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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.