks to its famous mastermind, recognized for many years for its unusual combination of nature, tradition and tourism. The 'Arte de Obra' center of culture is the realization of an idea born during Bettina Bork's apprenticeship under César Manrique. It realizes an architecture developed in harmony with the environment and conveys an 'I want to stay' feeling for visitors.
Architect meets former student of Manrique
It was inspiring for Christoph Tettenborn to meet Bettina Bork, because, as a former student and colleague of César Manrique, she was in a position to tell him about many of the architects exciting visions.
How do you define sustainable architecture?
Christoph Tettenborn: Sustainable architecture is when you always keep in mind that our resources are limited. An important factor is the cautious handling of construction materials and energy, as well as incorporation of nature without destroying it. I feel this is what Manrique was aiming for.
Bettina Bork: The materials Manrique used were truly sustainable. For instance, he used old, empty oil drums for formwork. It is now known that the space inside the oil drums works as a perfect climate regulator.
What did César Manrique want to create?
BB: He wanted to create an environment where nature and art should be in tune. For him, art was every room that we live in. It was important to Manrique to connect housing with nature, without creating borders.
CT: The aspect of reduction interests me and also to see how this reduction can be achieved
What are the hallmarks of César Manrique?
BB: Manrique was more of an artist than an architect. He played with shapes; there were no 90-degree angles for him. What's characteristic of his work are round shapes and narrowed entrances to rooms. After walking through a spectacularly narrow hallway it opens into a large space with a panorama or a piece of art - it is always a surprise effect.
How did Manrique convey his vision to the island's tourists?
BB: His dream was that visitors should fly in gently and flow through the island, its beautiful gardens, its caves and its lovely houses. Everyone was supposed to flow, without concrete highways, on roads that Manrique designed for that purpose.
So the idea for your project 'Arte de Obra' is based on the ideals of Manrique?
BB: Yes, the establishment of the center was an idea that came alive because of Manrique. As a student in Lanzarote I lived in a model of the cultural center. The fundamental idea was to bring over many students of different nations to the island who would work on the idea of the 'utopian dream' for Lanzarote. This is how the idea was born and later it came to life in the form of 'Arte de Obra'.
Mr. Tettenborn, you repurpose material residue at 'OffCut Berlin'. What are the thoughts behind the project?
CT: Our project stands specifically for upcycling. We use high-quality material residues and repurpose them, instead of disposing of them. We stimulate our creativity by thinking about what we could manufacture from the residues. It's a process with which we want to encourage our customers to think about sustainability.
Tel Aviv | Israel – LGBT Tourism
Hotspot of LGBT Community in the middle east
The long Mediterranean beaches, the distinctive Bauhaus architecture, the diverse range of cultural activities, as well as the openness and tolerance of its people, are the very things that make Tel Aviv unique.
The city in the Middle East has become a hotspot for the LGBT 'lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. In 2001, Israel was the first country in Asia to protect homosexuals with an anti-discrimination law. Since 2002, homosexuals have been able to register their partnerships in Tel Aviv and receive benefits from the municipality.
The Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade took place for the 17th time in June 2015. Floats, lovingly designed by the LGBT community and accompanied by parade participants, toured through the city center before finally stopping at Gordon Beach. More than 100,000 people joined the celebrations, 30,000 of them tourists that had come from all parts of the world especially for the festival.
Thanks to its openness, Tel Aviv has become a popular travel destination for the LGBT community. Travel operators such as airlines, hotel chains and tour organizers have been reacting swiftly and offering special packages for gay and lesbian travelers.
Manager meets women travel consultant
Betti Keese and Russell Lord have made it their mission to create trips aimed especially at the LGBT community. As ambassadors for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, hey are both representing their countries and promoting equal rights for LGBT travelers. Moreover, their hometowns are connected by a difficult shared history, which makes international understanding and peace key issues.
Berlin and Tel Aviv are each known as respective 'meccas' of the LGBT scene. Where do people meet?
Betti Keese: In general, Berlin is very open-minded, one can move about freely, kiss and hold hands. The main scene, however, is located in Schöneberg, around Nollendorfplatz. There are many clubs, bars and shops for gay people.
Russell Lord: We don't have a 'gayborhood' like Berlin does, but our quests will find the most exciting night life with cutting-edge pubs, dance bars and party lines. Furthermore, Tel Aviv's beach, which is located right in the city center, is the meeting spot for everyone, locals and tourists alike.
What are other reasons for LGBT travelers to Tel Aviv?
RL: We offer warm weather, and white sandy beaches along with a cutting-edge urban scene. Eclectic dining options abound, from simple Middle Eastern eateries to the finest restaurants. To top it off, the ancient treasures of Jerusalem and Galilee as well as the Dead Sea are only an easy drive away.
BK: Tel Aviv is very hospitable, you feel welcome and can express your feelings openly, also as a lesbian. Less than four hours flight time away from Berlin, you can find explicitly gay-friendly hotels and even a gay beach, the Hilton Beach.
What is the most important factor for the steady development of LGBT tourism in general?
RL: Everything comes down to the feeling of safety, openness and friendliness that the destination provides. Our Tel Aviv municipality has gone above and beyond to actively attract LGBT tourists. A city must have a clear mission, a savvy marketing strategy and the will to devote resources to attract its chosen market.
How is lesbian tourism different from gay tourism?
BK: Gay tourism has existed for a much longer time, for instance the gay tourism guide 'Spartacus' has been around since the 1970s. Nothing like it is available for lesbians even today. When I first established my company in 2012, I initially had to find out how to connect with the lesbian scene, because there isn't such a well-connected network. Also, the travel requirements are different, e.g safety plays a much more important role for female tourists.
What is your personal mission with regard to the development of LGBT tourism for the next years?
RL: My personal mission is to leverage the authentic experiences, the native foods and diverse cultures that can be found here, and to deepen the tourism experience by exposing travelers to a variety of people.
BK: I am hoping to get the gay and lesbian community on the same page. We have to work together and communicate with each other in order to learn from one another and with each other.
Listen to what Russell Lord has experienced over the last five years here.
Nuremberg | Germany – Children’s Christmas Market
Interview from 2016
The Magic of Christmas
Every year from the first Sunday of Advent until 24th December, one of the oldest and most famous Christmas markets in the world takes place in Nuremberg. The Christkindlesmarkt is held in the old city at the romantically lit main market. Here, in the wooden stalls of the
'Städtleins aus Holz und Tuch', one can find traditional, handcrafted Christmas decorations and sweet treats, such as gingerbread and speculaas. Visitors can also enjoy a delicious glass of mulled wine there.
The big Christkindlesmarkt adjoins a charming, smaller market, which is for younger guests - Nuremberg's Children's Christmas Market. A nostalgic carousel, a steam train, visits from the Nuremberg Christkind and great interactive booths await young visitors. At this market, everyone is invited to prepare small delicacies and create works of art. One can bake cookies and gingerbread, paint glass, write a wish list to the Christkind or ride the carousel and Ferris wheel at the fairground. There is also a colorful cultural and narrative program tied to the Christkindlesmarkt on offer at the Sternenhaus Holy Ghost Hall.
Nuremberg’s Head of Tourism meets little Christmas fan
Nuremberg's Head of Tourism warmly welcomes Christmas fan Maximilian and his parents to the city and watches his eyes light up when riding the train at 'Kinderweihnacht' the Children's Christmas Market.
Ms. Coulin, what makes the city of Nuremberg unique?
Yvonne Coulin: What's unique about Nuremberg is that it was a free imperial city. It was the center of Europe several hundred years ago and is used to having people staying as guests. It is a very self-confident and open-minded city. Trade and commerce were important, hence the fair that was established here. The guilds, craftsmen and families used to be prominent in the city, which is something that can still be felt to this day.
Why does the Christkindlesmarkt attract so many people?
YC: I think with its traditional stalls and offers it is authentic. The market has been around for many years; it is a well-lived tradition and embedded in the city. It happens in the heart of the main market and in that setting, with the castle in the background, it is a dream scene.
Maximilian, what did you experience at the big Christkindlesmarkt?
Maximilian Beyer: We ate sausages – and mom and dad drank mulled wine. I saw the big Christmas tree.
YC: Have you also seen our Nuremberg tin toys?
MB: Yes, a fire truck made of sheet metal. I want one for Christmas.
Which dishes are characteristic of the Christkindlesmarkt?
YC: There are the world-famous Nuremberg sausages, which Maximilian has already tried, and the gingerbread, which is from a recipe passed down through the generations. But the mulled wine is great, too! Few know that many well-known brands of mulled wine that are offered nationwide are produced by Nuremberg's family-run businesses.
What was your favorite activity at the Children's Christmas Market?
MB: Baking gingerbread. I made the gingerbread by myself.
Maximilian's Father: And also ate it alone (laughs).
YC: The Children's Christmas Market is great! It is a more recent concept than the traditional Christkindlesmarkt. Here too, the people of Nuremberg have stayed loyal to their traditions and still fulfill the wishes of children visiting the market.
What else did you experience, Maximilian?
MB: Dad and I played with the model railroad, and rode the train.
Maximilian, what did you wish for when you met Santa Claus and the Christkind?
MB: I wished for a police car.
Which Christmas Market in Berlin do you like best?
MB: The one with the big Ferris wheel at the Marienkirche. My mom likes the one at Gendarmenmarkt.
What festive season traditions are special to you?
YC: In my hometown, Heidelberg, Nuremberg was always a topic because when Christmas season arrived we always ordered the original Elisenlebkuchen. When the big package finally arrived from Nuremberg, it signified that the Christmas season had begun.
MB: Baking cookies with mom and dad
Listen to what Yvonne Coulin has experienced over the last five years here.
Sint Michiel | Curaçao – Diving in Paradise
Interview from 2016
Dive into the Blue
Curaçao is about 444 square kilometers in size and is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), that are located in the Caribbean Sea of Venezuela. Interestingly, while much of its past is reflected on land, for example, the bright colonial houses on the streets of Willemstad. its future lies very much in the blue waters surrounding the island. Curaçao is quickly becoming one of the best places on the planet for scuba diving. There is a reason why it has won a Scuba Diving Magazine's Reader' Choice Award as it offers arguably the best shore dives in the world and the snorkeling is breathtaking. Overall, it has 40 different dive areas, which cover 65 individual sites - each one allowing divers to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of the Caribbean.
Curaçao has many stories to tell, one of which concerns "Blue Curaçao', the famous liqueur. The Spaniards, who first arrived in 1499, thought that the island's conditions were perfect for growing their deliciously juicy 'Valencia Orange. However, they were wrong, the blazing sun and the extremely dry climate badly affected the Valencias they planted. The trees, which grew wild, instead bore a fruit that was a bitter sibling of its sweeter Spanish sister. It was inedible, but luckily turned out to be ideal for the production of liqueur. The ultimate result was 'Blue Curaçao - the drink that is now enjoyed all over the world, which also comes in a red, green, yellow or its original colorless version.
In 1634, the island passed from Spanish to Dutch hands. They established the capital Willemstad and turned it into a very important trading post - often dealing in that terrible cargo of those times - slaves. Curaçao eventually became a fully-fledged Dutch colony in 1795. This relationship has endured and on the 10th of October, 2010, the island obtained the status of constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Diving Instructor meets Diving Enthusiast
When two diving enthusiasts meet, it is actions rather than words that are the main connection - put on the diving suit, don the oxygen tank, flippers and mask and head off into the sea. This is how it went when Parwane Ehrari and Harald Weinrich completed the underwater handover of the ITB Buddy Bear against a backdrop of the stunning seas of Curaçao.
Ms. Ehrari, being part Dutch, do you feel that influence on the island?
Parwane Ehrari: My mother is Dutch, and she and her friends have always raved about the ABC islands, so I always wanted to visit at some point in the future. The Dutch influence is plain to see, for instance, in the facades of the houses in Willemstad: There is a great combination of this influence and the typical Caribbean flair.
Mr. Weinrich, what led to your emigration to Curaçao in 1998?
Harald Weinrich: I was born in the former German Democratic Republic and always wanted to be as far away from there as possible, but preferably somewhere warm. The choice to move to Curaçao was more of a coincidence, but I am comfortable and happy here.
What is life like in paradise?
HW: It's sunny and relaxed. I start my day just as I would in Germany, with, a cup of coffee. Then I drive over to my dive shop "Curaçao Divers', greet my colleagues and take care of our customers. Wherever in the world you are, you have to work, but the Caribbean flair, paired with the Dutch and American influence, makes it easy to do it here.
What makes Curaçao such a unique diving experience?
PE: What I really like about diving here is how quickly you come across interesting things and animals, and you don't have to dive deep to see them. I even have seen black and yellow sea horses under water.
HW: Yes, for one, it is the healthy reefs that we still have here, but it is also the individual diving conditions. Experienced divers, for example, can go diving 24 hours a day and don't have to adhere to fixed times. The beach dives are also an additional advantage; a part of the family can stay at the beach while the other is able to start a dive there.
So what is there to see in terms of diving on this island?
HW: There are so many beautiful diving sites and you can dive around the entire island. There are shallow and deep sites, there is a beautiful coral reef and there are loads of small, rather than large fish, not to mention plenty of turtles and sea horses.
PE: I think it's great that there is an intact coral reef. I found the coral world here very fascinating. The purple tube coral, which I was able to see, as well as the angler fish, left a deep impression on me. These were real highlights, as well as the double reed Porto Mari.
Which location is still not checked off your must-dive list?
HW: Definitely, there are still, some diving sites I would like to explore, but on top of the list is a diving safari with sharks in the Galapagos Islands.
Listen to what Harald Weinrich has experienced over the last five years here.
Bucharest | Romania – Ecoturism in the Danaube Delta
Interview from 2016
Wonders of Nature
The Danube Delta and its 4,187 square kilometers of wetland marshes, floating reed islands and sandbars is one of Europe's best-preserved deltas and an eco-paradise. It is so important that the Romanian part of it became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1991. This natural phenomenon, where the Danube meets the Black Sea after traveling 2,800 kilometers from its source in Germany's Black Forest, attracts tourists from around the world.
Many birdwatchers are regular visitors because of the Delta's importance as a stopover for birds migrating between Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean and Middle East and Africa. Some 320 species of birds, including notable colonies of marsh terns, white-fronted and red-breasted geese, pelicans and white-tailed eagles can be found in the Delta.
Birds are not the only residents. There is an abundance of freshwater fish and various communities of mammals including bears, foxes, wolves, otters, weasels and occasional visitors like boar or deer.
The Danube Delta is a remarkable ecosystem and successful initiatives, like the Association of Ecotourism in Romania's 'Discover Eco-Romania' (AER), have been put in place to make this outstanding destination a role model for ecotourism. The AER continues to bring together the public and the private sector for the sake of nature conservation and sustainable tourism development. The AER Ecotourism Certification System complies with international standards and serves as a guarantee of quality for those visiting the Delta.
Ecotourism Expert meets Ornithologist
Andrei Blumer from Romania and Rolf Nessing from Germany are both deeply immersed in conservation and ecotourism. A successful ecotourism concept seeks long-term preservation of the environment, supports local business and fosters traditions. This is a complex challenge that both accepted gladly the two men raise awareness for responsible tourism and nature protection in their respective region. Also, both are fascinated by the diversity and beauty of the Danube Delta.
How important is the protected Danube Delta to ecotourism?
Andrei Blumer: In terms of size and bio-diversity it is the most important area for nature protection in Romania. Nature and human settlements are intertwined. It's fantastic that predators like wolves and bears can co-exist with humans. The Delta is both important and perfect for ecotourism.
How has tourism in the Delta developed over the last five years?
AB: It has developed massively thanks to the input of people from the area. It is important to establish local services and then follow up with support for them. For example, local people are the ones that provide accommodation for the tourists. The surrounding population is also a source pool for tour guides. Our community-based initiatives have led to many interesting things, like the rejuvenation of traditions such as wooden boat building.
Rolf Nessing: There have been lots of changes in the Danube region over the last few years. Sadly, not all of it has been good There has been a large influx of tourists and nature can only cope with a certain amount of them. Big hotels shouldn't be replacing private questhouses.
What standout activities are there for tourists visiting the Delta?
AB: You can take a rowing boat to go fishing or observe the colonies of water birds. Cycling is a great option, too. As the region has so many ethnic groups, the cuisine here is very diverse. I think there is so much to explore, but I would recommend that tourists take their time in discovering and enjoying the attractions of the Delta there are so many.
RN: That's true. I often notice that guests who travel with me to the Delta enjoy the slow pace there. You definitely need time to take in the unique landscape. This includes the human element, for instance, the traditional fishing villages with their lovely reed-roofed wooden houses.
What role do eco-certificates and the like play in ecotourism?
AB: The certification process is part of a marketing strategy aimed at international tourists. We developed our own ecolabel in order to create a network of responsible businesses. The label itself does not attract clients, but it does ensure that those visiting can expect certain environmentally friendly standards.
What developments in terms of ecotourism would you like to see in your respective areas over the next 10 years?
AB: We want the Danube Delta to be on the international market as part of a network of high-quality tourist destinations. I would like to see the growth of small independent businesses that are locally owned and generate good quality products. I would also like people to come and really take time to discover what a wonderful area it is, to soak up the environment at a pace that's in tune with the rhythm of the Delta.
RN: Brandenburg is the largest federal state with the least population in Germany. It is known for its well-preserved natural environment, there are 15 large protected areas, some inhabited by wolves and elk. We could tackle the state's high unemployment in the next few years by creating more job opportunities in ecotourism.