Reinhard Meyer: Tourism in Germany – a success story

With a yearly turnover of approximately 233 billion euros, tourism in Germany is among the “engines” of the German economy. The money spent by day trippers and overnight visitors profits not only the providers of classic tourist services such as hotels and restaurants. The cross-sectoral area of tourism benefits many: the retail industry, in particular, but also regional transport providers, handi­­­­craft businesses, taxi operators and adver­­tising agencies – tourism “is almost every­­where”. It ensures 2.8 million non-exportable jobs at the location of Germany and, as a business characterised by small and medium-sized enter­­prises, even creates jobs in rural areas, away from the urban and industrial centres. However, the eco­­nomic and structural effect of the tourism service continues to be underestimated. Precisely as a business that is not dependent on exports, it represents a strong and significant vari­­­able for the German economy – more and more successfully so. In 2011, over 390 million stays were registered in German hotels, boarding houses and camping grounds. In the race for the title of “Euro­pean accommodation champion of 2011”, Germany is head to head against Spain.

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The destination Germany is becoming increasingly popular with both domestic and foreign visitors. Domestic tourism, though, remains Germany’s strong point. Germans prefer to travel at home. Approx­­i­­­mately 85 per cent of yearly accommo­­dations are attributed to nationals. This is the undeniably highest value in a Euro­­pean comparison and a clear advantage in economically challenging years. A strong domestic tourism has a stabilising effect and provides relative in­­­dependence from foreign source markets. However, the desti­­nation Germany is also increasingly popular with foreign visitors. Their proportion of overnight stays has risen over the past few years. With the football world champ­­­ionship in 2006, the German hosts have certainly raised their overseas popularity.

Moreover, Ger­many is in great de­­mand as a conference and event location and holds second place worldwide as an international meeting and conference location, immediately behind USA.

Cities profit the most from the strong business travel market. The trend to­­wards spontaneous short holidays or day trips also has a positive effect on urban destinations, which are within quick and easy reach by rail, car or plane for domestic and foreign visitors. Privately motivated trips to the city are booming; city breaks are the most common type of short trip.

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Large cities with over 100,000 inhabitants, in particular, are experiencing a rise in overnight stays that far sur­­passes the national average. With approximately 22 million overnight stays, Berlin remains undisputedly at the top, followed by Munich and Hamburg with twelve and ten million respectively.

Today’s new holiday formula is: more often but shorter – for the number of second and third trips within a year is rising. That is advantageous to the destination Germany, considering 75 per cent of all short trips are domestic. The still under­­estimated mega­­-­­segment of day trips also plays into the hands of domestic tourism: the yearly turnover is nearly 94 billion euros.

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Germany’s success as a travel destination is based on an excellent infrastructure, a balanced price/performance ratio, and speci­­fically targeted offerings within every price range. However, competition is tough in the market for delivering on the promise of relaxation and an escape from everyday life, which continues to be the main travel motivation for Germans. Ger­­­many is well positioned in that field and, in order to make sure that it remains that way, the German Tourism Association (DTV) is com­­­mitted towards the quality label of holidays “Made in Germany” being dependable. The re­­quire­­­­­ments are numerous and related to “hard” factors such as the furnishings of holiday flats as well as “soft” factors such as service. In both areas, DTV is offer­­­­­­­­ing nationwide classification and certification systems. For nearly two decades, the association has been awarding DTV stars to holiday homes and flats. The distinctive symbol for inde­­­­pendent quality assurance now designates over 63,000 holiday accom­­­­­­­­mo­da­tions. More than 50 years ago, DTV esta­­­­blished the certification of tourist informa­­tion, which the introduction of the i-mark in 2006 transformed into a modern marking system. In 2011, the white “i” on a red back­­­­­­ground was conferred to a tourist infor­­­­­mation centre for the 500th time.

The tourism service sector is adapting to the needs of its customers. The goal is to satisfy a “multi-optional” holidaymaker, for whom destinations and types of holiday are becoming increasingly convertible. In that regard, excellent service be­comes a competitive advantage and decision-making criterion. The nationwide “Service Quality Germany” initiative has implemented a training and certification pro­­gramme that allows service providers to systematically close individual service gaps. DTV coordinates the quality initiative, which all 16 federal states are parti­­­­cipating in.

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More than ever before, today’s and tomor­­­row’s trends must be identified and adjust­­­ments made. The most urgent challenges are the demographic change, skilled-labour shortage and growing indi­­­vidualisation. Our society is growing older: as early as 2013, half of the German popu­­­lation will be 50 years or older and one in three people over 60. Today’s elderly have a high eco­­­nomic potential. They spend dispro­por­tionately high amounts of money on health and travel. Now is the time to set the course on and to prepare for the re­­­quire­­ments of elderly visitors, who demand high standards for products and services. This development represents a great op­­­por­­tunity for preven­­­­tive and well­­ness offers with a medical com­­­ponent. More and more people realise that they are responsible for their health. This is also true for younger generations. In terms of health resorts, we are experiencing a development from an offer-driven market to a demand-driven market of direct payers, who are willing to invest in their health out of pocket. The trend ranges from beauty to wellness to medically indicated, so-called medical wellness offers.

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The demographic change alters not only the visitor structure but also the tourism labour market. In the future, the competition for vis­i­­­­­­tors will be primed by the com­­petition for trainees and staff. A skilled workforce re­­­pres­­­­ents a strong foundation for competitiveness.

Increasingly, today’s visitors are experienced travellers, who are well informed and have high expectations of comfort and quality. The holidaymakers of the future are indi­­­vi­dualist to the core. They expect custom-made offers and, above all, flexible service. The increasing trend towards lifestyle groups and “hybrid” clients with indi­­­­vidual and shifting de­­mands require foresight, innovation, and trained personnel.

In order to make sure, in the long term, that Germany remains the holiday destination with the best price/performance ratio in Europe, DTV is focusing on the two central pillars of innovation and quality. For, that is the only way in which the destination Ger­­many will be able to stand its ground in the international com­­­­­petition.

Reinhard-Meyer_DTV-Praesident-KopieThe author is president of the Ger­­man Tourism Association. In 2006, he was head of the State Chancellery of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania; from 2001 to 2005, he was permanent secretary in the Minis­try of Economics of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, subsequent to being department head in the Senate Chancellery of Hamburg, and the representation of Meck­lenburg-Western Pomer­ania to the federal government.