Interview with Kai-Michael Stybel, Director of Wismar Tourist Board

Mr. Stybel, Director of the Wismar Tourist Board, shares with us what lies beyond the popular icons of Germany.

What are your roles and responsibilities with Wismar Tourism and how do you plan to offer the region of Wismar to the Indian traveller?

I am the Director of the Wismar Tourist Board. As a department of the City Council of the Hanseatic City of Wismar, we have a sovereign responsibility for communication, distribution and product development for tourism in Wismar.

If you asked me one year ago, how we plan to offer our destination to Indian travellers, I would not have had any answer as I would not have even considered there being a potential market for India.

In fact, my inspiration to consider tourism potential from India came at the Germany Travel Mart in May 2009, the most important international workshop for incoming tourism to Germany taking place every year. From then on I have been in contact with several Indian partners, both operators and writers, and our very personal contacts have led to us considering possibilities and chances for tourism affairs to Wismar from India.

Wismar itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly for its city structure with roads and quarters having remained the same since medieval times. Therefore, it is more of a conservation area than only a single memorial. The architecture of colourful gabled houses and impressive red brick cathedrals in Wismar is a mirror of history, being experienced by hundreds of thousands visitors every year.

The northern European culture available in this region is closer to Scandinavia than southern Germany. The face of the north has nothing to do with well-known stereotypes of Germany such as the Rhine River, the Alps, Neuschwanstein Castle and Heidelberg. While being unknown but outstanding nevertheless, it proves the attributes of being a treasure; maybe a hidden treasure, but very worthwhile to discover nevertheless.

What exactly are the Hidden Treasures of Germany and how did this concept evolve?

The Hidden Treasures are places most Indian travellers would not have heard of and would not be considered as part of most Germany itineraries. These places include the three cities of Schwerin, Wismar and Rostock in northeast Germany in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

This region is the most popular tourist destination for German travellers who enjoy bathing, hiking, biking, fishing, sailing and all kinds of activities connected with nature. The cities along the coast, such as Wismar and Rostock, or cities in the hinterland such as the state capital Schwerin are all cultural centres with impressive architecture, exhibitions, urban life, concerts and theatres.

The concept of being a treasure is derived from being unknown on an international scale, especially in the Indian market. For this reason, we have combined the Hidden Treasures with well-known destinations in Germany, such as Berlin and Hamburg. On one hand, Wismar, Schwerin and Rostock are not far from either Hamburg or Berlin – approximately a two hour drive in both directions. On the other hand, the theme of Hidden Treasures combines the expected with the unexpected that fulfils security through prediction and eagerness through the mystery of treasures.

This concept evolved with the cooperation of our partners in India. Most notably, Namaste Germany – the Indian connection to Germany – was a particularly key partnership for me, as my uncertainties about entering the Indian market were greeted with a team of Germany specialists from India who are interested in all treasures of Germany, both hidden and known. There could not have been a more productive synergy!

What are the experiences available while visiting northern Germany, especially compared with regions such as Baden Wuerttemberg and Bavaria which are well known destinations for the Indian traveller?

It starts with the geography and ends with the culture and its people. The differences between north and south Germany are more than visual attributes. Take beer, for example. Every region offers many varieties of beer, but the taste will always be easily distinguishable. This applies to all experiences. For most, it is a matter of personal philosophies.

In the end, we are still Germans. The history of Wismar is special however due to the fact that this area was influenced greater by Swedish rule than German rule through the centuries. The popular difference is between the sea and the mountain climates. There is a German proverb meaning “life by the coast is dure, but righteous still.” There is a different spirit present in the north and it can only be realized by visiting the towns, seeing the architecture, breathing the sea air, enjoying the countryside and living the culture.

As Indians prefer to visit more than one country in Europe while on holiday, which are the other regions that can be combined with North Germany?

After having told you so much about the northern European culture found in northern Germany, the best frame for this identity would be the Baltic itself.

If you look at the global cruise market, the Baltic is deemed to be the safest cruise destination in the world. Thousands of Americans visit Copenhagen, Stockholm and Saint Petersburg by cruise every year. Wismar makes its mark as a cruise destination with its port being directly connected with the historic city centre. Besides the cruise theme, it is very easy to travel throughout the Baltic area due to well-developed ferry connections combined with railway links.

What is the best time of the year to experience the Hidden Treasures of Germany?

It is not necessary to define only one particular time of year to visit the Hidden Treasures of Germany. They combine several city destinations each with their own cultural activities and programmes throughout the seasons.

The most crowded season is summer due to the attraction of the north for many German travellers. My personal preferences are the bridge periods from spring to summer – April to June – and from summer to autumn – September to October. You can experience an Indian Summer in  northern Germany with the Hidden Treasures similar to a sleepy countryside with colourful woods from yellow to red during Autumn. Scandinavians visit by the thousands for the Christmas Markets in Wismar, Rostock and Schwerin throughout  December.

As you can see, there is a season for every market. With business interests, we try to maintain a balanced development throughout the year. Every market has their strongest period of outbound travel. Therefore we might have the best chance for the Indian market in spring time.

Discover the Hidden Treasures of Germany with…




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