The well-connected German city of Stuttgart combines a fascinating mix of architecture and culture with a rapidly developing offering for the business traveller.
Capital of Germany’s Baden-Württemberg province, Stuttgart has a lot going for it. Lying next to the Neckar River between the Black Forest to the west and the Swabian Alp to the south, the city has enjoyed a regal past, characterised by a winemaking heritage and now also serving as a prominent industrial hub.
Although much of the city centre was destroyed during the Second World War, the rebuilt city represents a mix of modern and historic architecture which managed to survive. This is reflected by the fascinating array of museums and galleries on offer, from the Mercedes-Benz Museum which charts the automaker’s illustrious history through to the tremendously varied exhibitions at the Staatsgalerie.
Stuttgarters carry a reputation for being business-like. Sharp dressers, fast drivers and hardworking, it is little wonder that the city is an economically thriving one. The fact its MICE tourism industry is growing is also no surprise. However, many visitors report a more relaxed vibe, helped by the many rustic wine bars and beer gardens that provide a welcome break from the day-to-day endeavours of Stuttgart working life. The city’s surrounding vineyard-laden hills are another essential escape, and with the Black Forest nearby, this destination serves many different travelling purposes.
THE BUSINESS END
Stuttgart is in the centre of the largest industrial zone in southwest Germany, known for holding various trade fairs and congresses, and renown for being home to leading automotive brands Daimler and Porsche. Tourism, especially related to business travel, is a thriving sector. Karina Grützner, Director of Convention Marketing at the Stuttgart Convention Bureau (SCB), comments: “I am excited about the future. Stuttgart is steadily increasing its meeting and incentive infrastructure.
“Around 3,000 new hotel rooms will add to hotel infrastructure in the next few years. In the autumn the new Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Messe & Congress will provide significant meeting capacities and 260 rooms. Combined with Wyndham Stuttgart Airport Messe and Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Airport, 800 hotel rooms are available at the main entrance to ICS International Congress Center Stuttgart and in walkable distance to the airport.
“Convention Center Filderhalle, close to Stuttgart Airport, will expand its capacity with 400 square metres of flexible meeting space. Design Offices will open their third venue in the heart of Stuttgart, combining workspaces and creative meeting rooms. Last year the new V8 Hotel added special experience and concepts into the meetings infrastructure portfolio of Stuttgart. Where else can you sleep in a Mercedes Benz or a Car Wash? The new Jaz Stuttgart Hotel is the only such example in Germany and worth a visit.”
Beyond tourism, the city is well known as a publishing centre and is the home of a number of advertising, marketing, and communication-related firms.
TOURISM INSIGHTS: STUTTGART CONVENTION BUREAU
The Stuttgart Convention Bureau is mandated with the promotion of the German city as a go-to MICE destination, established in 1994 and developing into an important trade association. Karina Grützner, discussing both SCB’s remit and Stuttgart’s tourism scene, answers more of our questions.
Q&A WITH KARINA GRÜTZNER, DIRECTOR OF CONVENTION MARKETING, SCB
Can you firstly talk me through the origins of the Stuttgart Convention Bureau, how it came about, and its initial vision?
Karina Grützner (KG): Stuttgart Convention Bureau started its work in 1994. One can say we were among the Convention Bureau pioneers in Germany. This underlines the importance of meetings, conventions and events in the city. Our vision is to connect people to unlock ideas and gain knowledge. The SCB team passionately promotes Stuttgart as a meetings destination, its easy accessible meetings infrastructure, innovative economy and strong local heritage. Event professionals, corporate meeting planners and incentive organisers appreciate us as the first point of contact; they value our local expertise and services, saving them a lot of time. We offer free impartial advice, while the largest local location database and venue sourcing support is especially valuable for international planners. We initiate connections with service partners that care for the needs of our client, like venues, hotels, special locations, DMCs – we organise site inspections and provide accommodation service free of charge.
Since inception, how has the Stuttgart Convention Bureau developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?
(KG): Our staff has increased from one person at the beginning to four women in 2019. In 2012, a strategic partner model was installed with the largest convention venues like Messe Stuttgart/ICS International Congress Center Stuttgart and Convention Center Liederhalle, Stuttgart Airport, Stuttgart Region Economic Development Corporation, other convention centres and hotels. The partners strongly support our work and clients benefit from this strong local network. Thanks to this development, Stuttgart could extend its presence in international markets like the UK and US and intensify its domestic marketing activities. Collaboration is key. Today Stuttgart is amongst the top German trade show and conference destinations.
How would you say Stuttgart has developed in recent years as a business travel hub and what are the key reasons behind its growing appeal?
(KG): Stuttgart’s tourism industry continues to expand steadily and reached a new all-time high in 2018. With 3.91 million overnight stays overall and an increase of 3.4 percent compared with the year before, in 2018 the state capital’s tourism sector chalked up its best results. Business travel is consistently strong in Stuttgart and accounts for around 70 percent of all overnight stays. Key reasons are the strong local economy, easy accessibility and attractive meeting venues, as well as expanding meeting capacities and hotel rooms. In 2007 Messe Stuttgart moved to its new venue. The location is unique in Germany – only 355 steps away from Stuttgart International Airport. 120,000 square metres of hall area are complemented by around 33 rooms that offer flexible use in the adjoining ICS (International Congress Center Stuttgart). Since the opening of these new capacities, Stuttgart has hosted larger trade shows, congresses and corporate events. Messe Stuttgart hosted 65 trade fairs alone in 2018, like the world’s leading trade fair for roller shutters, doors/gates and sun protection systems R+T and is the meeting point for the metal working industry AMB. Today Messe Stuttgart is one of the best occupied trade fair venues in Europe.
Why, in your opinion, should someone visit Stuttgart?
(KG): Inventive, cultivated, relaxing and enticing at the same time – that for me describes Stuttgart best. In Stuttgart, nature goes hand in hand with technology, and tradition with innovation. Its architecture is both baroque and ultramodern. It spans the diversity of the pulsating economic metropolis and a wealth of culture on the highest level. And all of this is to be found amidst idyllic, topographically appealing green scenery. Stuttgart city centre is perfectly walkable and is in a valley surrounded by hills. The location, with more than 200 metres height difference, makes it unique in Germany in terms of topography. Vista points invite one to relax with a drink and a fantastic panoramic view over the city after work.
Are there any specific attractions, landmarks or places to eat and drink that you would recommend?
(KG): Stuttgart is famous for being the cradle of mobility, so it is no surprise that the iconic museums of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are amongst the most visited attractions. They are also unique event locations that impress with outstanding architecture and unforgettable experiences. Stroll along Schlossplatz (Palace Square) and enjoy the scenery of the New and Old Palace, get snacks at the historic market hall. In convenient walking distance, many options invite visitors to indulge in local food like potato salad and Maultaschen (Swabian Ravioli) or beef roast with Spätzle, wine and beer. The Leonhardsviertel is the place to go for after work drinks. Stuttgart has been named the number one culture capital for the fourth time because of the diverse cultural attractions. For culture lovers I recommend visiting the impressive art exhibitions at Stuttgart Art Museum – an amazing glass cube with a great view over Schlossplatz or the State Gallery. An evening in the award-winning Stuttgart State Theatre and Opera is also highly recommended. A short ride by underground from Schlossplatz is the world’s first television tower with a fantastic view over the city and the lush green scenery. Stuttgart also stages festivals throughout the year, i.e. the second largest beer festival in Germany and worldwide and the wine festival where visitors can taste local wine specialities. The picturesque Christmas market is also worth a visit.
What trends are transforming the tourism industry in Stuttgart at present? How are you responding to these trends?
(KG): Travelling is about experience and convenience. We focus on consistently developing the destination and creating additional attractions. Collaboration is key to success for us. Creating high-grade offers and strategically expanding the infrastructure are decisive factors for the successful future development. Stuttgart has thus positioned itself as the first China Pay City in Germany. With 68,554 overnight stays in 2018, they represented Stuttgart’s fourth-largest foreign visitor market. Chinese users of Alipay and WeChat Pay can pay with their preferred payment option as of now in around 65 local contact points, including retailers, museums, restaurants and hotels. The aim is to offer Alipay and WeChat Pay in as many businesses relevant to this target group as possible. Stuttgart also has been one of the first German cities providing free Wi-Fi at public places like Schlossplatz since 2015.
Is there more news that you wish to highlight?
(KG): This year we celebrate two anniversaries – 10 years of the Porsche Museum and 10 years of MotorWorld Stuttgart. Both are exciting event venues with diverse meeting options or can be enjoyed by automotive enthusiasts during an individual visit. Outletcity Metzingen – home of the fashion label Hugo Boss and Europe’s number one outlet opened 16 additional stores recently and provides exclusive options for individual shopping or incentives. What about a scenic drive in a rented Porsche through lush nature and stop by in Metzingen? Just recently, the Outletcity Metzingen was named the European leader in economic performance in the Outlet Centre Performance Report Europe 2018. There is a regular “shopping shuttle” to Stuttgart’s city centre. We are also excited about hosting IBA2027 in Stuttgart Region. Exactly 100 years after avant-garde architects from throughout Europe presented their radical “exemplary residential programme for modern metropolitan man” at Stuttgart’s Weissenhofsiedlung, the IBA 2027 aims to find new answers to the questions of how we live, work and house in today’s digital, globalised world.
Are you optimistic about the future of the tourism industry in Stuttgart?
(KG): Stuttgart is a hidden champion. It is not only a business destination – it is also about enjoyment of life, great food experiences and cultural highlights. Stuttgart offers so much to explore and surprises its visitors. I invite all excited readers to get in touch with us to create their own Stuttgart experience.
OUT AND ABOUT IN STUTTGART
From enjoying the fineries of regional wine, beer and food to a unique mix of palaces, museums and art galleries, there is plenty to occupy visitors in Stuttgart.
“One of the best ways to explore the city is a steps tour,” Grützner adds. “Owing to Stuttgart’s geographic location in a valley basin, it has more flights of steps – known to the locals as “Stäffele” and originally built by winemakers to access the vineyards – than most other towns. Idyllic paths and beautiful scenic lookouts guarantee so much variety on this original circular walk with no shortage of steps, so you won’t get bored, even after the 100th flight.”
The aforementioned TV tower, or Fernsehturm, is another key landmark, not least because it represents the first of its kind in the world. The view from the top scales not only the city itself, but also the surrounding blanket of forest and hills.
Grützner also points to destinations out of town which can form the basis of a day trip.
“I also strongly recommend a visit to Esslingen and Ludwigsburg,” she adds. “These cities are only a short drive out of Stuttgart and impress with the largest baroque palace – Ludwigsburg – and Germany’s oldest sparkling wine producer, Kessler.”
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
As with many German cities, Stuttgart is bicycle-friendly with no fewer than 45 call-a-bike stands offering 30 minutes of free rental and very reasonable rates thereafter.
There is also a wealth of public transport options, as described by Grützner.
“I recommend the public transport system – underground, commuter trains and busses. Did you know that Stuttgart is the only German city where a rack railway and a funicular are part of the public transport network?
“The rack railway experience is amazing because you have a fantastic panoramic view over the city and towards the television tower. We offer a special priced conference ticket for delegates. If visitors book their hotels through our reservation system, they receive a free public transport ticket for the duration of their stay (valid until 2020 in dedicated partner hotels).”
In terms of getting to the city, Stuttgart is typically well-connected to other German and international destinations.
Grützner adds: “Generally, Stuttgart is very easy to get to: Stuttgart Airport connects more than 100 destinations and Frankfurt Airport is only 75 minutes by speed train from the city centre. Rail and road access are also very convenient.”