Moving a walled city of the 1700s into the modern business age without respect for its history is a walk through a minefield of conflicting priorities and special interests. A long list of private and government agencies protects Munich, the flagship city of 1.4 million and center of Bavaria. Preservation and planning are the keys to the controlled growth of Munich, its history, culture and natural beauty. Growing businesses, meetings and incentives, and building the facilities they require, necessitated leadership and cooperation at many levels of the German government.
According to Laura d’Elsa, a former executive with the German Convention Bureau, all this planning has been worth the effort. “The city is positioning itself to be one of the most popular locations for meetings and conventions not only in Germany but all of Europe. Bavaria sells itself,” said d’Elsa, stressing the abundant green space, nearby Bavarian mountains, castles, culture and beautiful rivers and streams just minutes from the city center. European royals chose the area for some of the most elaborate homes, hunting lodges and castles in all of Europe, largely because of the natural beauty of the area and the healing waters of its spas.
Munich is world-renowned for its breweries and beer halls, the most famous, of course, the massive Hofbräuhaus. All of Munich and thousands of visitors come out for its annual Oktoberfest celebration. But locals know the beer halls operate year-round, as do the breweries that have been making beer for centuries. (Two other annual beer festivals take place, should you miss Oktoberfest.)
But beyond the famous German tuba bands and giant bratwursts, the mountains and rushing rivers, Munich is and always has been a center for doing business in Bavaria, Germany and much of Europe. It offers excellent and expansive facilities for corporate and industry meetings, conventions and incentive trips.
Geraldine Knudson, director, Munich Tourism, feels it’s the whole package that brings business and leisure travelers to Munich, many for repeat visits. “Munich is an important European business location that offers all the benefits of an ultramodern metropolis. The local public transport, hotels and convention facilities win over the most demanding meeting planners and visitors,” she said. “Even so, Munich has retained a sense of rural friendliness and informality not usual in a city of this size.
“With more than 100 galleries and museums, worldrenowned orchestras, palaces and historic churches, there are many cultural options for the visitor. This combination is why we currently receive 14 million overnight visitors annually. This has doubled in the last 10 years. And we forecast continuous growth both in leisure and the business field.”
CHECKING IN WITH LAURA d’ELSA
d’Elsa served as regional director, USA/Canada, for the German Convention Bureau until January 2016.
Why is Munich such a popular place for meetings, conventions and incentive travel?
Let’s start with the basics. Munich has the tools. Munich offers planners and delegates more than 35,000 quality hotel rooms; 5,000 restaurants; and 8,000 retail stores to choose from.
Those are impressive stats. But planners want more than guestrooms.
Very true. For instance, location. Munich is central to most of Europe, in the center for millions of visitors and their companies. Munich offers superb infrastructure, a truly international airport. And it’s only six hours from the U.S. East Coast and a bit more to Japan and North Asia. Many regional business travelers choose the modern rail service right to the city center.
Does your proximity to the leisure activities of Bavaria interest corporate planners?
It does; very important, as no meeting lasts the entire day and night. Diversions are everywhere, from culture to mountain biking and museums to winter snow skiing. Industrial engineering exhibits and museums such as BMW Welt receive many visitors from the engineering and tech meetings, as well as many visitors on holiday. The universities offer many options for meeting planners and their engineers and scientists to see and sample German innovation in place around the world.
Clean and scenic rivers run right through Munich and offer fishing and boating activities. World-famous spas and healing waters are just a few minutes away, all with lots of fresh, fresh mountain air! As you know, we are green here in Germany. We have trained more than 400 sustainability advisors in the meeting sector who are ready to help keep corporate meetings green.
What are some of the major corporations with headquarters in Munich?
Probably the best known is BMW AG and Siemens AG. But we also benefit from Allianz SE, Infineon Technologies AG, Linde AG, Oracle Germany, Microsoft Germany and Philip Morris Germany. They alone generate a lot of meeting and convention business for the city.
What kind of support can planners and groups expect from the German Convention Bureau and its affiliates?
The German Convention Bureau is ready and willing to offer full support and planning for almost any size meeting or group. It offers the latest technology to help prepare requests for proposals and aid in selection of every part of the meeting from beer halls to the best German cuisine.
Things to Do in Munich
Munich describes itself as a city where the mix is the message. Old meets new. Classic European architecture stands across the street from the best of contemporary modernism. Major attractions, museums, restaurants and beer gardens all reside within walking distance of each other or a quick ride on inexpensive public transportation. Visitors can make convenient daytrips to the Alps for hiking, paragliding and mountain biking in summer and all major winter sports November through March. Munich hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics and maintains many of those facilities for recreation for residents and visitors.
When Germans are asked where they would most like to live, Munich wins. The city boasts no less than three classical orchestras, countless concert festivals and venues for every kind of music. The three Pinakothek art museums showcasing fine art from six centuries are within walking distance of each other. Nearby, the Museum Brandhorst features the best of modern art. Munich is home to BMW, which hosts its own state-of-the-art museum. Visitors can check for performances at the Kulturzentrum, situated on the cliffs of the Isar River and containing five separate theaters with a full schedule year-round.
Munich Info to Go
Flights to the capital of Bavaria arrive at award-winning Munich Airport from around the world and connect with many other major cities, mostly in Europe, via two terminals. Multiple international carriers serve the airport with dozens of flights throughout the day. Germany’s Lufthansa is the dominant carrier, but all major airlines of the world are represented. Visitors can connect to the city via the modern bus and rail service. Trains leave for the city center every 10 minutes. An airport shuttle runs between the two active terminals. Regional bus service is available to Munich and many surrounding towns.
Munich: Just the Facts
Time Zone: GMT +1
Phone Code: Country code: 49 City code: 89
Entry/Exit Requirements: U.S. citizens must have a passport valid three months past departure date with two blank pages. No visa is required for visits of less than 90 days. No vaccinations are necessary.
Official Language: German; English is widely spoken in Munich.
Key Industries: Medical science, automotive and IT
Where to Stay in Munich
Hilton Munich Park This modern business hotel near the Englischer Garten area offers well-appointed guestrooms and suites; an indoor pool, fitness center, steam and sauna; 24-hour business support; and meeting rooms for 1,000 attendees. Am Tucherpark 7 $$$$
Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski This classic gem in the city center offers a 5-star experience with a first-class pool and spa and complete business services. Book a suite and receive complimentary limo service from the airport. Maximilianstrasse 17 $$$$$
The Westin Grand Munich Popular with business travelers, the city center hotel features full business services, a pool and spa, dining options, spacious guestrooms and suites. Walk to the oldest sites in the city. Arabellastrasse 6 $$$$
Restaurants in Munich
Dallmayr The amazing city center building features an incredible European deli/café on the first floor and fine dining upstairs in a historic room. Try the German classic dishes with outstanding presentations. Fish is a specialty. Dienerstrasse 14-15 $$$$
EssZimmer by Käfer At BMW Welt’s Michelin 2-star restaurant, enjoy modern European cuisine in a spectacular setting with service and wine list to match. Choose from five to eight courses on the dinner menu, changed nightly. BMW Welt, Olympiapark 1 $$$$
Tantris Fine dining is a tradition at this top Michelin 2-star with superb service and décor. Choose fixed courses with wine pairings or order à la carte. The Saturday multicourse lunch is popular. Johann- Fichte-Strasse 7 $$$$$
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