German tourism has gone from strength to strength in recent years: continual growth over the last decade culminated in a record-breaking 89.9 million international overnight stays in 2019. While coronavirus restrictions have prevented inbound travellers from visiting over the last few months, Germany reopened its borders to more than thirty EU nations on 15 June. When travellers return, they’ll be able to enjoy Germany’s amazing natural landscapes once more, in a country where sustainability is already firmly embraced. We chatted with Mrs Beatrix Haun at the German National Tourism Office to learn more about the country’s experience of coronavirus, and how it is opening up to travellers once more.
Q: Germany has responded well to the coronavirus threat, taking tough action early. What has the country’s experience of Covid-19 been like? Have you been proud of the response?
A: Within just a few days, the lockdown brought inbound tourism to Germany to a complete halt – after ten years of continual growth. In the months of March to June alone, the German tourism industry will be missing out on revenue of €20.9 billion compared to last year, equivalent to one third of the expected annual revenue. This poses a significant economic challenge for the many small and medium-sized companies in the tourism industry.
We quickly adapted our marketing activities to the current situation. In the first phase, campaigns were stopped and rescheduled, with the focus firmly on keeping consumers and trade partners up to date. By the middle of March, we had already launched our empathy campaign #DiscoverGermanyFromHome.
Q: The brilliant #DiscoverGermanyFromHome campaign is all about keeping travellers engaged virtually. From a stellar video to a range of virtual tours, German recipes and even German music, there’s plenty for visitors to see and do if they can’t travel in person. Could you tell us a bit more about the campaign: what are its aims and why is it so important?
A: In this phase, the aim was to keep Destination Germany’s strong image alive among potential visitors and partners, to stimulate the appetite for travel and to make people dream of a holiday in Germany. The campaign used high-impact images and videos to evoke an emotional response, and we leveraged our more than 30 social media channels in order to generate interactions. The rate of interaction was extremely high at over 10 per cent – a sure sign that we actually reached the users.
We also integrated an AI chatbot into the campaign’s microsite, through which potential visitors to Germany could obtain the latest information regarding their travel plans, means of travel, legal aspects and tourism offerings.
As borders start to reopen to tourism travel, we will embark on the campaign’s second phase, “Germany – dreams become reality”.
Q: Germany has already started to lift its lockdown. What do restrictions in the country currently look like? How are they expected to change?
A: The easing will be implemented in several smaller stages and differently for each federal state. Public life is slowly returning, but strict hygiene and distancing rules have been developed to prevent a second wave and to enable quick tracing of infection chains in the event of a new outbreak. Further easing will be implemented in stages, provided that the infection rates do not rise again.
Q: At the start of June, Germany lifted its blanket European travel ban, and as of mid-June, EU citizens are now able to travel to Germany, provided there are no significant lockdowns or travel restrictions in the country of origin. What does this mean for Germany?
A: With the reopening of EU internal borders, the freedom to travel has returned for around 70 per cent of all inbound tourism markets. However, we expect that in the third and fourth quarters of 2020 it will mainly be independent travellers from the immediate neighbouring countries who will be visiting Germany – in their own cars.
Q: What new measures and safety regulations can travellers expect when they return to Germany? How will the visitor experience at hotels, bars and restaurants differ from before?
A: Wearing face masks will be the norm in public attractions and facilities, on public transport and while shopping. Overnight tourist stays will once again be possible in hotels, and restaurants will be allowed to open as long as there is a safe distance between tables. As a rule, booking a table in advance is recommended, and the guests’ name and contact details will be recorded.
In order to maintain minimum distances, many tourist hotspots will limit the number of visitors and require online reservations.
Visitors who plan their activities with these aspects in mind will be able to enjoy a carefree holiday in Germany.
Q: What are your predictions for the travel industry in Germany for the rest of the summer, the year and into 2021?
A: Restrictions will remain in place for city breaks and cultural tourism, as many large events that draw in tourists will not be held this year. But demand for holidays in Germany remains high. 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. These are popular pastimes among visitors from Europe.
We are unlikely to be welcoming visitors from farther afield until the range of flights on offer has increased, so it may take two years before the number of overseas tourists reaches 2019 levels.
Q: What lessons will Germany take forward from coronavirus? How can we work towards a brighter future?
A: Travellers’ expectations will change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is likely, for example, that quality consciousness and the need to feel safe will increase in importance. That is why I see opportunities, in particular, in the "nature and relaxation" segment and in sustainable tourism. We will be focusing on this in our #WanderlustGermany campaign in 2020 and in our theme-based campaigns in 2021, "German.Spa.Tradition" and ‘German.Local.Culture."
Top image: Neuschwanstein castle, Germany © LazarenkoD/Shutterstock