Hamburg seeks ideas to increase tourism

Hamburg, Germany -- one of the 21 cities participating in the 2012 LLGA -- has an interesting tourism challenge for this year's award participants. As the second largest port in Europe, Hamburg is a popular origin and destination city for cruise lines. About 300,000 cruise passengers arrive in Hamburg each year at some point along their trip, and yet few seem to stay long to tour Germany's second-largest city. In fact, Hamburg officials estimate that only one-third of cruise tourists spend a night or more in the city before or after their journey. Even for those who do prolong their visit, the average stay is just 2.1 nights. There is huge potential for Hamburg to capture a larger share of cruise line tourism, yet for some reason many passengers seem to view Hamburg more as a transport hub than as a destination in itself. And that's where this year's showcase challenge comes in. The city has asked participants to submit solutions that help to connect cruise passengers to the vast array of tourism opportunities that Hamburg has to offer. Since it already has a variety of tourist-friendly locations and events and has already succeeded in drawing tourists to the city, the challenge is in helping tourists to seamlessly integrate with Hamburg and its sights. City officials hope that through the use of interactive mobile and web-based technologies, cruise passengers can learn of Hamburg's many offerings and will be inspired to linger a few days more.

One of the showcases that rose to Hamburg's challenge and is among the five selected nominees is Sightsplanner, an interactive suggestion engine that instantly produces a customized tour itinerary based on your preferences and schedule needs. A tourist can access the engine via web browser or mobile phone, enter their preferences, and receive a step-by-step schedule of places to visit nearby. The user can enter details on time of day, how long they would like the tour to last, whether they are traveling by foot or by car, and preferences for certain types of attractions as part of their detailed itinerary. The program categorizes sights and events into museums & arts, architecture & city, eating out, shopping, sports & outdoor, and bars & nightlife so that tourists can easily find the places and activities that interest them the most. Sightplanner's ability to adjust to users' unique preferences makes it a much more dynamic sightseeing guide than the standard tourism books or brochures.

As an already popular tourist destination, Hamburg's local economy could benefit greatly by providing a simpler, more convenient way for visitors to interact with and explore the city. Tools like Sightsplanner help tourists see not just what a city has to offer, but when and how they can get there, taking much of the difficulty out of planning a tour. Widespread use of such a user-friendly system could transform the way that tourists view Hamburg and motivate them to prolong their stay.

~ Allison Bullock