From the desk of Petra Hedorfer
CEO German National Tourist Board

Petra Hedorfer, CEO German National Tourist Board

Here you will find regular updates on the current situation from Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board.

From the desk of Petra Hedorfer

CEO of the German National Tourist Board

18 May 2020

Across Germany’s federal states, hoteliers, restaurateurs and leisure and entertainment facilities have their tape measures to hand and are spacing out the seating in anticipation of the return of their customers. Deutsche Bahn is expanding its range of long-distance rail connections to tourist destinations, and Lufthansa is reopening flights.

But guests and travellers must be able to rely on uniform standards if this positive mood is to continue, which is not an easy task as the circumstances are different for each pub, museum or tourist hotspot. Creativity and flexibility are the order of the day when it comes to implementing hygiene regimes, complying with restrictions on visitor numbers – for example via online ticketing – or actively managing visitors with marked walking routes to ensure appropriate distancing.

Together with the gradual reopening of the borders, all these measures offer opportunities to revitalise inbound tourism. We publish all the latest information on in order to keep our end customers and partners in the travel trade up to date.

China plays a central role in the coronavirus crisis, as it was here that the novel COVID-19 virus first jumped species from animal to human and subsequently evolved into a pandemic. This is also where the first lessons in successfully combating the virus were learned, including the introduction of stringent travel restrictions. China dropped out of the list of the top ten worst affected countries some time ago and has ended the lockdown. A recent study by McKinsey entitled ‘The way back: What the world can learn from China’s travel restart after COVID-19’ highlights some of the initial experiences with easing the lockdown and offers interesting insights into the recovery phase. It is well worth reading, I think.

In the past few days, border controls between Germany and France, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland have been relaxed. This week, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, invited his European counterparts to join him in discussions on how to harmonise travel warnings and cross-border travel in Europe. The aim of the dialogue is to ensure that the process of gradually lifting travel restrictions is coordinated as much as possible across Europe. This would be the most important step towards a gradual revival of inbound tourism to Germany.

Originally, my diary for last week contained an entry for the GTM in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. But in place of the opening ceremony, media conference and initial face-to-face meetings, the free slots in my diary are now taken up by Skype calls, Zoom meetings, webinars and ‘jour fixe’ meetings by video chat.

The coronavirus has changed my day-to-day work. Digital tools open up new possibilities and enable fast communication with any number of locations at the same time. Nonetheless, I miss the personal contact during the get-together, the inspiration and the ideas that arise from spontaneous encounters, and the whole atmosphere of our GTM workshop.

I am therefore very pleased that our IT experts have taken just a few weeks to put the technology in place for the virtualGTM 2020. This will allow us to provide a platform where our partners in Germany’s tourism industry and key partners from the international travel trade can prepare for the travel year ahead in 2021, despite the current restrictions.

The largest workshop for inbound tourism to Destination Germany will be online from 22 to 24 June 2020. The cost for German service providers to take part is €79. Registration is now open online. The virtualGTM 2020 provides not only a platform for live one-on-one meetings between exhibitors and hosted buyers but also access to daily live webinars on the latest topics. I am certain that the virtualGTM 2020 will be a successful stepping stone on incoming tourism’s road to recovery in 2021. It will also act as a bridge to the coming year when we will see each other again at the physical GTM in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania from 25 to 27 April 2021.

The well-balanced interplay of digital and analogue working environments provides everyone involved with additional opportunities in this new normal. This is confirmed by an interesting study by San Francisco-based software company Asana quoted in the business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. It examines the experiences of more than 5,000 full-time employees from Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and the USA with remote working during the current crisis. Its findings show that only 36 per cent of German employees prefer to work from home under the current social distancing arrangements, while 73 per cent miss their usual working environment. The figures vary between the countries surveyed, but they prove that social contact is still an important part of any working environment, even in the age of digital tools.

This is at the heart of a broad-based initiative launched by the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry, in which the GNTB is participating. The #LookingForwardTo… initiative is designed to give companies and those working from home a lift and a reason to be optimistic. This coincides nicely with our aim of driving forward the successful recovery of inbound tourism to Germany, and we will be making our own contribution to the campaign with the hashtag #ImLookingForwardToInternationalGuests. We will be communicating this message worldwide through all our B2B channels with a view to giving the campaign an additional boost.

We must now look ahead to the travel season this summer. After the lockdown phase and the numerous online empathy campaigns run by everyone involved, it is up to all of us to take the next step and start the recovery phase with market-specific and customer-specific communication in neighbouring European markets.

The aim is to rebuild confidence and to show empathy with travellers. During the pandemic, they are looking for support and information to give them reassurance that they are making the right travel decision. Safety and credibility are integral to the DNA of the ‘Destination Germany’ brand, not least because Made in Germany is synonymous with quality and reliability.

This opens up opportunities. Attributes such as sustainability, increased sensitivity for the customer and a high quality of service strengthen our country’s appeal as a tourism destination. I still strongly believe in our slogan ‘Germany Simply Inspiring’.

Until next week.

Petra Hedorfer

7 May 2020
30 April 2020
23 April 2020
17 April 2020