Forget the European favourites and offer clients a raft of new experiences in 2009. Not only will you discover fresh revenue streams but you’ll beat off the competition by providing a point of difference says Lee Jamieson.
As air connections to Europe improve, new marketing opportunities are sure to emerge. The time has come to take a fresh look at what Europe has to offer and consider alternative destinations to the obligatory London, Paris and Rome.
So if your clients fancy soaking up the ambience of Prague, laughing at the street performers that line Barcelona's La Rambla, or exploring the rich literary heritage of Dublin, then this is your essential guide to the ‘other' Europe.
Famed for its friendly people, instant celebrations and literary history, visitors to Dublin will soon discover the Irish spirit. With more than 100 festivals and events organised each year, Dublin is a vibrant and exciting place for tourists.
"Travel agents looking to sell a new European city should look to Ireland's capital, Dublin," says Dublin Tourism chief executive Frank Magee.
"Dublin is the perfect fit for their customers, with our quaint cobbled streets, Georgian squares, exhilarating high-end sporting events and a host of spontaneous traditional music sessions."
Dublin is perhaps most famous for "the black stuff" and visitors can discover the fascinating story of how Guinness has been intertwined with the city for centuries by downloading the Guinness iWalk from www.visitdublin.com.
City highlights from Dublin Tourism's Frank Magee:
• Find out why Dublin is a top literary hotspots for tourists. Full of literary landmarks, like the James Joyce Tower, Trinity College, and the Dublin Writers' Museum.
• Sample Ireland's national drinks at Guinness Storehouse and Old Jameson Distillery.Barcelona
Spanish city Barcelona is attractive to leisure and business travellers alike. Regarded by many as the capital of Mediterranean Europe, Barcelona has something to offer everyone: although steeped in cultural history, the city can also meet the demands of the modern business traveller.
Barcelona is the world's fourth most popular congress city, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), and is the seventh city in the world for convention tourism, according to the Union of International Associations (UIA).
"Travellers to Barcelona come from a wide demographic: everyone from newlyweds to families with children," says Qatar Airways Holidays marketing executive Nazlie Salie. "Barcelona is also extremely popular with young people who want to experience the lively clubbing scene as well as sightseeing. Therefore, the city has become one of Qatar Airways Holidays' top-selling destinations."
City highlights from Turisme De Barcelona's head of foreign relations, María Luisa Albacar-Fracanzani:
• Walk La Rambla and enjoy Barcelona's famous street performers.
• Tour the city by horse drawn carriage.
• Visit the Picasso Museum is Barcelona's beautiful old town.Berlin
Berlin is chic and cultured. Famous must-see buildings like the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Parliament and the Charlottenburg Palace have long attracted visitors to Germany's capital city. In 2006 the city was awarded "City of Design" by UNESCO in recognition of its creative influence.
"2009 will be a particularly special year as it will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall," explains German National Tourist Office's Antje Roeding.
"There will be a variety of celebratory events taking place all over the country including exhibitions, tours, concerts, plays and films."
City highlights from German National Tourist Office's Antje Roeding:
• Walk down the grand Unter den Linden (or "under the lime trees") boulevard which stretches from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island.
• The Berlin Wall Trail is not to be missed in 2009. The trail runs for a total of 160 kilometres and traces the fortifications that encircled West Berlin. Visitors may choose either to hike or bike along the former patrol road, and different stations along the way provide information in several languages.Nice
France is the world's top tourist destination," begins Nice Tourist Office director of communication Isabelle Billey-Quéré. "And, second only to Paris, Nice is France's second largest tourist destination welcoming four million visitors each year."
Nice is the perfect romantic getaway and its elegance owes much to its history. The rich aristocrats that once made the city famous have left a legacy of sophistication which is evident in its architecture, café terraces and stunning palm-lined promenade.
"There are so many reasons to visit Nice," explains Billey-Quéré. "With its natural beauty and architecture, Nice is a spectacular cultural effervescence."
City highlights from Nice Tourist Office's Isabelle Billey-Quéré:
• Shop in the traditional old-town markets.
• Visit one of the famous galleries like the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall or the Musée Matisse situated on the Promenade des Anglais.
• Climb aboard the tourist train or open-deck bus to discover the city's history.
• Lifestyles of the rich and famous: Cannes is 30kms west of Nice and Monaco 30kms east.Vienna
Vienna is a favourite romantic getaway and honeymoon destination.
"There is even a popular song in Arabic that tells of those joyful nights in Vienna," says Austrian National Tourist Office director Middle East Klaus Ehrenbrandtner.
"A horse carriage ride through the historic city centre might be one of the most romantic experiences ever."
In recent years, Vienna has become popular with travellers from the Middle East due to its classicism, rich culture and location.
"Vienna is the closest European city if you travel by plane," says Ehrenbrandtner.
"It is less than six hours away from all major airports in the Middle East and flight frequency from the Gulf has increased markedly in recent years."
City highlights from Austrian National Tourist Office's Ehrenbrandtner:
• Discover the country's imperial history at the baroque Schönbrunn Palace, Austria's most popular tourist attraction
• Combine art, eating and shopping in the "MuseumsQuartier", one of the largest cultural quarters in the world
• Go underground and discover Vienna's famous nightlife and club scene. The Passage, a converted pedestrian underpass, is now recognised as Vienna's hippest and most distinguished nightspot.Prague
In the words of one poet, Prague is a "symphony in stone" Modern buildings mingle with the city's gothic spires amidst the labyrinth of narrow cobbled lanes is reminiscent of a Franz Kafka novel -Prague's most famous cultural export.
Prague is proud of its cultural heritage, with theatres, galleries and museums galore.
"While you're here you must visit at least one of Prague's 300 museums and galleries," suggests media manger Czech Tourism Markéta Chaloupková.
"Prague is one of the most beautiful European cities. This is a city of culture, history, entertainment and business."
Chaloupková suggests that the best time for tourists to visit the city is in the spring and autumn. However, winter can also be good time to escape the tourist crowds.
City highlights from Czech Tourism's Chaloupková:
• Visit Prague Castle and the Palace Gardens.
• Walk Charles Bridge.
• Explore the historical centre which includes the Lesser Quarter, Old Town and the famous Wenceslas Square.Manchester
After many years of being perceived as an industrial centre, one of the UK's largest hubs, Manchester, has finally emerged as a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. The destination is good value for money with most of the galleries and museums free to enter, free inter-city transport and affordable shopping.
Furthermore, Manchester is well-positioned to cater to the wide-ranging needs of both international leisure and business travellers.
"As a multicultural city, Manchester caters for all tastes," explains Visit Manchester marketing executive Anh Nguyen.
"There is a large Asian community and a wide variety of vegetarian and Halal restaurants."
As Manchester becomes more visible as an international destination, more travellers are discovering the charms of this northern city.
City highlights from Visit Manchester's Anh Nguyen:
• The Old Trafford Museum and Stadium Tour allows visitors a behind the scenes glimpse at one of the most famous football clubs in the world.
• The Quays, Greater Manchester's waterfront destination offers culture at its best, with art, music, sport and great shopping options.
• Visit the Museum of Science and Industry and discover Manchester's role in the industrial revolution.