‘Germany is a one-stop travel destination’


With 48 million overnight stays and total travel receipts notching up to 19.3 billion, Germany’s incoming tourism industry is important to the economy.

While Germany itself is the country’s largest source market, foreign visitors accounted for 21.5 million overnight stays last year, a six per cent increase over the previous year. The Gulf states, though, are far and away the finest performers, with an increase of 27 per cent to tot up 600,000 overnight stays. This figure however, only accounts for GCC nationals and does not count expatriates. TTN caught up with Petra Hedorfer, CEO, German National Tourist Board to find out why, and what Germany’s doing in the region. Excerpts:

How much do events like the World Cup help tourism in the long run?
They certainly are sustainable. Not only are people travelling to the World Cup, there are 40 million people watching television during this period and they will have a short impression of Germany, the country, the art, the nightlife. It will be Germany on the minds of so many millions of people. It’s a great opportunity, we couldn’t have paid for this.

You’ve had quite a phenomenal growth from the Gulf last year, something like 27 per cent?
The Gulf States recorded 649,000 overnight stays. Statistics show that the number of international visitors coming to Germany from markets such as Asia, the Arab Gulf States and Eastern Europe have a growth potential of between five and ten per cent in 2006. We’re trying to get official statistics on a monthly basis, but that’s done by the government and we’re still trying to convince them to set up more and more countries.

Is the data counted by nationality?
Yes, they are asked where they are coming from.

In the UAE, for example, only 25 per cent of the population is local, the rest are expats. Doesn’t that skew up your numbers?
You don’t have to convince the tourist boards to track residents, not nationalities; you have to convince the politicians!

What activities are you planning in the Middle East?
We have a office in Dubai that serves the GCC, and we are conducting various promotions in Turkey. Since the beginning of this year, we’re inviting key accounts to Germany to discover its variety. We are working with Lufthansa on advertising and PR campaigns, but not locally, we step in and out regularly.
However, this is always a question of budget, and we are talking about our advisory board about that. Yes we have been given a new budget this year, but that’s for the World Cup – and they gave us half a million euros, which is not much, but we don’t complain about this.

Are you going to be working more closely with agents and travel distributors from that region?
Yes, we’re going to do conferences in the region, like what we have on India, but first we are looking to establish, step-by-step, figures and forecasts, we are talking about the industry, about the demand to Germany, we are talking to the media. We are trying to get a feel of the market and investing a lot in stepping in and building relationships.

OK. Lets talk a bit about the Arab traveller, they like to come to citites largely and stay in luxury hotels and shop. Visit Britain, I know, has been saying the same thing for the past 25 years: we’ve got to get people out of the cities.
That’s not the problem in our country, every year people from abroad come to Germany and they’re always trying to do different things, because there is not only London or Paris or Rome in Germany, there is a huge variety across the country. So you have Berlin, but also Cologne is famous for the cathedral, Hamburg for the harbour, Munich for the Oktoberfest, Frankfurt for Goethe, and so on. There is a huge tradition for every city and they are promoting themselves since 100 years. That is the USP of Germany. We’re seeing people now come in uniquely to visit Germany, not to do Europe in five days including Germany, but to visit Germany alone, because Germany alone is a one-stop travel destination.

So how about the Arabs then? They’re not really coming for Goethe.
Well, if that’s okay for them, it’s okay for us. Why should we try to convince them otherwise? Once they will go to Berlin and the next time to Munich. There a lot of Arabs in Munich and Hamburg. As part of our efforts in your region, we are working on providing detailed information, newer attractions, reasons why to come to Germany.
One of these is healthcare. There is a special sector of the Arab people who come to Germany for the health facilities.

What are your initiatives for that market?
We are doing a lot about showing the possibilities to do city trips in Germany, to improve the wellness product line in healthcare facilities in Germany. How to arrange five-star plus trips to Germany, what products are on offer, what new hotels are available, demonstrating the price ratio, which is very interesting, because we are not that expensive as compared to Paris or London. The average overnight rate in Germany is 84 euros, but the average rate for a hotel in London or France is more than 250 euros, so it’s very good values for money.