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Poland targets young tourists with image makeover  Aug 12, 2008

Golfing or kite surfing are two activities rarely mentioned in connection with Poland, but pre-conceptions about the eastern European nation are not keeping up with developments in its tourist industry.

"There's a long list of attractions that are not associated with Poland," said Jan Wavrzyniak, director of the Polish tourist board, in Hamburg recently. Kite surfing is one of those activities.

"Wind conditions around the Baltic peninsula of Hel are the best in Europe."

Poland is now trying to raise awareness of what it has to offer visitors.

"Poland can be surprising," is the tourist board's new slogan to entice mainly young visitors.

At the moment, most tourists visiting Poland are in the 25- to 45-year-old age group and they have a range of wellness hotels, adventure activities and night clubs in the big cities to cater to their needs.

Poland already counts on a high number of visitors.

"Poland had 15 million tourists last year," says Wavrzyniak. That number includes all visitors who spent at least one night in the country.

Poland is especially popular among German visitors as 5.3 million arrived. The country has been in the top ten list of destinations that Germans visited since 2006.

Dropped border checks boost tourism

Last year, it was eighth on Germans' list of destinations for bus tours after Italy, Austria and that old favorite of Spain in fourth. Almost all of Poland's border controls with EU nations have fallen since the country joined the Schengen Agreement last year.

Wavrzyniak believes that the move considerably boosted the number of people visiting his country. Among the most popular destinations in Poland are the Masuria region in the northeast, the Baltic Coast and the Karkonosze Mountains on the Czech border.

Poland is also popular as a city-break destination, with the old royal city of Krakow welcoming 6.8 million visitors last year to make it one of the top urban destinations overall.

"Almost every American that comes to Europe, comes to Krakow," says Wavrzyniak.

Host to international sports fans, diplomats

Poland is also likely to get another boost through soccer, regardless of how the country performs at the European Championship, as it is co-hosting the 2012 event along with Ukraine.

Investment in tourist infrastructure such as hotels is taking place with international chains such as the Radisson and Hilton building new branches.

The country's second Sheraton Hotel is due to open in the Baltic seaside town of Sopot.

Poland is also hosting the UN's Climate Conference in September in Poznan which will be something of a test run for 2012 as about 10,000 visitors from 180 nations are expected to attend the event.

Poland targets young tourists with image makeover

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