Interview with Romit Theophilus – Director of Sales and Marketing, (GNTO), India

The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) promotes responsible tourism, a key growth area, by showcasing Germany as a sustainable and inclusive destination in the international travel market. This is particularly important as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the global shift in travellers’ values towards greater social and environmental responsibility.

To know more about GNTB’s plans and marketing strategies especially for the Indian market, we interviewed Romit Theophilus – Director of Sales and Marketing, German National Tourist Office (GNTO), India.

Romit Theophilus – Director Sales and Marketing, GNTO, India has been associated with the Travel Trade for many years. He is also the Managing Director at Airplus Travel Services Pvt. Ltd. Under his leadership at GNTO since 2008, Germany has registered a growth of 55 % in the number of overnights. The Germany India Pool Association established by him in 2008 is a leading example of a successful collaboration aimed at creating a brand name for destination Germany in India


What are the safety guidelines that Germany is maintaining for safe travels?

Two vaccinations are sufficient for entry into Germany. It does not matter when applicants were last vaccinated. Even a single vaccination is sufficient if one of the following applies:

  1. a) an antibody test with proven infection with coronaviruses prior to vaccination, followed by administration of the vaccination; or
  2. b) a positive test by a nucleic acid test (e.g., PCR) before the vaccine dose; or
  3. c) a positive test by a nucleic acid test (e.g., PCR) performed at least 28 days ago and after administration of the first vaccine dose.

From 01.10.2022, the same will apply, but with three compulsory vaccinations – two vaccinations will therefore only be sufficient if an additional above-mentioned test is provided.

Currently, only applicants with an urgent travel reason can enter Germany if they have taken Covaxin. A negative RT-PCR test is not sufficient in this case. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you when this regulation might be lifted.


What are the marketing strategies you have taken in post-COVID-19 travel time?

During the past two years of the pandemic, we have worked tirelessly with our partners in Germany’s inbound tourism industry and the Indian travel trade to prepare for a successful restart. Activities include the virtual empathy campaigns for end customers during the lockdowns, but also the investments in digital transformation, the positioning of Germany as a sustainable destination in the Indian market, and the ongoing exchange of knowledge with the travel industry, for example through market insight webinars, Germany Travel Mart 2022, speed networking and many other initiatives. Our experiences in 2020/21 also show that strong market segments are more resilient. This also gave us the motivation to expand the campaigns with which we promote Germany as a destination for holidays in nature, as well as our sustainable and barrier-free offerings and Germany’s rural areas.


What is the average footfall in the hotels during the tourism season? What are your plans for upscale tourists?

To promote tourism’s standing as an inherently peaceful activity with an ability to bring people together, and its importance as a symbol of openness and tolerance. This is why we have chosen this moment to re-launch our ‘German.Local.Culture’ campaign. It conveys exactly this message – one of harmony between generations, traditions, and different cultural influences. It blends the lifestyle of urban spaces with the charm of rural regions and the draw of sustainable tourism.

By providing a wide range of inspiration for travellers in the Indian markets, the campaign also promotes Germany as a destination for longer holidays for the culturally minded, for families and for people who like to get active. We are working closely with our partners to promote Destination Germany through digital initiatives, long-term commitment and creative marketing.


How will German Tourism now work to boost tourism?

After two “extraordinarily difficult Corona years”, Germany is preparing for an influx of tourists from India. Arrivals from India are expected to surge as the summer vacation approaches. Germany is a popular destination for such travellers due to its city breaks, natural-related explorations, adventure holidays, and sporting experiences. The interest in Germany as a travel destination is extremely high. The “Germany Travel Mart” industry meeting has already begun on May 1 in Oberammergau, Bavaria where the Indian delegation is already present. City, culture and nature holidays are in demand, which corresponds to the brand essence of Germany as a travel destination.

This year GNTO, India will continue its marketing via its official website, news journals and social media, and Trade Roadshows with its focus being on online activities supplemented by physical live events.


What are the types of clientele you are looking at the moment? Which are your main target areas?

Germany has a longstanding tradition of being one of the most popular destinations. But what makes Germany a unique destination, is the world-famous “Gemütlichkeit”, great connectivity, proximity to nature, cosmopolitan outlook and traditions for hospitality and foremost the country’s excellent infrastructure. Many of our cities in Germany have recently shared exciting news about the city’s new hotels, venue openings as well as great events awaiting visitors in 2022 and beyond. At the moment travel in India is seeing pre-pandemic inquiries. After speaking with the German Embassy visa sections in New Delhi and Mumbai we were told that the demand is very high for people wanting to visit Germany (Leisure, Business, trade fairs and Incentives). So much so that the process for applying for the visa can take up to one or two months in some cases and even after submitting your documents it will further take two weeks for the visa to be issued.


What are the technological updates the hotel industry and the convention centres have taken to make the stay and the events or the meetings safer and more hygienic?

The country has taken several steps to accommodate safe events in its respective venues. Naturally, they have expanded their hygiene and safety concepts and are supporting planners with any questions that may come up. The events industry in Germany is coming to life again. New regulations by respective states make small-big-scale events possible again, and congresses and trade fairs can take place once again. And with this, we would like to focus on our most important sales event for German incoming tourism – the Germany Travel Mart™ (GTM) 2022. The Mart is already live from 30th April to 4th May for the first time in the municipality of Oberammergau. From India, we have a total of five buyers and two journalists who are present for this prestigious event.


What are the major tourist destinations in the country that the German Tourism Board is promoting this year?

This has been great news for all travellers and the industry, especially before the peak summer season. The demand for international travel (Germany) is picking up in India and there has been a significant uptick in travel search queries for destinations like Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich. Travel search queries from India for German cities like Baden, Stuttgart, Munich, Berlin Black Forest and the Rhine region have seen a major jump. We are seeing a trend of travellers now eager to book long-haul destinations, fuelled by international borders reopening and relaxation of rules across the globe. Coming off the worst year in tourism history, there’s little sense of optimism in the travel industry and expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.



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