02 NOV 2011: A mere 600 or so years ago the very thought that Berlin and Vienna might collaborate on anything would have caused gasps and the fluttering of hand fans. Fast forward to Toronto’s Spoke Club last week, and the CEOs of those very cities entertained a roomful of travel media, massaging the notion that yes, their respective capital cities could complete each other.

“We’ve had a long term relationship already,” says Norbert Kettner, the managing director of the Vienna Tourist Board. “We love to work together. We want to show you why we are the perfect two-city experience in Europe.”

In a bold move, Europe’s largest cities (Vienna claimed number five position till 1910) and as Norbert jested, “We don’t want it back,” have joined together to skilfully promote a tourism initiative.

“We thought for a long time that Vienna and Berlin were different enough and similar enough that it would be a perfect match actually,” noted Norbert, who elaborated that a Viennese favourite past-time was the art of complaint.

“The Viennese complain about everything new and as soon as it’s completed they love it and then they find something else to complain about. It’s an eternal cycle of complaint. We get used to the uncalm situation.”

So, clients thirsty for big European cities can forget the geography (the two cities are really one hour apart by air), and think of the possibilities.

No doubt the European economic debt crisis has made these two great euro cities join tourism forces but increased traffic to the former Eastern Bloc including Russia and India have also added to the synergy.

“People who come to Europe want to see the east and I think Vienna and Berlin are perfect starting points,” observed Burkhard Kieker, the CEO for visitBerlin.

Representatives from the Vienna Tourist Board, visitBerlin and the Lufthansa Group parlayed notes on what makes this combo a win-win.

Here’s the crib sheet:

Chris Wendland, the marketing and communications manager for the Lufthansa Aviation Group in Canada, explained how the Lufthansa Group comprised of Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, and British Midland International is making life easier for agents.

“For Canadian travellers you get fully integrated ticketing and pricing via one contract per travel agent,” she says adding clients can take one airline via a European hub like Vienna and return with another airline perhaps because of a longer connection or clients want to see two cities.

“So now you have airlines within the group to get you there. For the travel agents you don’t have five different contracts and contacts. You have one contact and one contract,” she said of the seamless relationship noting how previously these companies would have been competitors.

“Now we say Lufthansa or Austrian Airlines and we’re okay with that.”

Agents can anticipate new seats next year for long hauls, and expect more fuel efficient aircraft with Lufthansa. “Lufthansa is the first airline to use bio-fuel for commercial flights,” Chris says describing a six-month pilot project which started in July.

In the competitive airline industry, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are placing a higher priority on customer benefits too. For Austrian Airlines, clients can take advantage of what Chris describes as: “the best boarding pass in the world.”

“You can use your boarding pass for (reduced entry or) free access to many cultural institutions across Vienna,” she says and adds Austrian Airlines also has a new red cab shuttle service for 29 Euros from the airport to downtown. Customers can book the new service up to 24 hours prior to departure. For details see www.austrian.com or www.red-cab.at.

Lufthansa has high-speed Internet service on board. “Give the cranky teenager Internet access and they’re happy. They could be Facebooking their friends 30,000 feet above. It’s totally awesome.”

Both airlines have added more capacity. Austrian Airlines is flying YYZ to Vienna four times weekly this winter starting October 31.

Watch for Berlin’s mega airport the Berlin Bradenburg International airport scheduled to open on June 3, 2012. Europe’s last huge airport to open is also the last big scale project that Burkhard says will complete Berlin’s urban redevelopment. Once this new airport opens the remaining airports will close. Burkhard hinted on a future direct service from YYZ to Berlin.

The lay-out
Both cities are in transition.

Vienna known for its famed 19th century Ringstrasse, the old district, is reviving its Vienna Central Station district, a 109-acre area currently Vienna’s largest urban redevelopment project.

See for yourself why over 20 years post-Wall, Berlin has morphed into one of Europe’s top cities. It’s a resurrection story completely rebuilt and Burkhard asks, “Which big city has a chance to rebuild and redefine itself? In Berlin we try to show what happened to the city both the good and the bad.”

Sleep over
Notice a huge hotel surge in Vienna and Berlin.

For instance, the new Sofitel in Vienna is considered the most radical hotel. “You can choose between white, grey and black rooms,” says Norbert who added Vienna has 55,000 beds.

In Berlin, “We have more beds than New York.” Burkhard’s last count was in September with 121,000 rooms. “New York has about 95,000.” (NYC&Co. reports 88,000+ rooms in September, 2011).

Added value
Go for value. Burkhard notes how Vienna and Berlin are currently considered the best value on the continent. “You can have a weekend in Berlin for half the price of Paris or London,” he says.

Unique experiences

⋅ Berliners love their beer. Viennese prefer wine, marking 2011 as a “very good year” with the production of 2.4 million litres of wine, with grapes grown close to the city

⋅ Viennese are proud of their cooking abilities and lay claim to Viennese cuisine of course. Berlin has evolved into a diverse culinary scene. Burkhard tells me outside outside Turkey, more Turkish call Berlin home. What that spells is lots of shish kebabs with really good coffee houses.

⋅ Vienna’s big on balls (the Vienna Opera Ball is one of the highlights of the Viennese carnival season); while Berliners let their hair down in the Cabaret revival hitting the profusion of night clubs.

⋅ Berlin’s art scene is smoking hot. More artists like Canadian Attila Richard Lukacs once called Berlin home. “Our atelier prices right now are so reasonable,” says Burkhard who compared his city to another great one. “Imagine if you are a young painter and you want to rent an upper room in Paris with day light. You can...in Berlin for €300. We are attracting designers, and artists who are creating a nice atmosphere in the city. It’s a merry go-round to watch how Berliners live.”

⋅ Vienna is ramping up for the massive 150th birthday of Gustav Klimt in 2012. “We will see so many Gustav Klimt paintings in Vienna as never before,” says Norbert heralding the great artist’s work.

The Closer
Agents can expect FAM trips, and watch for joint advertising campaigns with some industry promotions.

Some purists might scoff at this two-city mélange but judging by many at the Spoke Club who listened to the new Euro city couple speak, they look hot and sizzling.

I’m sure rock legend Chuck Berry would sing: “Roll over Beethoven” for this two-city campaign,
have a beer for Berliners and a toast to Wein.

For more info: Vienna www.vienna.info and www.visitBerlin.com

Top banner image: Berlin and Vienna

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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