The Leisure Boom

 Germany is flying the flag as the most popular destination for city breaks, reinforcing its strong position in the international tourism market. The trend is driven by bookings from European culture vultures and young people

July, 2018

In 2016, city breaks were one of the prime growth drivers for Germany’s tourism industry. Take Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg – all very different places with unique urban characters, climates, economic underpinnings and even local dialects – and yet they were all in the top 25 cities for overnight stays. And in the same year, Germany was the only European country to have more than three cities on the list.

Germany is already one of the largest tourism markets on the continent, with a gross added-value of more than €105bn. In a country with unemployment at record lows, purchasing power at record highs, a population with a thirst for travel and a high level of connectedness and travel infrastructure, the tourism and leisure sector generally is enjoying a heady spell of success, be it incoming or outgoing. According to Eurostat, Germany is the biggest domestic tourism market within Europe; correspondingly, Germans spend €73.2bn holidaying outside of the country.

A good time to invest?

Investors of all shapes and sizes are enjoying the leisure boom. British hotel chain Premier Inn is planning a dozen hotel openings throughout the country over the next three years. Spanish boutique apartment company Eric Vökel is opening up a new block of boutique apartments in Hamburg. Tropical Island, a vast, climate-controlled dome south of Berlin opened in 2004 by Malaysian company Tanjong, has been basking in its success. Coral World, an Israeli aquarium operator, is also looking to expand into the German market.

“2016 was the seventh year in a row for record numbers in incoming tourism,” says Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board (DZT). “Germany is the number one place for culture and city trips for Europeans and is the most popular destination for young Europeans. It is also the top trade show, congress and summit location in Europe and is the most popular destination in Europe for international luxury trips.”

The blue lagoon at Tropical Island Berlin, a vast climate-controlled dome which has been basking in its own success since 2004. © Tropical Islands

A digital-first sector

Martin Buck, senior vice president of travel and logistics at Messe Berlin (which hosted the 2018 ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show and Congress in March), cites digitization as the key influencing factor on the national tourism market. “The whole travel industry has entirely transformed itself into a digital-first sector,” he said. “The trend toward digitization will have a huge impact on the German travel market.”

Hedorfer also points to social networks, e-booking and the widespread use of digital solutions as a key driver for growth and investment. “The global significance of social media as part of the decision-making and booking process in travel cannot be underestimated, and Germany is investing heavily in the digitization of its tourism industry,” she asserts. Ultimately, the best way to test these assertions is to book a German city break.