OUR INTERVIEW

Frank Shrader:

Moscow’s atmosphere is very appealing

Düsseldorf Tourismus GmbH had a lot to do with the success of Moscow Days in Düsseldorf, which took place in the capital of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in mid-May. Don’t be fooled by the name. The organization is not a private company, but a municipal institution.

The main objective of Düsseldorf Tourismus, which is headed up by the city’s Lord Mayor Thomas Geisel, is to attract guests to the city founded on the Düssel by offering different kinds of tourist services. Frank Schrader, the Managing Director of Düsseldorf Tourismus, talked about the organization in an interview with Capital Ideas.

Moscow and Düsseldorf have been on friendly terms for many years: the Russian capital and the administrative center of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia have officially been sister cities since 1992. How effectively are the two metropolitan countries cooperating in terms of tourism and what does this cooperation entail?

Cooperation in the sphere of tourism is growing. Over the past few years, the focus was on exchanges in the sphere of economic and cultural cooperation. Of course, in the previous years Düsseldorf Tourismus GmbH constantly provided services for Russian travel agents and journalists. However, over the course of the past few meetings between representatives, the two sides have talked about systematically expanding cooperation in the tourism sector.

In 2016, 17.5 million tourists visited Moscow, including foreign tourists. This speaks to their interest in the Russian capital. Do you know how many of them were Germans? And how many came from Düsseldorf?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the exact numbers. Our main objective is to attract tourists to Düsseldorf. We don’t put together outgoing offers for tourists.

Do you have data on how many Russians came to Düsseldorf last year? And how many of them were from Moscow?

33,000 Russian citizens visited Düsseldorf last year. The numbers show about 66,500 overnight stays in hotels. Unfortunately, we can’t give you a breakdown by city. However, one can assume that the majority of these guests came from major Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, considering our economic relations with these cities.

In your opinion, what about the Russian capital attracts guests from Germany?

The city’s rich history and attractions such as the Red Square – these are probably the kinds of images most tourists think of when they think about coming to Moscow. Of course, the Russian capital’s rich cultural life comes to mind as well. The atmosphere of this city, which has gone through major political and economic transformations over the past 25 years, is very appealing to me.

In terms of German guests who come to Moscow – are they mostly tourists or do they come for business?

In terms of German guests visiting Moscow, these are primarily people who are on business trips. They come to visit German companies in Moscow or take part in important trade shows in the Russian capital. A lot of companies from Düsseldorf, such as Messe Düsseldorf, have branches in Moscow. They have created an extensive business network that benefits us as well. Many business travellers that go through Moscow to other, more remote Russian cities stop in Moscow in order to get to know the city.

What kinds of trips are most common for Düsseldorf residents travelling to Moscow: do people come in groups or on their own?

Germans usually go to Russia on their own. This goes for both business travellers and tourists.

Do Germans travel to Russia for specific events: for the New Year holidays, for example, or maybe art festivals?

According to the information we have, event tourism plays a secondary role compared to classic tourist trips to visit Russian cities.

Does Düsseldorf Tourismus GmbH provide any help to Germans who want to visit Moscow?

As an incoming tourism agency. Düsseldorf Tourismus GmbH does not offer any services in this sphere.

Germany has been a leader in exhibition tourism for a long time. The country hosts about 1,700 exhibitions every year. How developed is business and exhibition tourism in Düsseldorf?

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of exhibition tourism in Düsseldorf, which hosts several international fairs, such as Medica, Drupa and Interpack. Last year alone, the fairs drew in about 1.6 million visitors and 32,000 exhibitors. Messe Düsseldorf GmbH is one of the most successful fairs in Germany and is an important determining factor in the location of the administrative center. Out of the 4.6 million overnight guests in 2016, at least 60% came for business tourism and trips to the fairs.

Relations between Germany and Russia are going through a challenging time right now, and the economic situation in Russia is also not so great. Does this affect tourist volumes from Russia to Germany, including Düsseldorf? And what about from Germany to Russia?

Economic development always affects tourism. In Düsseldorf, however, a decline in tourist volumes was a bit delayed. The number of overnight stays compared to other German cities didn’t drop until 2015. In 2013, we had 130,000 overnight guests from Russia. Last year, there were about 66,500. However, this group includes a lot of financially well-off clients, and they bring a lot of profit to the city. Right now we’re seeing the situation in the tourist sector stabilize and consolidate. We hope this will lead to an improvement in indicators.

In your opinion, will the number of German tourists travelling to Russia increase due to the FIFA World Cup, which will take place in 2018?

Football championships are always very important events for German fans, so it is to be expected that they will also come to Russia and will want to get to know the country.

Have you been to Russia yourself? What were your impressions?

I’ve only visited Moscow once, but this was a long time ago, in the beginning of the 1990s. It was a time of political turmoil. Obviously, the atmosphere was a lot different than what it is now. I remember feeling like I was truly witnessing history unfold in front of me. It would be interesting to see the contrast now, a quarter of a century later.

 

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