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Tourism chiefs unite at CECTA conference

By the year 2010, incoming tourism is projected to contribute a total of $537 billion to the GDP of the six Central European Countries Travel Association

By the year 2010, incoming tourism is projected to contribute a total of $537 billion to the GDP of the six Central European Countries Travel Association (CECTA<.>) member countries according to a presentation by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Official representatives from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland were delighted to receive the good news in Prague, especially considering that it was announced at their first annual Central European Travel Conference.

"By co-operation we can learn from each other and bring a focus to this region, that in comparison to many other travel destinations has not had its fair share of investment-and maybe has not put its story across with enough vigour." Although the story may not have been told vigorously enough to date, World Tourism Organisation Secretary General Francesco Frangialli congratulated the countries involved for taking serious initiative toward promoting borderless tourism within the region of Central Europe by developing this conference. The Secretary General commended CECTA and ITE Travel Exhibitions for bringing together leaders in the Central European travel industry to discuss issues that affect them as a borderless destination.

There can be no doubt that Central Europe needs to explore regional destination marketing as a major growth area. Some areas of tourism have grown by as much as 12% per annum over the last five years, including Adventure travel and Eco-Tourism. There are also more senior travellers than ever before.

Newly-appointed International Director of CECTA and Director of ITE Travel Exhibitions, David Hammond, insists that reaping the benefits of this growth will require an ongoing commitment to co-operation between member countries. "Our best opportunities for exposing this region to the world as a borderless travel destination mean that it is essential to share data, commission joint research and to mount joint PR and advertising campaigns." Hammond continued, "It is vital that we disseminate information worldwide, using established media and emerging technologies to remain competitive."

Motivating the travel trade to take a greater interest in Central Europe is not enough: the traveller also needs to be targeted with inspirational advertising and exciting editorial. CECTA Chief Executive Gill Wilson, in outlining plans for the consumer site, described it as a "One-stop shop window for Central European travel, with hyper links to all members' sites."

CECTA, she added, has a role to play in product development and the priority is to concentrate on encouraging tour operators, particularly the major players, to invest additional resources into packaging longer-stay cross-border holidays. This to be done whilst retaining and growing the products generated by niche operators.

Other speakers at the conference included: Tadeuz Donocik, Undersecretary Ministry of Economy, Nick Hurrel, CEO M&C Saatchi, Daniella Wagner, Vice-President of Communications, World Travel and Tourism Council, Dr Armin Godau, President, Institute for the Integration of Tourism in Europe, Hanns Peter Nerger, President and CEO of Berlin Tourismus Marketing, Karla Urbanova, Regional Director, International Federation of Women's Travel Organisations, Chris Carroll, CEO, e-trading company.

Terry Coates, in summing up the conference, said the real benefits of the conference would be what followed. He called for a summit meeting of the Directors of all the National Tourist Offices to explore how the countries of CECTA could synergise their marketing activities and the viability of a global marketing strategy for Central Europe. This would also be an opportunity to explore how technology could be used collectively and develop a branding on the websites for Central Europe.

During the conference, CECTA were pleased to announce that ITE Director David Hammond had been appointed an International Director and that Alan Godsave had been made Regional Director for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

The second annual Central European Travel Conference will be held on February 6th, one day prior to the opening of Holiday World 2002, Central Europe's Premier Tourism Industry Event.

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