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
18 May 2020
Across Germany’s federal states, hoteliers, restaurateurs and leisure and entertainment facilities have their tape measures to hand and are spacing out the seating in anticipation of the return of their customers. Deutsche Bahn is expanding its range of long-distance rail connections to tourist destinations, and Lufthansa is reopening flights.
But guests and travellers must be able to rely on uniform standards if this positive mood is to continue, which is not an easy task as the circumstances are different for each pub, museum or tourist hotspot. Creativity and flexibility are the order of the day when it comes to implementing hygiene regimes, complying with restrictions on visitor numbers – for example via online ticketing – or actively managing visitors with marked walking routes to ensure appropriate distancing.
Together with the gradual reopening of the borders, all these measures offer opportunities to revitalise inbound tourism. We publish all the latest information on 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.