From the desk of 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.
CEO of the German National Tourist Board
31 August 2021
As the summer season draws to a close, I would like to resume my series of blog posts. It has been a new and unfamiliar time for a great many of us. The pandemic continues to put restrictions on all our lives. At the same time, many of us have now had a taste of what holidays may be like in the new normal: the freedom, finally, to go where we choose – even if we do have to keep our distance when we get there – and a greater reliance on digital services, but also a sense that we are still travelling in an uncertain environment. Holidaymakers and the tourism industry will need to continue to show flexibility and vigilance.
Right through the summer, we have been engaged in intensive dialogue with colleagues, industry partners and opinion leaders. Today, I would like to tell you about one of the outcomes of these ongoing networking efforts. And I’ll be doing so together with my esteemed colleague Dirk Rogl – tourism expert, Phocuswright travel analyst and deputy director of the German government’s Centre of Competence for Tourism. We explored where our interests and expertise overlap on the subject of ‘People at the heart of the digital transformation’, and have summarised the results for you in this joint opinion piece, which is being published on our own channels as well as on Dirk’s Travel.Commerce blog.
You can join the debate too. Dirk and I would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to continue the conversation.
People are the most important factor in the digital revolution
An opinion piece by Petra Hedorfer and Dirk Rogl
Fast, comprehensive, personalised and engaging. Accessing information digitally was already hugely popular among travellers, but demand has ratcheted up even higher thanks to coronavirus. Technology will be the defining feature of the relaunch of tourism: Graph-based databases, AI applications, and new approaches in managing visitor flows and business analytics are all coming our way. The technology is tried and tested and the roll-out has begun.
The challenge facing us now to is to help tourism professionals – who are perhaps more used to dealing with people than data – to access and engage with digital ecosystems. It’s an invitation to help shape the future.
The relaunch of tourism is in full swing. It was inevitable that the travel bug would prove stronger than the virus. But it is also clear that the places where safety can be guaranteed, and that are not overcrowded, will be the first to experience a post-pandemic travel boom. And that is the case within Germany.
For inbound tourism, this means that the closer a destination is, the more likely people are to travel there. At the beginning of Europe’s peak travel season in June, the proportion of respondents to an IPK International survey who were willing to travel abroad stood at 70 per cent worldwide. The figure for Europe was nearly 80 per cent. Germany continues to be held in high regard around the globe as a destination of choice. The current reboot of our inbound tourism is being driven by neighbouring countries where people have expressed a strong intention to travel. Think Poland, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
The SINUS market research institute recently conducted a travel survey on behalf of the German government’s Centre of Competence for Tourism. It found that ‘not being overcrowded’ was the most important factor in Germans’ choice of holiday destination. Peace and quiet and safety were the next most important, and it appears other criteria are taking a back seat this summer.
The desire for rest and relaxation was dominant across Europe too. Almost a quarter of respondents to the European Travel Commission’s June 2021 Travel Sentiment Study said they most wanted to enjoy the sun and the beach on their holiday. The coast and the sea were top of the list for 15 per cent of those surveyed, as were nature and outdoors for a further 15 per cent, while just under 10 per cent were enthusiastic about wellness and relaxation. There was also interest in more culturally focused holidays: City breaks and culture and heritage were each favoured by 11 per cent of respondents.
Before coronavirus, it wouldn’t have been too hard to undertake a digital detox. Forget all your cares and escape the hustle and bustle. And leave your digital devices behind? Maybe back then, but certainly not in summer 2021. App-based contact tracing (including with Luca in Germany), admission verification with QR codes and the use of digital health passports have become common and indeed essential everyday routines for the traveller. It’s hard to imagine being able to enjoy a relaxing holiday now without a smartphone. What’s more, the SINUS survey reveals that travellers this year are attaching a huge amount of importance to being able to access relevant news in real time, and that’s not going to happen in an analogue world.
In this context, the digital vaccination certificate is one of the keys to facilitating travel. This and other smart digital travel assistants are here to stay.
However, the race to become the most popular digital travel assistant for the post-pandemic era has only just begun. Prior to coronavirus, the tech giants were undoubtedly in pole position with their digital services and personalised offerings appearing not only on compact smartphone displays but also in voice assistants and other AI applications.
Giving alternatives to Google & co. a chance
The German tourism industry’s open data project, which the GNTB is coordinating, is of course primarily about making data accessible. But it is also helping to ensure that Google is not the only one receiving all the best holiday information. Well-structured databases and excellent content that are freely accessible and can be custom queried are key to developing new and intelligent travel assistants and fuelling them with the right data.
This liberation of data opens up big opportunities for the entire tech sector. New business models can emerge and start-ups can flourish, making for a more competitive and more economically vibrant environment.
The Germany-wide knowledge graph is in the starting blocks. The aim is to provide information about Destination Germany in a more comprehensive and more value-adding way than was ever possible before. The graph is able to combine millions of datapoints on visitor attractions, tours and tourism offerings. It is an ambitious project, for sure. But ambition is what we need, because the benefits of this vast pool of data for travellers and the tourism industry will only ever be as good as the digital applications – and most importantly mobile applications – that make use of it.
Personalizing the flood of data is critical to success
Mobile services will really come into their own when a compact smartphone display or, looking further ahead, the instant response of a voice assistant are able to deliver truly personalised content. The sheer amount of data available on the internet now means that the days of having a simple listing of information are long gone. Relevance is subjective and varies from person to person.
For customisation to succeed, the different components that make up the tourism industry need to be more closely aligned, and not just when it comes to providing information. Despite all the challenges involved in data protection, it is important to find the optimum approach to combining the preferences and travel plans of the (consenting) guest. Digital identities are a great way to do this. Self-sovereign identities (SSI) are a kind of digital key that allow people to provide deep insight into their preferences. But only as deep as is necessary or desired.
The digital vaccination certificate is a prime example: No one is obliged to share their vaccination status, of course. But there are clear advantages at the places where people are staying and during their journeys if this data can be accessed on demand.
Another example: Those who disclose their location via their smartphone will have access to location-specific digital services. Add your travel plan, say, and you’ll be shown the optimum transport connection to your onward destination. Disclose your hobbies and interests and you’ll be told how and where at the location you can indulge them.
Digital identities bring a whole new level of convenience to the customer journey, allow additional services to be provided, and help make travel a seamless, bureaucracy-free experience.
Indeed this approach of harnessing the power of personal data carefully and responsibly can actually become a mark of quality for a destination.
Hospitality remains the top priority
Google can already do all of this today, precisely because the company is more than just an internet search engine. Despite having literally billions of users, Google understands that they are all individuals and builds profiles of them to the extent that the users permit. What makes SSI technology so appealing as an alternative is that the users retain control over their personal data. They reveal only as much of themselves as is to their benefit. And only to the sites that they trust.
Trust is of course a valuable asset in tourism too. At its core, a successful holiday trip is built on authentic encounters and attentive service, on the human touch and on sharing moments with others. Destinations and tourism companies see themselves and their employees as consummate hosts and providers of a service. And the trust that this engenders is how guests become regulars, and regulars become friends. It’s a system that has proven its worth for generations, millions of times over. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This interaction was put to the test with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Global tourism came to an abrupt halt within a matter of weeks, having been on a long run of record years. The key to overcoming the crisis is not to dwell on past achievements, however, but to actively show empathy with guests. The objective now is to establish what milieu these guests belong to (using the Sinus Institute’s milieu typology), to analyse customer centricity and market-specific trends, and to actively target potential customers taking into account the current circumstances. Germany’s inbound tourism industry and the international travel trade are working side by side to look at how the pandemic is affecting the global market and how the impact on destinations can be mitigated through the focused use of digital technologies. International surveys validate this approach.
During the lockdowns of 2020, Germany actually gained market share and became the no. 1 destination in Europe. According to IPK polling from summer 2021, Germany is the place where travellers worldwide consider the risk of infection to be lowest. A McKinsey study, also from summer 2021, finds that Germany’s tourism industry is weathering the crisis relatively well, will have recovered by 2023 and will return to pre-crisis levels quicker than most other European markets.
A database is nothing without a human touch
Tourism is undergoing a digital transformation on an immense scale. The digitalisation of the customer journey from the inspiration stage to the post-trip follow-up is a challenge for all tourism providers, from global giants to independent tour guides, from the organisations marketing the destinations to those that provide services on the ground. What unites them all is a commitment to excellence at every stage of the customer journey, ensuring that guests are managed properly and that they are keen to return.
Ultimately, tourism has always been reliant on the personal touch. We believe it will stay that way, despite what we have said above. Indeed the big tech companies such as Google, Expedia and Airbnb are now themselves looking to local guides, experts and ‘super hosts’ to augment their already impressive offerings. Any database or mobile app is only as good as the people who design it. And every travel tip accessed digitally is only as good as the human encounter it opens the door to.
This all ties in perfectly with the ongoing efforts to make Germany a standard-bearer for sustainability. Our homeland is a leading destination in the global tourism market not just because of the balance it offers between economic strength and environmental stewardship. Equally important is social responsibility, which from a tourism perspective means reconciling the interests of all the stakeholders in a destination – whether they are the guests visiting it, the people living there, or the tourism professionals making the trip possible in the first place.
The digitalisation of tourism would be doomed to fail were it not for the passionate individuals driving it forward and the tourism professionals who communicate with travellers digitally on a daily basis and incorporate digital technologies into their personal interactions. So even if travel apps are becoming increasingly and inexorably important, tourism will still always be about human connection. Do not be put off by buzzwords, codes, and bits and bytes. Let us instead harness their power and share in the benefits. After all, people are the most important factor in the digital revolution. And the opportunities to shape this revolution are as diverse as tourism itself.
That’s all for now, but in keeping with the spirit of the medium, do get in touch to let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
Petra Hedorfer and Dirk Rogl
More than almost any other event of previous years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for global social and technological macrotrends. This has particularly been the case in the tourism industry. A prime example is the accelerated digitalisation of communication and information processes. Sustainability is another major issue and one that needs to be addressed, if anything, with even greater urgency. It is about so much more than protecting the environment and combating climate change through measures such as decarbonisation of the transport sector and optimisation of recycling and waste management. Sustainability also encompasses and attaches equal importance to the socio-cultural aspects of economic prosperity, inclusion and accessibility. It is about achieving an economic, environmental and social balance and then continually making adjustments in order to maintain it.
More than ever before, travel in a post-coronavirus world will be shaped by sustainability-related developments and the pressure to innovate resulting from social and environmental responsibility. This is both a significant challenge and a great opportunity for inbound tourism.
As coronavirus vaccines gradually become available, a clear future for Destination Germany is finally starting to take shape. This gives us cause for optimism, although we will have to remain patient in the short to medium term. I would like to take this opportunity to look ahead with you in my first blog post of 2021: How is coronavirus changing tourism and what impact will it have going forward from a sustainability perspective? The conversation around sustainability in the German tourism sector is as lively as it has ever been. This is partly thanks to inspired contributions to the debate such as the Impulse4Travel manifesto, which reveals new ways in which tourism can continue to shape our world in a positive, inclusive and innovative manner after the pandemic.
My team and I began examining sustainability, with all its environmental and social facets, many years ago. At the GNTB, sustainability has been a core overarching topic for more than a decade and we engage with it as a strategic issue across all areas of the organisation. We follow a three-pillar strategy that combines the sharing of knowledge with external partners and a corresponding communications strategy with our internal sustainability initiative.
In my opinion, sustainability will be the defining element of tourism in the future. I would therefore like to set out seven propositions:
1. The sustainability global megatrend will turbocharge the tourism industry
Striking a balance between the needs of the economy, the environment and society is the social megatrend in many regions of the world. Scandinavia has led the way so far, but there is also growing awareness of sustainability in emerging markets.
Grass-roots movements such as Fridays for Future moved onto the global political stage quite some time ago. Coronavirus has strengthened rather than suppressed this trend. During a recent address on climate change at New York’s Columbia University, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that “the state of the planet is broken” but explained that the way out of the coronavirus crisis provided an opportunity. “COVID recovery and our planet’s repair must be the two sides of the same coin.”
In the context of the coronavirus crisis, the UNWTO has also expanded its growth-oriented focus to specifically incorporate a ‘build back better’ strategy. The following quote is taken from the publication ‘One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of the Tourism Sector’: “The tourism sector registered continuous growth in the past decade, creating significant benefits in terms of socio-economic development and employment, which are now at stake. At the same time, such growth represented important challenges related to the carrying capacity of destinations, consumption of natural resources and impacts on climate change. […] Addressing all these issues must be at the heart of a responsible recovery of the tourism sector, as the resilience of tourism will depend on the sector’s ability to balance the needs of people, planet and prosperity.”
You can find the publication here.
At its 2015 climate change conference in Paris, the United Nations reached agreement on a shared code for the first time. Since then, the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with their 169 targets have offered detailed guidance on how to achieve a sustainable future with a decent standard of living.
2. Germany is highly ranked in the SDG index
We are already very well positioned when it comes to sustainability. This is evidenced by the SDG index published in the Sustainable Development Report 2020. The index documents the progress that individual countries have made on achieving the SDGs. Germany is ranked fifth out of 166 countries and thus moved up one place compared with the previous year.
More detailed analysis of the 17 SDGs and the individual results of European countries for the 169 targets, which can be found in the Europe Sustainable Development Report 2020, shows that Germany not only achieves good ratings but also performs exceptionally well with regard to the trends.
Germany not only enjoys an excellent position based on objective measurements; the perception of Germany when it comes to sustainability is also very good. According to the Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index 2020, which was published at the end of October, one of the top world issues is protecting the environment and natural resources. Germany was most frequently named by the survey respondents as the country that will handle the threat of climate change most effectively over the next five years.
3. Sustainable technologies are shaping the development of tourism
Alternative energy sources are certainly no longer a niche product and transport providers – a mainstay of tourism – are opting for green innovation. A former Lufthansa executive once said: “The last drop of kerosene in this world will be burned in an aeroplane engine.” However, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury recently announced that his company will put a hydrogen-powered passenger jet with a range of 3,500 kilometres into service by 2035, the first manufacturer to do so.
Trains on Germany’s InterCityExpress and InterCity routes now run entirely on green electricity, and train company Deutsche Bahn aims to obtain 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Working with Siemens Mobility, Deutsche Bahn is developing hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains. Trials will start in 2024, and the aim is for them to replace the diesel locomotives still being used on routes that have not been electrified.
With greenhouse gas emissions of 31 grams per passenger-kilometre, the coach sector can already claim to be one of the lowest-emission forms of transport. The aggregate environmental costs of a coach, which includes not only carbon emissions but also construction, maintenance, disposal and the provision of fuels, are the lowest by far, not least due to continual innovation.
But transport solutions are not the only way in which innovative technologies are helping to make tourism more sustainable. For example, AI-supported applications are used to manage the flow and concentration of visitors while digital destinations are being enhanced in order to enrich the visitor experience.
4. Sustainability means better quality
The development of sustainable tourism requires careful analysis of the product. How is it produced, what impact does it have on the environment at each stage of the value chain and how will the customer experience change?
The key insight is that sustainable consumption does not mean having to go without and does not require customers to put up with poorer quality or a poorer experience. Quite the opposite: Sustainability is a hallmark of quality and a competitive advantage because it directly improves the quality of life of locals and visitors alike.
The goal of the sustainable development of tourism – encompassing the preservation of natural habitats and cultures as well as the inclusive design of the tourism value chain – is a central element of the position paper on the German government’s national tourism strategy.
Thousands of accommodation providers, restaurants, cafés, leisure attractions and tourism organisations across Germany have already recognised this fundamental idea and are translating it into action by enshrining the principle of sustainable business in their work.
Certification sends a clear signal that a company is serious about its commitment to sustainability. It also helps customers to make informed choices.
After all, visitors who are not explicitly looking for a carbon-neutral itinerary or environmentally friendly products will still enjoy the quality of regional and seasonal ingredients, will appreciate personal customer service, will be drawn in by pristine natural landscapes and will notice attentiveness and value for money.
Destination Germany offers all of this in abundance. I believe that our opportunities after coronavirus will lie in qualitative growth based on sustainable products and services.
5. Coronavirus is creating greater awareness of sustainability in tourism
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a shift in values towards more socio-environmental responsibility when it comes to travel. Potential visitors to Germany from our main source markets have confirmed this. In a recent IPK study commissioned by the GNTB, 80 per cent of all those surveyed said that they thought COVID-19 would lead to more sustainability in tourism.
Breaking this down by age group, we can see that this view is most prevalent among travellers up to the age of 54.
The picture is similar when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on climate change. People in China, Japan and the USA were most likely to think that the coronavirus pandemic can help to reduce climate change.
This confirms our strategy of continuing to put Germany’s long-standing credibility as a pioneer of the shift to green energy, eco-certification and conservation at the heart of our GNTB brand management and communications and to increasingly communicate this as a way of giving Destination Germany a competitive edge.
6. Sustainability opens up opportunities for market segments
Interest in holidays that bring tourists closer to nature has risen significantly, with 55 per cent of international customers saying that they would generally consider these types of holiday. This is particularly the case among visitors from Germany’s neighbours. A further 21 per cent – primarily tourists from the overseas markets of China and the USA – are currently interested in holidays in the heart of nature because of coronavirus.
Although cities and culture have been the main reasons for visiting Germany until now, we know that we can also offer diverse and high-quality active holidays, unique and pristine countryside and many ‘hidden destinations’. In recent years, approximately one in five overnight stays by international visitors has been in a rural region. As part of our recovery strategy, I believe there are good opportunities for combining the growing interest in sustainable travel with support for rural areas in order to maintain their topography and, at the same time, relieve the pressure on urban centres.
There is also potential for growth in city break tourism through combined offerings. For example, excursions to the surrounding countryside could be marketed to those visiting cities. Conversely, people holidaying in rural areas could be given offers for public transport so that they can go on a day trip to the city. Our ‘German Summer Cities reloaded’ campaign provides inspiration for city trips that offer something different.
In this context, accessibility is crucial because sustainable tourism needs to be inclusive. Much of Germany’s public transport, the related infrastructure and the communication and booking processes are already fully accessible. Thanks to the ‘Travel for all‘ certification system, a project of the German Seminar for Tourism (DSFT) supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, people with a disability can now obtain reliable information on destinations and service providers and experience every facet of Destination Germany.
7. Sustainability is the future
The ambitious target of taking a pioneering global role in achieving sustainability across the board requires a huge amount of effort from all of us. Let us use the pandemic as a catalyst for change and for the exploration of new fields of innovation.
The coronavirus pandemic swept away a number of behavioural norms and business models that were previously regarded as sacrosanct. The enforced slowing down has created space for innovation and a long-overdue rethink of core principles. This specifically includes tourism.
In just less than a year, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has changed our industry from the ground up, with travel restrictions, periods of total shutdown, social distancing, hygiene rules and new business models. But this gives grounds for optimism that we will bring back tourism with a whole new level of quality. Sustainability is potentially the key to achieving this.
Yet there is no inherent contradiction between sustainability and growth. At a time of fundamentally changing customer preferences, a voluntary commitment to high environmental and social standards and the acceptance of responsibility for future generations provide trade and industry with a genuine opportunity for growth. If we in the German economy can cater to this demand, we can both maintain and increase our competitiveness on the global stage.
The transition to clean energy, the national climate initiative and the decades of unparalleled conservation and environmental protection efforts, which are firmly rooted at national, state and local level, mean that Germany has already achieved a great deal in this area, even though it is an industrial nation and the fourth-largest economy in the world. We should therefore view the much greater importance of sustainability in tourism as a source of optimism rather than concern.
During 2020, a year of upheaval and change brought about by coronavirus, I was able to share my personal views and insights with you through this blog. I am truly grateful for the extensive positive feedback that I received. And I look forward to communicating with you through this medium in the new year too.
On that note, I would like to wish all of us strength and optimism as we begin 2021.
Stay safe, and stay in touch
Germany and the UK have significant historical, economic and cultural ties. For many years, we have been the UK’s largest European trade partner and an important ally in international cooperation and in combating climate change, but the ties that bind us go back even further. There are the Ernestine roots of the British royal family, for example, the significant influence of German Baroque on English music of the early modern period, and the influence of the British Enlightenment on German philosophers. The close ties between our two nations have survived two world wars, as Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, reminded us during his recent visit to Germany to attend a remembrance ceremony. But since the Brexit vote and the difficult negotiations with the EU on the future relationship, there has been uncertainty about our common future; this applies especially to Germany as a tourism destination.
The German inbound tourism industry is asking itself what impact Brexit will have on the travel patterns of the British, and what the consequences for the sector will be. But market data and a recent study conducted by IPK International on behalf of the GNTB give cause for hope. The UK will remain a key source market for inbound travel to Germany after Brexit, and there are three reasons why.
First, the UK is traditionally one of the top five source markets for inbound tourism to Germany. At the start of the decade, the number of overnight stays by visitors from the UK to Germany stood at 4.2 million, and continued to rise to 5.9 million even after the Brexit vote; it wasn’t until 2019 that we saw a slight decline, to 5.6 million overnight stays. According to IPK International, Germany has retained its position as a popular destination for British travellers since the Brexit vote. Another positive aspect is that younger generations, in particular, who voted remain by a large majority in 2016, do not want to be deprived of their holidays in Germany even after leaving the EU.
Second, only a fifth of Britons believe that Brexit will influence their plans to travel abroad. Almost 40 per cent are sticking to their usual travel habits with typical British equanimity, despite the possibility of higher accommodation and flight costs or a longer wait at passport control. A further 14 per cent are waiting to see whether a deal can be reached, a scenario which has become more far likely after a series of upheavals and changes of personnel in the UK government.
Third, the majority of Britons stay in Europe on their travels. According to a recent travel sentiment study by the European Travel Commission (ETC), one third of the UK’s inhabitants who intend to travel want to visit another European country in the next six months, whereas less than 10 per cent want to travel to non-European destinations. This is very positive news from one of Europe’s largest markets for outbound travel, which ranks among the world’s top five source markets for travel and spending thanks to 78.1 million international trips and expenditure of €90.6 billion in 2019.
The majority of Britons stay in Europe on their travels – or in their own country
Whether Brexit will happen with or without a deal, we have good cause to be optimistic about travel to Germany from the UK in the 2020s. Communicating this special relationship and our shared cultural history as a means of providing inspiration for travel is both a challenge and an opportunity, especially in these difficult times. I firmly believe that tourism between the UK and Germany will continue to be an important factor in our mutual understanding and our future prosperity.
Stay safe, and stay in touch
Reports on how the coronavirus pandemic is developing seem to change by the hour at the moment. The German government’s intention to extend financial support for tourism companies and provide further sector-specific aid is therefore a welcome signal in times like these.
Many companies in the industry are heavily reliant on these measures, as the recovery scenarios we had so far envisaged have already been overtaken by events.
The analyses of the current situation are sobering, but ultimately they are the starting point for all strategic and operational approaches to finding ways out of the crisis.
Our ongoing mission is to maintain the strong image our customers around the world have of Germany as a travel destination, and to provide the expertise, up-to-date market analysis and effective marketing activities that will enable our partners in Germany’s tourism industry to make a fresh start.
The latest Anholt Ipsos Nation Brands Index has once again confirmed Germany’s excellent image with a no. 1 ranking. It should be noted that the survey of 20 countries was conducted between 7 July and 31 August, i.e. in the midst of the pandemic.
Last time, I presented a broad analysis of the previous weeks’ developments.
Today’s update focuses on some important overseas markets for inbound tourism to Germany, which I would like to look at in more detail with you now.
But why talk about overseas markets at all at this time? Should the GNTB not be focusing its activities on European markets because the prospects for a recovery in tourism are much better here, particularly from our neighbouring countries?
It is true that Europe has been the main source market for inbound travel to Germany in recent years, with a market share of 72 per cent. The number of overnight stays and the revenue generated by European visitors have been a cornerstone of Germany’s strong position in the international market.
But it is also true that many overseas markets have shown considerable potential, especially at the beginning of the last decade. Destination Germany generated high growth rates and gained new customers in Asia and South America, in particular.
In view of the shift in global economic growth that has become apparent in the last two to three years, and of the geostrategic and geopolitical changes in the world order, many market players are asking themselves how they can regain the growth from high-potential overseas markets in the medium term.
To achieve this, we have to research the markets in detail. We can then formulate marketing strategies that are sustainable in the long term and use the expertise gained to support our partners in Germany’s inbound tourism industry.
The USA – great again after COVID-19?
Before the pandemic, the USA was by far the most important overseas market for our inbound tourism industry, with around 7 million overnight stays and a market share of 7.8 per cent of all international overnight stays in Germany. It is recovering very slowly according to the latest analysis by Tourism Economics (TE). The number of overnight stays this year will be more than 60 per cent below the previous year’s level. This figure could improve slightly next year to just over 50 per cent lower, while the figure is expected to be 32.6 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 22.4 per cent below in 2023.
Let’s move away from this pessimistic outlook towards a more optimistic one. The US market offers potential for 3.5 million overnight stays in 2021, around 4.7 million in 2022 and 5.4 million in 2023.
Our competitors have also identified this potential, which is why we must remain active during the crisis even if it appears countercyclical.
Between the end of July and mid-September, for example, we rolled out a culinary campaign in collaboration with Condé Nast that generated more than 600,000 impressions.
A further campaign under the banner ‘Dreams become reality’ is aimed at the target group of high-earning baby boomers. By working with the online platform of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which reaches more than 12 million people every month, we will be able to generate 5.7 million impressions within a few weeks. The campaign will start in mid-November.
We recently held our annual US Advisory Board Meeting, though this time as a virtual event. Around 140 partners from German travel companies, destination marketing organisations and other tourism service providers had the opportunity to talk directly to senior managers from tour operators, associations, Lufthansa worldwide, Rail Europe, the TripAdvisor travel platform and the American Tour Operators Association (USTOA) to get an American perspective on the current development of demand.
Terry Dale, President of the USTOA, reported that 57 per cent of their affiliated companies have customers who have postponed trips booked for 2020 to 2021. US tour operators expect demand to grow significantly in the fourth quarter of 2021, in particular.
The webinar for the Advisory Board Meeting is available here.
This positive mood is supported by new findings from exclusive market surveys commissioned by us.
IPK International, for example, found that there is a clear upward trend when it comes to people’s intention to travel abroad. In the initial round of interviews at the end of May, 41 per cent of Americans still intended to travel abroad in the next twelve months, but by the end of September this figure had risen to 48 per cent. 22 per cent have plans to travel to Germany next year.
The main areas in which Americans’ general travel interests overlap with what they associate with Germany are: visiting festivals and events such as the Oktoberfest and the Oberammergau Passion Play, exploring family heritage, enjoying food, going on wine and brewery tours, and visiting historical sites.
While Americans often tour multiple countries when they travel to Europe, 60 per cent currently say that they would focus on visiting one country for now. This represents both an opportunity and a challenge for Destination Germany in the European travel market.
Asia – large markets with significant potential
Previous crises have highlighted that Asian countries overall are much more wary of crises than other source markets for global tourism. Little surprise then that coronavirus had the biggest impact on travel intentions in Asia, according to the initial round of interviews conducted by IPK International in May 2020. Only 29 per cent of respondents still intended to travel abroad in the next twelve months. By October, this had increased by around a third to 38 per cent. We can see that the direct influence of the virus on travel intentions is diminishing, but scepticism is still much more pronounced than among Americans and Europeans.
China – setting the pace for travel
The example of China illustrates the complexity of the recovery processes in specific markets. Here, where the first coronavirus cases were recorded ten months ago, the subject has now largely disappeared from public debate. Economic growth is strong, which increases purchasing power and the appetite for travel and spending.
While infection rates are rising rapidly in many European countries, hundreds of millions of people in China travelled throughout the country during the ‘golden week’ around the national holiday in October. It is only a question of time, and of opportunities such as flight connections, before travel abroad will pick up again.
That is why we commissioned IPK International to conduct a second round of interviews on the travel intentions of the Chinese, following the first survey in May. The latest survey from October clearly shows that the desire to travel is increasing. While only 32 per cent of respondents in May had plans to travel abroad, this figure rose to 44 per cent in autumn. In the first round of interviews, 16 per cent said they had plans to travel to Germany in the next twelve months, but by the second round this had increased to 25 per cent. Chinese people associate Germany with beautiful scenery, sightseeing and historical sites, picturesque towns, big cities and exceptional architecture, plus superior shopping and museums and exhibitions.
This is also reflected in Tourism Economics’ forecast, according to which China could once again contribute more than 3 million overnight stays to inbound tourism in Germany by 2023, a 6.1 per cent increase on the pre-crisis levels in 2019.
However, Chinese tourists’ long-haul travel plans are still hampered by drastically reduced flight capacity. The recovery process will essentially be determined by a balanced increase of both supply and demand.
To strengthen the demand side, we are organising a roadshow in November with stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, each with 50 to 70 Chinese participants. These will be workshops with strict safety and hygiene precautions, but in person and face to face. I believe this is a very important signal to send. If we want to entice Chinese tourists to get on a plane and travel any time soon, we must be prepared to ‘show our face’ locally. The GNTB and its team will continue to represent Destination Germany in the market during this period.
Our digital activities in China included a range of live streaming formats, such as virtual sightseeing tours and online cooking courses. The live content was placed on various market-specific platforms, including Mafengwo, Sina Weibo and Meituan-Dianping. We will continue these campaigns in 2021.
Japan – appetite for travel is returning slowly
The analysts believe that the Japanese market, which over the past decade has seen modest average growth of 2.6 per cent, offers potential for a significant recovery over the next three years. According to Tourism Economics, Japan could account for 1.25 million overnight stays in Germany in 2023, a rise of 4 per cent on 2019.
Our colleagues in Tokyo are using all channels to promote Germany as a travel destination. For example, 61 media representatives have just attended the virtual annual press conference. In November, we will be attending the Japan-Germany Industry Forum alongside Germany Trade & Invest and the worldwide network of German chambers of commerce. And in early December, Germany will be the focus of the B2B webinars hosted by the Japan Association of Travel Agents. Also in December, an offline trade event with no more than 35 key tour operator customers and media representatives will take place for the first time in a while, and a cross-media empathy campaign for Christmas will be launched in the coming weeks.
Quality tourism is an essential part of Destination Germany’s DNA. High-quality offerings, customer focus, excellent service and a distinct identity are characteristics with which we can score points in the international market, especially now. That is why we have decided to take part in the virtual ILTM (International Luxury Travel Mart) World Tour. We are specifically using two modules of this high-calibre platform to promote our offering for the US market and China/Hong Kong in one-on-one meetings.
Clearly, the coronavirus pandemic will influence our work for a long time to come. But it is also clear that Destination Germany has a good chance of emerging from the crisis even stronger than before. We are optimistic this will happen as long as we continue our efforts to position our strong brand in the markets.
Stay safe, and stay in touch
Today, at the end of this strangest of summers, I would like to share with you the latest assessment of the situation in inbound tourism, the current market trends from the perspective of the travel industry experts, and what I personally believe will be the most important drivers for the future of travel to Germany.
1. The current situation – inbound travel market remains volatile
The opening of numerous borders in Europe, shortly before the holiday season, gave the international tourism industry only a brief respite in the midst of the pandemic. In terms of inbound travel to Germany, this meant that the collapse in the number of overnight stays during lockdown (more than 90 per cent down on the prior year) gave way to a year-on-year decline of between 50 and 60 per cent in the summer months of July and August.
Analysis of flight booking data by ForwardKeys reveals that flight arrivals to Germany from our 13 biggest European markets reached as high as 37 per cent of the prior-year level during the high season. Since the end of August, however, they have dropped back to below 30 per cent of those 2019 volumes. Arrivals from the key overseas markets in September 2020 compared with September 2019 continued to fall sharply (down by 78.9 per cent from the US) or almost completely collapsed (China down by 97.6 per cent, Japan down by 96.2 per cent).
The German parliament’s Tourism Committee thoroughly explored these complex challenges on 7 October, holding a high-level discussion focused on the situation at hand and the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the business travel sector with representatives from our organisation as well as from the German Hotel Association, the German Business Travel Association and the German Convention Bureau. You can find the presentation .
The situation in the hotel business is a particular cause for concern. According to the German Hotel Association (IHA), the average room occupancy rate in August stood at 38.9 per cent, down by 45.8 per cent on the prior-year period. The IHA was particularly alarmed by the fact that the “room occupancy rates in the city destinations that rely on business travel are below every threshold for profitability (Berlin down by 58.2 per cent, Düsseldorf by 56.4 per cent, Frankfurt by 66.2 per cent, Munich by 61.8 per cent and Stuttgart by 58.7 per cent). The declines are only significantly lower than this in major cities close to tourist destinations and in the federal states in eastern Germany (Dresden down by 24.2 per cent, Erfurt by 33.9 per cent, Kiel by 16.4 per cent and Potsdam by 7.6 per cent).”
We believe that the market for inbound tourism as a whole will remain volatile in the coming months, and we expect further disruption. Since the end of the summer break, entire regions and countries are increasingly being designated as high-risk once again – including important source markets for Germany such as Belgium, Austria, Spain and France.
Many German towns and cities are also facing rising numbers of cases. The tightening of rules in a number of federal states, such as the current ban on providing accommodation to guests from coronavirus hotspots, is significantly dampening people’s appetite for travel.
The preliminary conclusion is that we still cannot begin talking about a recovery. Numerous SMEs in the hotel and hospitality industry, in retail, in the arts and in the events sector – to name just some of the industries affected – could soon go out of business. Indeed any business that provides a service to travellers is becoming increasingly nervous.
2. The outlook from today’s perspective – a delayed recovery
The renowned travel industry research partner Tourism Economics (TE) has just updated the scenario analysis commissioned by the GNTB in early June. Its October forecast is more pessimistic than the one published four months ago. For 2020 as a whole, the TE analysts now expect the number of overnight stays made in Germany to fall by 51.2 million and for consumer spending by tourists to drop by €18.7 billion.
The TE experts believe that the recovery process is likely to be more protracted and complicated than previously predicted. According to their new forecast, the volume of overnight stays in 2023 will reach only around 86.4 per cent of the 2019 level. Inbound tourism will clearly have to endure the coronavirus crisis for longer than had been postulated by TE in early summer.
Not only will it take longer for the market to recover, but various changes in the demand structure are becoming evident.
A survey carried out for us by IPK International in the US and China, our biggest overseas markets, revealed that, if visiting Europe, a clear majority (73 per cent of Chinese tourists and 60 per cent of American tourists) would choose to travel to just one country as opposed to touring multiple countries. Given the strength of the Destination Germany brand and the fact that this summer Germany has been among the highest-rated countries in terms of its handling of the crisis and the related healthcare challenges, we believe there is a reasonable prospect of many people choosing Germany to be the country that they visit.
In addition, families now appear to be more interested in travelling independently on holiday rather than with a group or as part of an organised tour. The opportunities for Germany here lie in its diverse range of options for self-planned travel.
3. Market segments – further trouble ahead for business travel and overseas markets
On 22 September, the Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism, Thomas Bareiß, invited a number of industry organisations to a video conference focused on business travel. Among the participants were the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry, the German Convention Bureau (GCB) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. The GNTB and Matthias Schultze, Managing Director of the GCB, gave a detailed presentation on the current situation with regard to.
In 2019, the proportion of all inbound travel to Germany accounted for by business travel was above the international average, at 23 per cent. Nearly 16 million business trips were made to Germany last year, of which 13.3 million originated from Europe and 2.7 million from overseas.
The fact that 83 per cent of our inbound business trips originate from Europe is undoubtedly a positive starting position in these times of crisis, as overseas markets are likely to take longer to recover. On the other hand, business travellers from overseas do tend to spend more on average.
Revenue generated by the business travel segment came to €18 billion in 2019, of which €10.5 billion was attributable to European travellers and €7.5 billion to travellers from overseas.
The recovery phase for the wider inbound tourism industry will then – as we have already stressed many times before – depend to a large degree on what happens to demand in this segment, and this looks set to be the biggest challenge we will face in the years ahead.
Of particular concern in this regard, of course, is the massive and widespread economic impact that the pandemic is having on businesses in Europe and on the purchasing power of consumers.
Many experts believe that cost-cutting measures and the rise of virtual meetings could reduce the number of business trips by as much as one third.
We therefore need to move forward at full tilt with the use of digital technologies for and at events, conferences and trade fairs.
The updated analysis from Tourism Economics backs up the previous assumption that arrivals in the business travel sector will recover more slowly than in the leisure sector. Furthermore, the current forecast for 2023 that the business travel segment will be down by 26 per cent is actually a little more pessimistic than was the case in June (prediction of a 25 per cent decline). The outlook for the recovery in leisure travel, meanwhile, is slightly more cautious than three months ago, with the prediction of a rise of 6 per cent now downgraded to 5 per cent.
The outlooks for the individual source regions in respect of travel to Germany are now significantly more muted than in June. According to the most recent data, demand from Europe for Destination Germany in 2023 will be down by 9 per cent, which is below the previous expectations, while the overseas markets remain stubbornly in negative territory (down by 25 per cent). This means that the overall figures for 2023 will also be in negative territory (down by 14 per cent), with a return to pre-crisis levels not appearing a realistic prospect until 2024.
A comparison of the expert analyses provided in early summer and autumn of this year reveals a significant shift in the assessment of the situation over that short period of time. This partly reflects the constantly changing structure of supply and demand. For example, unsatisfactory booking numbers are prompting airlines and hotel companies to take capacity out of the market. This reduction in supply is, in turn, having an impact on travel patterns in the markets. The current situation calls for prudent action to be taken by all stakeholders so that we do not continue on this downward spiral.
4. Countercyclical advertising – actively shaping the market trends
In terms of our strategy at the GNTB, we are currently working hard to put our international marketing on the right track both in response to the crisis and looking further ahead.
Future-focused marketing – in a crisis or even a lockdown – is targeted not only at sales and revenue figures, but also on securing customer loyalty over the long term and on making the strengths of the brand more visible around the world. The recovery strategy for Germany’s inbound tourism industry will only succeed if potential travellers are aware of the brand and are talking about it. This would then give us a real chance of not only overcoming the crisis but actually emerging from it in a stronger position. The brand values of Destination Germany – including credibility, responsibility and safety – are now more important than ever in what has become a much more competitive travel market.
One thing is clear, after all. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a realignment of market share in international tourism. And, of course, our main competitors are also taking this opportunity to position their tourism destinations for the post-pandemic era.
Our approach is to keep potential travellers up to date, create an emotional connection and provide inspiration.
Our message is that the values that have defined Destination Germany in the past – including credibility, responsibility and safety – will continue to do so in the future.
Our goal is not just to attract tourists but to secure long-term customer loyalty.
This is why the GNTB has taken a countercyclical approach from the beginning of the crisis, and placed particular emphasis on sustainability as a key aspect in the marketing of Destination Germany going forward. The campaign’s mission is therefore to motivate and inspire people to make trips in the future.
5. A customer-centric approach – keeping in mind the travellers of tomorrow
For our customers, the challenge of coronavirus lies more in accepting the travel restrictions. For example, we are not only seeing that travellers are becoming more safety-conscious, but also that they are showing greater interest in sustainable tourism. Coronavirus is making people think more about health, safety and values – and we are using this shift in attitudes to refocus our brand.
In summer, for example, we launched our Feel Good campaign, which drew attention to the many offerings in hotels, restaurants and individual regions that are certified as socially and environmentally sustainable. The content of our autumn campaign, #WanderlustGermany, is putting the spotlight on nature and outdoor activities. On social media alone, we have made over 100 posts that have generated 120 million impressions and more than 19 million engagements. To complement the digital side of the campaigns, physical customer events were held in eight European markets defined as key targets. Zurich, Vienna and Paris were among the venues for these events.
In 2021, the plan is for the campaigns ‘’ and ‘ ’, to highlight the customs and culture of our lesser-known towns and cities as well as our incredible choice of high-end spa resorts.
6. Digital empowerment – gaining a competitive edge through innovative marketing
There is no doubt that the world of tourism is becoming increasingly digital. A handful of global players are targeting customers with ever-more comprehensive offerings, and they are getting better all the time at predicting people’s needs. Meanwhile, immersive technologies, conversational interfaces and AI applications are making increasing inroads into the tourism value chain. The pandemic has become a catalyst for digital innovation – even in tourism. As destinations begin to compete again in the ‘new normal’, digitalisation will play a crucial role.
At the GNTB, we are forging ahead with the digital transformation that we had already started and adapting marketing tools, investing in knowledge, expertise and training, and continuing to ready ourselves for the future.
Here are just a few examples of how we are doing this:
20 per cent of all Google searches today are made with the help of voice assistants, and the trend is upward. We are already testing and making practical use of these technologies – for example with Skills for Amazon Echo.
360° films and interactive VR applications are part of our marketing mix along with augmented and mixed reality.
7. A look ahead
Germany has established itself as a leading destination in the international market and this is a position that we can use to our advantage in the current crisis.
Remember that Destination Germany features in the world’s top ten travel destinations (United Nations World Tourism Organization, International Arrivals 2019).
We are one of the most highly-rated countries in the world when it comes to our handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the healthcare challenges this has presented. According to the preliminary results of the latest Ipsos Anhalt Nation Brands Index survey, Germany is the international travel destination that respondents would most like to visit in the next five years.
We are working closely with actors from across the tourism industry to drive forward the recovery process. Returning to the previous volumes of inbound travel will certainly present quite a challenge in the coming years. As one of Europe’s most attractive destinations, however, we have every chance of growing further and exploiting new potential in the holiday segment. Of that I am certain. The market will be tougher, for sure. But investments in quality and sustainability, as well as in technology and digitalisation, will be crucial in enabling us to carry on competing in the Champions League of travel destinations.
For these reasons and more, we will be continuing with our marketing efforts even while the crisis endures. Since September, for instance, we have been running B2B workshops outside Germany again, including in Austria and Switzerland. And that is just one example of what we have been doing.
Virtual workshops and roadshows have also been helping us to keep up the B2B dialogue in Spain, Scandinavia, Russia/Ukraine and BeNeLux.
In light of the current trends, we are also strengthening our collaborations with neighbouring markets. The experiences gathered during the virtual GTM are helping us here.
The content of our campaigns for 2021 ‘German.Local.Culture’ and ‘German.Spa.Tradition’ are geared towards the new challenges. Our kick-off event for these campaigns also deserves a mention in this context.
On 22 October 2020, from 11am to 12 noon, we will be hosting a webinar to present the two campaigns. Anyone interested in taking part in the webinar can register here.
This will be followed by an optional ‘speed networking’ event on 22 October 2020 from 12 noon to 7pm and on Friday, 23 October from 7am to 7pm, where participants will be able to use the GNTB Networking Tool to arrange virtual meetings with GNTB foreign representatives and other partners.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our partners for their invaluable input over recent weeks as we have had to adapt plans and projects – particularly given the circumstances in which more areas in Germany have been designated as high-risk. The problems that we are currently facing in terms of communicating the international positioning of Destination Germany will probably be no less difficult in the weeks ahead. But in rising to the challenge, my colleagues at the GNTB and I will continue to be flexible, agile and collaborative in our approach.
Stay safe, and stay in touch
Despite a drop in new coronavirus infections in Germany, there is little sign that it is the high season in many holiday regions. The lockdown has had a huge impact on the tourism sector as a whole.
Nevertheless, recent weeks have given me reason for cautious optimism: according to the latest ForwardKeys surveys, flight arrivals from 13 EU source markets during the week commencing 19 June reached 25 per cent of the comparable prior-year levels. And during the week commencing 10 July 2020, the level reached 30 per cent of the prior-year volume in the markets surveyed. Our chart clearly shows that high-volume source markets are recovering.
What is also interesting is that flights from neighbouring countries are recovering particularly well, despite the fact that it is possible to travel overland. Arrivals from Switzerland reached 47 per cent of the prior-year levels in the week commencing 10 July, while that figure was 36 per cent for Austria and 39 per cent for France.
This corresponds with the forecast that neighbouring markets will be the quickest to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.
Good personal travel experiences that are widely shared are important now, and we are very happy that the first influencers from several neighbouring countries are already travelling through Germany. Our grand series of tours for journalists will begin in September.
The federal government’s new tourism centre of excellence has produced a handy guide for travellers to Germany that explains the latest rules for each federal state in 45 sections. Simply click on each federal state to find out more, or use the filters to search for the availability of specific offers. This information can be useful in communications with your guests. You can find the tourism guide here.
Huge response to our empathy campaign
It has been truly astonishing how many people we were able to persuade to take a virtual trip to Germany post-lockdown. Since our Germany – Dreams Become Reality campaign launched in mid-June, it has generated around 160 million impressions on social media in four weeks. Almost a million microsite users, 5.4 million interactions, an engagement rate of 15.6 per cent and 1.65 million video views are an excellent result, and clear proof that interest in Destination Germany remains strong.
I am proud of our team, which since the outbreak of the coronavirus has been flexible and always successful in finding the right tools to promote our joint product.
Digitalisation project continues to bear fruit
A further cause for optimism is the progress being made with the hugely important digitalisation of offerings in Germany. More and more service providers are working on the open-data project, and it is all the more important, therefore, to highlight best practice and provide specific instructions. Our recently published guide, ‘Open Data im Deutschlandtourismus – Ein Wegweiser zur digitalen Destination’ (open data in the German inbound tourism industry – how to become a digital destination) has arrived just in time, and I highly recommend that you read it. Up-to-date and structured information, for example on available tourism capacity, travel restrictions and varying distancing and hygiene rules, is vital if our customers are to find us, book with us and enjoy an unforgettable holiday in Germany.
The manual is available for download here.
I wish you all a pleasant summer, whether at home, around the world or on the road in Destination Germany.
Since the beginning of the week, people in many European countries have been able to travel abroad again – an important and positive signal for the tourism industry in general and for the revival of inbound tourism to Germany.
We do not expect things to carry on as they have been, nor will there be an automatic return to the market conditions of 2019. Everything has simply changed too much for that. In many respects, travel in the times of coronavirus is uncharted territory for the travel industry, for consumers and for tourism marketing.
To ensure that our marketing is efficient and successful, the GNTB has commissioned two international market studies to analyse the outlook for inbound tourism to Germany after the travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic have been lifted. I would like to share with you the key insights from these studies.
Tourism Economics examined the pandemic’s influence on the 15 most important source markets for Destination Germany, looked at market segments and explored various scenarios for the recovery phase.
The market researchers expect a 45 per cent drop in overnight stays by visitors from Europe and a 64 per cent drop from overseas in the current year, while the 2019 figures for overnight stays might be reached again by the end of 2023.
The western European markets are likely to see the quickest recovery. According to the findings, the five countries likely to recover the quickest are Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria, followed by France, Sweden, the UK, Spain and Italy at a more moderate pace. Eastern European countries such as Russia, the Czech Republic and Poland, and the overseas markets, will get back on track more slowly.
Business travel will be the hardest hit by the crisis, with Tourism Economics predicting that business-related arrivals will not reach 2019 levels even in 2023. The recovery phase of inbound tourism to Germany is more likely to be driven by recreational travel.
Selected charts fromare available in the annex to this blog post.
A second study by IPK International, conducted as part of the World Travel Monitor, examines the impact of COVID-19 on travel behaviour in international tourism. The survey conducted in May is based on interviews with international travellers in 18 source markets.
It found that there is still a relatively strong reluctance to travel abroad, but 50 per cent of respondents across all markets would at least consider foreign travel once borders reopen, even if there is no vaccine available.
In a comparison of the continents, the willingness to travel is strongest among Europeans at 61 per cent.
The risk of contracting coronavirus is considered lowest when travelling by car, when travelling alone and on holidays in the heart of nature. Cultural travel, city breaks and sightseeing tours are considered medium-risk, whereas visits to the theatre, the cinema and larger events are considered to be high-risk.
In this context, I think the following assessment of Germany in an international comparison is particularly noteworthy: when asked which destinations appear safe or unsafe from a coronavirus perspective, Germany received the best rating, ahead of our near neighbours Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.
Selected charts fromare also available in the annex to this blog post.
When I combine the results of this research, the market insights from our foreign representative offices and our experience from previous crises, the strategy for leading Germany’s inbound tourism industry back to success begins to take even clearer shape.
The challenges are as follows. Destination Germany’s exposed market segments, such as cultural and city breaks or the MICE segment, have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The competition between nations will become fiercer due to the smaller market volume, while capacity in tourism infrastructure, for example in airlines and the hotel industry, will remain limited for the foreseeable future.
Consumers will look more closely at quality, sustainability and value for money as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
And this is where there are opportunities. Germany enjoys an excellent international reputation, as demonstrated by the top marks given to our health management by the Deep Knowledge Group. Only Switzerland and Israel can compete with us in this respect. With regard to the current risk of infection, we achieve the best result in an international comparison, according to IPK.
Service providers all along the tourism value chain have successfully adapted their products to the additional requirements that will be in place for as long as the coronavirus is with us. Hygiene and distancing rules have been implemented, and visitor flows have been managed.
Walking and cycling holidays, for example, allow visitors to spend time in the great outdoors and are the perfect way to enjoy a memorable holiday in Germany despite the coronavirus-related rules.
I firmly believe that we have created an excellent basis for success in the tourism marketplace of the future thanks to our long-term strategy of anchoring sustainability in the core of the Destination Germany brand, and by placing themes such as natural landscapes, traditions and customs, active holidays and rural regions at the heart of our marketing.
We have also created a new campaign, Germany – Dreams Become Reality, in order to boost this demand.
Over the coming weeks, we will be launching further campaigns adapted to our customers’ revised values with the aim of positioning Destination Germany appropriately with the relevant target groups.
In 2021, our German.Spa.Tradition theme will coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sebastian Kneipp, with a focus on the extensive offerings of Germany’s more than 350 certified health and spa resorts. A second campaign, German.Urban.Culture, will focus on the cultural treasures and ambience that Germany’s smaller cities and towns have to offer.
But I will tell you more about this in my next post.
I would like to take the opportunity at this point to thank all of our partners in Germany’s inbound tourism industry for their hard work, which has enabled us to get our recovery programme off the ground.
I have faith that we can bring Germany’s incoming tourism back on track through courage, strength, clever ideas and a lot of perseverance – even if big challenges await us.
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 www.germany.travel 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.
With a possible relaxation of the lockdown in sight, expectations are high among our customers around the world and our partners in Germany’s inbound tourism industry. Which businesses and facilities will be able to reopen? And when and under what conditions?
In the coming weeks, more and more tourism-related businesses in Germany, including restaurants, cafés and leisure facilities, will be allowed to reopen. This will also set in train a gradual revival of inbound tourism, but one thing is clear: for the time being, the entire tourism sector will have to live and work ‘with coronavirus’.
In my view, post-coronavirus does not mean a return to the habits that defined our everyday life at the start of this year; it means a new normal with limitations, conditions and rules. Every tourism service provider and every company will have to undergo checks to ensure that is able to safeguard the safety of its customers.
This means that all of the tourism products in Germany that we market abroad must take account of what we have learned during the coronavirus crisis and how this affects what we will need to do in future.
Post-coronavirus – opportunities for inbound tourism
A new normal also means opportunities. After all, it is also about the changing expectations and values of customers, a focus on quality and people’s need to feel safe.
By adjusting our products and product communications in line with these requirements at an early stage, and ensuring that customers are at the centre of all that we do, we can help to determine whether coronavirus leads to a long-term crisis or becomes the catalyst for a new level of quality.
In my last post, I outlined the particular challenges facing the business travel and city break segments. Germany is exposed to significant competition in these areas, both within Europe and globally, and the potential losses to inbound tourism in Germany are considerable.
Today, I will be looking at opportunities for the nature and leisure segment, which lies at the heart of the Destination Germany brand, and at how COVID-19 might influence the overarching theme of sustainability.
Diverse, unspoilt and inviting – opportunities for areas of natural beauty
Around a third of mainland Germany’s land area is under special protection in more than 130 national parks, biosphere reserves and nature parks. The 200,000 kilometres of marked walking trails and 70,000 kilometres of long-distance cycle routes are just some of the more prominent examples of the endless possibilities for enjoying an action-packed active holiday in Germany’s great outdoors. Then there are the on-trend sports and the countless innovative ideas of the tourism players in the holiday regions.
On the demand side, the biggest source markets for inbound tourism to Germany show an above-average level of interest in active holidays and holidays in the heart of nature. According to IPK International, the market share for nature holidays and active holidays in Germany among travellers from Europe as a whole is 17 per cent, from the Netherlands 28 per cent, from Switzerland 23 per cent, and from Poland almost 30 per cent.
The enforced break presents an opportunity for sustainability
Even before the start of the coronavirus crisis, we were able to position Destination Germany very well in terms of sustainability. For example, Germany is consistently listed among the top ten in the SDG Index, which looks at how 193 UN member states meet the sustainable development goals defined by the 2015 UN Sustainability Summit. Four German cities are among the top 20 in the Sustainable Cities Index created by Arcadis, the leading global design & consultancy firm for natural and built assets. TourCert lists 13 certified sustainable destinations in Germany, the interactive map on www.germany.travel currently includes over 1,000 certified sustainable accommodation providers and places to eat and drink, and 21 German towns and cities have joined the global Cittaslow movement. The list goes on and on.
In this context, I am particularly interested in whether these successes can be maintained in the face of coronavirus, and whether there might even be opportunities here. I firmly believe that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
For a brief overview of sustainability and Germany’s inbound tourism industry, please see the special edition of our stakeholder magazine DZT 360°, which is available. I can also recommend a look at the many best practice case studies that our partners and the 16 regional marketing organisations have contributed.
In their dwif_Corona MindMap, the experts at dwif Consulting take a look at the medium to long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on destination management. The study explores foreseeable, severe negative consequences and open issues, and the question of whether any good can come out of the crisis. Along with many other aspects, the mind map also analyses the topic of sustainability. The authors are wary of a sudden release of pent-up customer demand, which could lead to overtourism. The question of whether hygiene and social distancing aspects will have an impact on the use of public transport remains open. But the enforced break does have some positives for flora and fauna. It also raises awareness and offers new perspectives on visitor attractions and nature. Meanwhile, solidarity initiatives with companies help to strengthen customer relations. The mind map also sees opportunities in the increased loyalty of employees, who have been kept on by their employer during a time of crisis. The crisis could also spark new ideas for transport and for managing the flow of visitors. Overall, the authors predict a new ‘nature boom’ and increased demand for outdoor pursuits and holidays in the heart of nature.
The trend for holidays closer to home presents opportunities for rural areas
I believe that a revival of inbound tourism will initially be led by independent travellers from Europe, in particular. One of the reasons for this is that the car is the easy transport option when it comes to social distancing. But while it will require a lot more effort to implement the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures on public transport, especially in cross-border traffic, sustainability aspects will continue to have a growing influence on the modal split in transport in the future. Our partnership with Deutsche Bahn and the major environmental organisations on Destination nature has been promoting environmentally sustainable travel by rail since 2001.
Added to this is the dramatic slump in air traffic, from which there will be no full recovery any time soon. As Dirk Hoke, president of the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI), explained this week: “We don’t expect air traffic to return to 2019 levels until late 2022 or early 2023”.
For inbound tourism, this means that independent travellers from neighbouring countries are the most likely to be allowed to travel to Germany again, provided that infection rates stabilise and bilateral agreements or even Europe-wide regulations are in place. Almost 45 per cent of all international overnight stays in Germany were made by visitors from neighbouring countries, and around half of European travellers to Germany have taken the car to get here. In terms of holiday planning, taking the car automatically extends the possibilities beyond the radius of local public transport – this presents opportunities for holiday destinations away from the metropolitan regions.
The new normal is an opportunity for ‘hidden champions’
Today, futurologists, strategy consultants, political and economic experts, industry insiders and lateral thinkers of all stripes are exploring what the ‘new normal’ could look like from a wide range of perspectives.
I am following this with great interest, and time and again I discover common ground between the various theories from which shared visions emerge. Zukunftsinstitut, for example, has identified ‘trends deep within society towards post-growth, a ‘we culture’, glocalisation and post-individualism…’. And in a podcast by Gabor Steingart, futurologist and government adviser Dr Daniel Dettling declares ‘the era of mindful glocalisation… as a response to the growing demand for a sense of home and community’.
In relation to inbound tourism, I believe there is a tailwind for certain aspects that have not always been at the forefront of public interest in the past. Nevertheless, we have analysed these ‘hidden champions’, identified them as drivers of opportunity and, in recent years, repeatedly explored them in our themed marketing: rural areas, sustainability, traditions and customs, regionality and seasonality, and food and drink.
In my opinion, it is important to present products and packages in a contemporary and even more memorable manner to potential travellers to Germany, and this is precisely where our open-data project is able to offer new opportunities.
Campaign themes – exploiting opportunities
I firmly believe that our portfolio of products for travel to Germany, above and beyond the established city breaks and cultural trips for domestic and international travellers, is wide-ranging, high-quality and fully compatible with the currently foreseeable demands of post-coronavirus tourism.
The key thing will be to communicate the strengths of these products in a way that raises our profile in the markets and establishes a strong and robust positioning.
We will be planning our campaigns for this year and next within the context of the current coronavirus crisis. In the second half of 2020, we will launch a #WanderlustGermany nature campaign in our European source markets that will highlight the many facets of Germany’s holiday regions. At this point, I would like to give special thanks to our partners from the German Ramblers’ Association and the German Cyclists’ Federation (ADFC) for their involvement.
We believe we are following the right path with the campaigns we have planned for 2021. The German.Spa.Tradition campaign will focus on the unparalleled variety offered by the 350 certified spa and health resorts as centres of excellence for health. Besides scenic beauty and clean air, visitors to these places can enjoy a wide range of leisure activities, high-quality art and cultural offerings, a broad array of delicious and healthy diet options, and superb infrastructure. As part of the campaign, we will be marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sebastian Kneipp, whose form of hydrotherapy spread beyond his home in Bavaria and became popular around the world. We will be working with the German Spa Association (DHV) on this campaign. In a recent press release, Brigitte Goertz-Meissner, President of both the Board of Directors of the German National Tourist Board and of the DHV, underlined the importance of spas and health resorts as an integral part of the healthcare industry,
The planned German.Local.Culture image campaign is intended to inspire travellers to discover the lesser-known gems among Germany’s towns and cities. Promoting Germany’s most charming small towns will also help to market the country’s rural regions.
With an easing of the lockdown within sight, the signs are promising for Germany’s inbound tourism industry. Let’s work together and grasp this opportunity.
Stay safe and stay in touch.
Until next week.
Thank you very much for the positive feedback I have received for the first posts on my blog.
The coronavirus crisis is huge challenge for all of us, but it also provides the impetus for many creative processes. I am thinking in particular of a new video which has complemented our international #DiscoverGermanyFromHome campaign on social media since it was published a few days ago.
Overall, we have seen a surprisingly high response to DiscoverGermanyFromHome. We have reached about 10 million users within six weeks and registered more than a million interactions through our channels. Beyond these channels, 19,000 posts relating to the campaign have been published, which in turn triggered 200,000 interactions. This shows that the majority of our customers still have an appetite for travel.
The RecoveryCheck#2 analysis recently published by the centre for tourism at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) underlines the need to maintain interest in Destination Germany. Its findings show that international tourism will recover more slowly than domestic tourism.
Recent developments in Austria, where the hotel industry is reopening at the end of May, are encouraging. They will allow further steps towards getting the tourism market back on its feet, although our neighbour’s tourism assets and infrastructure is somewhat different to ours.
In addition to the purely commercial aspects, I am also looking at how we can inspire potential customers through our tourism marketing, what type of experiences our products will promise and how we can keep these promises.
A study by the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies on scenarios for the future of tourism after the coronavirus crisis, which the GNTB commissioned jointly with the Association of National Tourist Office Representatives (ANTOR) in Denmark, provides some starting points. Attached is awhich is definitely worth reading.
The Der Corona-Effekt white paper published by Zukunftsinstitut in Frankfurt presents four highly interesting future scenarios (German only) . Scenario four describes a resilient society that explicitly deals with the role of cities in the post-coronavirus era.
Both papers form a good basis for an intensive dialogue with our partners on the question of what comes next.
The conclusion we can draw from both is this:
We need a rethink. ‘Glocalisation’ as a synthesis of thinking global and acting locally is set to become a recurring theme of our day-to-day work in international tourism.
What is certain is that the product segments in which Destination Germany has been particularly strong at attracting international guests will be disproportionately affected by current developments.
As one of the top ten destinations in the world (UNWTO 2018), it is vital that we make every effort to defend this position and the success we have shared so far.
Let me outline three aspects of our current market position.
City Breaks/Events – strong on both cultural and business travel
Cities are the backbone of inbound tourism to Germany, and their share of the market is increasing. The ten Magic Cities alone accounted for around 29 per cent of international overnight stays in 2019. If you add in Berlin, that figure rises to around 47 per cent.
Inbound tourism is more than just an add-on, a nice-to-have, especially in cities of over 100,000 inhabitants that attract lot of visitors. Here, international guests account for 33 per cent of all overnight stays, significantly above the national average of 18 per cent.
Berlin tops the list of German city destinations, generating over 15 million international overnight stays, followed by Munich (8.8 million) and Frankfurt (4.7 million). In all three cities, international overnight stays account for more than 40 per cent of the total volume. This clearly shows that many cities will not be able to achieve sustainable capacity utilisation and tourism revenues without inbound tourism.
Among the strongest arguments in favour of inbound tourism in cities and metropolitan regions are easy access via Germany’s major international airports, the outstanding quality of the German hotel industry, the wide range of cultural offerings and the attractiveness for business travellers.
But it is precisely these aspects that are particularly affected by the lockdown, and current assessments of the situation show no signs of a rapid recovery.
As many destinations are so reliant on international visitors, they will have to continue to put all their efforts into business development in the respective source markets. Inbound tourism has a strong impact on the retail trade, especially in these destinations, and German holidaymakers alone cannot compensate for a lack of high-spending international visitors.
Business travel – coronavirus is causing increasing concern
According to a special analysis of IPK International’s World Travel Monitor conducted in 2019, the global market for international business travel has already grown at a much slower rate (7 per cent) over the past three years than the total market for all international travel (17 per cent). The drop of 4 per cent in the traditional business travel segment has been compensated for by strong growth in MICE travel (up 16 per cent).
In this context, Germany was able to consolidate and expand its leading position as a business travel destination in the international market, as the volume of traditional business travel remained largely stable and MICE travel grew significantly.
At the same time, the proportion of business trips in all inbound travel is exceptionally high at 22 per cent, whereas the European average is 12 per cent. For competitors such as the UK (15 per cent), France (11 per cent) and Italy (9 per cent), the weakening in the market has a much smaller impact on the balance sheet.
Virtual meetings, video conferences, Skype calls, etc. have become the norm as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. These experiences are likely to have an impact on business communications even once the crisis is over, and there are considerable doubts over whether traditional business travel will recover to previous levels.
I believe this also applies to promotable business travel. Germany clearly leads the way: in 2018, 10.2 per cent of all MICE travel worldwide was to Germany, ahead of the USA in second place with a 9.2 per cent share of the market. Other key MICE destinations such as China (6.6 per cent), France (5.2 per cent) and the UK (4.7 per cent) are a long way behind. If social distancing is here to stay for the foreseeable future, then large events – often with more than 1,000 participants – are unlikely to be happening any time soon. This will lead to heavier losses, in percentage terms, for this area of inbound tourism.
The dialogue we have initiated with the umbrella organisations GCB and AUMA for this important inbound segment shows that further investigation, research and development are necessary. Concepts such as the ‘Future Meeting Space’, which was developed in cooperation with the tourism industry and the Fraunhofer Institute, must be continued.
Cultural tourism – the virus is reducing the range of what is on offer
Of the 35.8 million holiday trips to Germany taken by Europeans in 2019, 16.3 million (46 per cent) were city breaks, 5.4 million (15 per cent) were multi-destination tours with city visits, and 1.8 million (5 per cent) were to attend an event.
Germany leads the ranking of cultural travel destinations for Europeans. More than 6,000 museums, the world’s highest number of opera performances, famous festivals from Bayreuth to Oberammergau, 46 UNESCO World Heritage sites and many other USPs characterise Destination Germany’s core brand and offer new travel opportunities for international cultural tourists year after year. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, around one million events every year attracted visitors to Germany.
A significant share of the cultural tourism offering is currently unavailable. In some areas, such as theatre performances and concerts or festivals and fairs that draw large crowds, I expect that strict hygiene rules or a code of contact will see these events gradually return to our offering once the lockdown has ended.
Thinking ‘next normal’ – developing specific ideas
We need innovative products if we want to keep our towns and cities interesting in these new circumstances. The fact that it has been the tourism players in the cities, in particular, who over decades have contributed to the development of new forms of holidays through their ideas and innovations, is a cause for optimism.
The GNTB is currently engaged in an in-depth dialogue with its partners to drive these innovation processes forward.
Given the new circumstances we find ourselves in as a result of coronavirus, the onus is on us to join forces with everyone in Germany’s inbound tourism industry to develop ideas for new products and services that will inspire potential travellers to rediscover Germany.
We can shape the ‘next normal’ through active crisis management, close customer contact, agile and digital product ideas, and the power of acting as one.
Looking ahead – what is possible today
We held our first joint webinar with our partners last week to explain the situation with market insights on Germany as a travel destination, and the USA as a sample source market. Further events in this format will follow, with insights from the Asian source markets on 6 May, for example. Click here for more information and ways to take part (German only).
From next week, we will be joining the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) on a series of webinars for the tourism industry exploring the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.
They will kick off at 4pm on 6 and 7 May with a live feed on Facebook.
The topic for the DIHK webinar on Wednesday, 6 May, will be ‘Restructuring during the coronavirus crisis – from creditor protection proceedings to self-administration’.
The topic for the GNTB webinar on Thursday, 7 May, will be ‘Apps and more – what makes Chinese customers tick, and what technologies can companies use to maintain a presence after the crisis?’
There is one more date that I particularly want to highlight: starting on 22 June, we will be running a three-day virtual Germany Travel Mart (GTM) as a bridge to the recovery programmes for 2021 and the next ‘real-world’ GTM. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will be the host of the ‘real-world’ GTM in 2021, but this year it will be presenting itself as a destination in webinars. For more information on the virtual GTM, click here (German only).
The next Future Day for Destinations, an initiative of the Tourismuszukunft network, is just around the corner, and we will certainly be there this coming Monday. Will you be there too? Find out more (German only).
That brings me to the end of my weekly review and look ahead.
In my next post, I will focus on nature and sustainability in a segment of Destination Germany in an international context.
Please stay safe, and I wish you all a relaxing long weekend.
Until next week.
Over the coming days, people in a number of German federal states can look forward to a cautious easing of the lockdown, as public life makes a partial return.
The situation in the travel industry remains more difficult. It is still unknown when hotels will be able to take tourism bookings again or when the restaurant trade will enjoy a significant revival. Cultural events that are important to tourism, such as the popular open-air festivals in the summer, the Bayreuth Festival and the Passion Play in Oberammergau, will not take place in 2020, nor will large fairs like Munich’s Oktoberfest.
As a result, inbound tourism will lose some of its key drivers. Just to illustrate: in May, June, July and August, traditionally the months with the most overnight stays, Germany would see 28.1 million fewer overnight stays by Europeans than in 2019. A complete cancellation of the 2020 summer season would mean a loss in revenue of €16.4 billion and a drop of 42.2 per cent in the total volume of overnight stays from Europe.
In today’s blog, I will provide a brief overview of various market analyses. Based on a number of studies, we have established our expectations for the coming months, adjusted and fine-tuned our marketing plans, and are offering you, our partners, decision-making aids for your marketing activities.
We presented our assessment this week in a video conference with all of our regional marketing organisations.
As-is analysis – the power of facts
An as-is analysis is an integral part of how we look at the market.
According to ForwardKeys, a specialist in flight bookings, long-haul arrivals from Europe were down 36.4 per cent year on year in the first quarter. As at 15 April, advance bookings of intercontinental flights to Germany between April and September fell by 71.5 per cent.
A survey by TripAdvisor in five countries shows that 61 per cent of respondents have changed their travel plans since the start of the coronavirus crisis, but only 17 per cent have actually cancelled their trip. 89 per cent of respondents plan to travel internationally again; 24 per cent of these within one to two months after the end of the pandemic, while 48 per cent plan to embark on their trip three to six months later.
Experience and market expertise – authoritative future scenarios
This scenario is confirmed by the forecasts of international organisations and market observers. As early as March, the United Nations World Tourism Organization adjusted its initial forecast from a 3 to 4 per cent increase for the current year to a 20 to 30 per cent drop.
According to the March edition of IPK International’s World Travel Monitor, 20 per cent fewer trips will be taken in 2020 overall. This affects all continents equally.
The centre for tourism at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has identified four phases in its first Recovery Check analysis: shutdown, easing, recovery and normalisation. This realistic scenario assumes an easing phase from mid-May onwards, with around 35 per cent of the previous year’s revenue generated by the end of September.
Oxford Economics and its experts at Tourism Economics extrapolate the trend in international arrivals through a range of key economic data. According to its research, inbound tourism to Europe in 2020 will fall by around 39 per cent in total compared to 2019, with the largest drop in arrivals from the US (down 45 per cent) and China (down 50 per cent). We have also commissioned Oxford Economics to carry out an analysis of the economic impact on Germany’s inbound tourism industry.
The GNTB is looking further ahead – our goal is #SeeYouSoonBackInGermany
All of these scenarios call for specific marketing activities. You will be familiar with our #DiscoverGermanyFromHome campaign, which went live on 16 March and includes bucket lists, surveys, inspiring images and a microsite. It brings together virtual experiences, digital offerings, Spotify playlists, an interactive map, a quiz and recipes – basically, everything that makes people want to visit Destination Germany. The reach and the response rates are extraordinarily high.
This will provide the basis for our understanding of the ‘next normal’.
We are hoping for a gradual opening up of the market, possibly as a first step towards a bilateral solution, provided that the international travel warnings are lifted and a wide-ranging assessment of risks and dangers in the respective source markets is carried out. Quarantine requirements and the ban on overnight stays by tourists will also have to be lifted in all 16 federal states. A further prerequisite is that airlines, hotels, leisure facilities and other organisations establish a common ‘code of contact’ with regard to hygiene and safety standards.
The crisis has also given rise to many solidarity measures and innovative ideas.
One interesting example is Sebastian Worel’s bookingkit, a reopening concept for attractions, theme parks, museums and similar venues. It covers everything from the current challenges of reopening to the optimal preparation of admissions management and the organisation of hygiene measures.
Numerous other initiatives demonstrate the ability to innovate and think entrepreneurially within Germany’s inbound tourism industry. I welcome any further suggestions.
The German Tourism Association recently presented a paper on the prospects for a harmonised, nationwide restart of inbound tourism to Germany.
That’s it for this week.
Please stay optimistic and, above all, stay healthy!
I am looking forward to the day when we can once again welcome international guests to Germany in large numbers.
Just under four months ago, the first stories reached us of the coronavirus outbreak in China. For more than four weeks now, the lockdown has dominated life in Germany, and therefore the GNTB’s day-to-day work. This work includes the ongoing analysis of the situation in more than 50 source markets, adjusting and postponing marketing campaigns, adapting budgets, working from home, and addressing the ever-present question of when and how public life will continue.
During the initial phase, the focus was on adapting operational measures and information, but in the second phase we are concentrating on stepping up the dialogue with our customers and on our virtual #DiscoverGermanyFromHome campaign. In the virtual world, we are maintaining interest in Destination Germany among end customers around the globe and the international travel industry through a clear, confident and informative communications strategy.
We assume that the travel restrictions currently in place will gradually be relaxed over the course of the second half of the year, despite the ongoing uncertainty. In addition to the main summer season, we have traditionally always had a strong third and fourth quarter in terms of travel to Germany. We plan to create product incentives targeted at specific markets and groups and adjust our brand communication for Destination Germany with a memorable call to action that is based on our extensive market research.
The working title is #SeeYouSoonBackInGermany.
What opportunities and challenges do we anticipate once the coronavirus crisis is over?
Once the restrictions on leaving the home and on travelling have been lifted, I expect that initially we will mainly see independent travellers from Europe coming to Germany. In the past, around 70 percent of our visitors arrived from Europe, mostly from neighbouring countries. More than half of them were repeat or regular visitors, that is to say real Germany enthusiasts, and over half travelled to Germany by car. In other words, Germany would once again be an accessible destination by rail and road for the majority of prospective visitors from Europe, even though airline capacities may remain limited this year. Our overseas markets are unlikely to pick up much before 2021 or even 2022.
In mid-May, we will conduct an extensive customer survey as part of IPK International’s World Travel Monitor to identify possible changes in our source markets caused by the coronavirus crisis. Two further surveys will be conducted over the course of the year.
Together with international tour operators, online travel companies and transport operators, we are monitoring whether and how customer behaviour is changing. As always, the UNWTO, WTTC, ETC and other international organisations are key sources of information.
We are also continually analysing the post-coronavirus scenarios offered by various international experts and market players. A briefing by McKinsey looking at the overall economic impact of COVID-19 considers air transport and the travel industry to be the world’s most severely impacted industries. Changes to consumer behaviour, regulatory mechanisms and value chains are expected to lead to a ‘new normal’.
The Swiss start-up Viselio has presented a white paper according to which borders will be reopened only slowly and gradually, health checks will become a routine part of immigration procedures in future, and air travel will become more expensive and complicated overall. Initially, the focus will be on domestic tourism and overland transport; air travel is not expected to play a significant role again until 2021.
What particularly interests me and the GNTB team are the challenges in the leisure and business segments. Although those familiar with the executive traveller community expect a faster recovery in the business travel market, 2019 levels are unlikely to be reached again until 2023.
As Germany is by far the leading business travel destination in Europe, I expect us to be facing significant challenges in this segment. Business trips account for 22 per cent of all inbound tourism to Germany. The market for traditional business travel, which had already been deteriorating in recent years, remains under pressure, while Skype calls and virtual meetings and conferences have become the norm under the lockdown. The segment of promotable business trips, which had been growing steadily, will stay very fragile in the medium term, not least due to the numbers of participants – usually over 100 – that attend large conventions and conferences. The threat of recession remains a further cause for concern and is likely to continue to weigh on the market.
There is also another pre-coronavirus success story that has become a challenge. We are the number one cultural travel and city break destination for Europeans, but the majority of cultural offerings in the cities – theatres, museums, festivals, high-end restaurants – will be affected by the lockdown for a long time to come. Together with our partners in the metropolitan regions, we will have to work on designing new forms of city breaks, developing appropriate products and thus positioning Destination Germany in a distinctive way.
But let us now look towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
I can assure you that customers are still very much interested in Germany, and the ‘Destination Germany – Simply Inspiring’ brand remains strong. This is reflected in our social media, where fans, followers and friends are telling us that they still want to travel to Germany.
The government and the federal states have been discussing the first potential steps to ease the lockdown, which gives us reason to be hopeful.
According to an international benchmarking survey of 40 industrialised and developing countries, conducted by the London-based Deep Knowledge Group (DKG), no country in Europe is doing better than Germany in managing the coronavirus crisis, while worldwide only Israel is rated higher. This is sure to boost Destination Germany’s image and is a strong argument for our recovery programmes.
With this in mind, we will continue with our mission to attract people to Germany.
Stay safe and stay in touch. I hope that together we can continue to welcome international guests to Germany in the future.