Compared to other regions, Saarland started relatively late in encouraging the development of tourism as a sector of the economy. Thus, about ten years ago, efforts were significantly intensified – both with investments for the necessary infrastructure and in product policy as well as in marketing at the state level. However, from the outset a strategic approach was in the forefront. With the Tourist Master Plan of 2001, the basis for a systematic approach was chosen. The measures of the Tourist Master Plan have been executed in substantial parts and have particularly in the cycling and hiking tourism led to successes far beyond the borders of the state. The investments the state bestowed onto the tourist cycling network “SaarRadland” (Saar bike country) for the amount of ten million euros today already bring an annual turnover of 22 million euros and an above average increase of the bike friendly “bed and bike”- accommodation establishments along the paths.
The success story of the hiking tourism in Saarland began with the development of the Saar-table tours and premium hiking trails. Today, Germany’s best hiking trails can be found here in the southwest. Hardly a year passes by in which a Saarland trail doesn’t receive the title “most beautiful” in Germany.
For that we insist on the implementation of the quality criteria for the traveling-seal, which is awarded by the German Hiking Institute. Meanwhile more than 40 premium trails invite to a very special hiking experience along natural trails, diverse guided trails with integration of special landscapes such as valleys and gorges, cliffs, meadows and unique resting benches and complete signage. Saar-table tours, which are premium trails as well, also feature selected restaurants alongside the trails with “enjoyment guaranty” – as hiking and feasting simply is inherent to Saarland.
The 180-kilometre Saar-Hunsrück-Steig was developed as a lighthouse project for hiking tourism in Saarland.
This premium quality long-distance trail from Orscholz to Idar-Oberstein opened in 2007 and is already among the Top Trails of Germany, a marketing platform for Germany’s most beautiful long-distance hiking trails.
In terms of hard facts, tourism in Saarland generates an annual gross revenue of 1.32 billion euros. The number of accomodations in the Saarland lodging establishments could be increased to 2.2 million annually now, and the Savings Bank-Tourism Barometer calculated employment rates of 32,000 people, who earn a living of Saarland’s tourism.
To further increase this dynamic development process, the Ministry of Economics and Science worked out a new “Saarland Tourism Strategy 2015” in collaboration with the Office of Tourism of the Saarland and over 80 tourism professionals from private companies and public institutions. Experiences and ideas were introduced; strengths and weaknesses were analyzed, guiding themes and objectives developed. The result is definitely impressive: Over 180 measures and projects to strengthen the tourism destination of Saarland have been defined and proposed and form the framework for action to implement this tourism strategy and therefore the realization of the objectives that were set for the year 2015.
The most ambitious goal of the strategy is to increase the accommodation capacity from the current 2.2 million by 25 per cent by the year 2015.
This is to be accomplished through intensive processing of the main themes of “meetings, seminars, and congresses”, “experience active tourism through hiking, biking and nature” as well as “culture and city tourism”. The themes “health and wellness” are to be realized in addition at suitable locations and establishments, which can provide the appropriate offers and service quality. Especially the locations of the new spa in Richlinger-Hanweiler and the Sunpark on Bostalsee represent promising large projects, which enhance the tourism appeal and attraction of Saarland.
The “enjoyment of the boundless charms and flairs”, the gastronomy, the enjoyable biking, hiking, city and cultural tours connected with the visit of exciting attractions and a French-influenced atmosphere and hospitality are best suited for the profiling and demonstrate the competence of Saarland in the greater region.
Already, the “charm” theme is supported through the training measure “Service-quality Germany in Saarland”. This customized programme for the providers within the tourism service chain, which is funded by both the state and the EU, gives the companies and tourist organizations a clear view of the wishes of the guests and contributes through the “more” of service quality to gain competitive advantages.
In this overarching theme of the “enjoyment of Saarland life and border crossing charm” lie hidden treasures which we must raise.
For this purpose it is necessary to identify, define, train and raise awareness of specific features.
However this is a common task that can only be mastered together with the private and public tourist service providers. Hence, in order to achieve our goals, we have created a tourism alliance, which since its founding can already count about 200 members.
The aim of the alliance is the cooperative implementation of the tourism strategy and further improvement of the conditions of the tourist framework in an open, dynamic process.
Much has been achieved by Saarland in the past years. We will use this excellent basis to realize our common objective as quickly as possible with the aim to the change the position of the Saarland as an insider’s tip to a top tourist destination.
Dr. Christian Ege was born in 1970 and received his doctorate after studying economics at Saarland University with Prof. August-Wilhelm Scheer. From 1999 until 2004, Ege headed the office for innovation, research and technology at the State Chancellery of Saarland and was state secretary in the government of Peter Müller. Dr. Ege is president of the Association Saar-Forest for hiking and nature conservation.