From 26 to 28 April 2015 Thuringia hosted the 41st Germany Travel Mart (GTM), the annual business-to-business event organised by the German National Tourist Board (GNTB).
Over the past four decades, the event has become established as a key sales platform for inbound tourism to Germany. This year the GTM attracted more than 1,000 members of the international travel and tourism industry. Travel professionals and journalists from 45 nations were in attendance. Around 340 German exhibitors were present to discuss regional and local tourism, including transport, tourist attractions and hotels.
Seminars provided buyers with an overview of the attractions of Thuringia, which was hosting the event for the first time. Delegates stayed in Erfurt and Weimar and could take guided tours of both cities. A number of the attendees took opportunities to visit sites of interest elsewhere in the state, including Wartburg Castle (where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German), Hainich National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) plus Bad Langensalza (an attractive spa town with half-timbered buildings).
Record Inbound Tourism to Germany
At the GTM’s press conference Petra Hedorfer, the Chief Executive Officer of the GNTB, announced record inbound tourism numbers to Germany for the fifth year in succession. In 2014 international visitors spent 75.6 million nights in the country, up from 71.9 million in 2013. That means that arrivals from abroad climbed by 4.6 per cent, well above Europe’s average growth rate of around 3.9 per cent. Spain, however, remains the most popular worldwide destination for European travellers, with five million more visits than Germany.
Just under three-quarters of overnight stays in Germany were by visitors from other European countries. The Dutch accounted for almost 11 million of those overnight stays, making the Netherlands Germany’s largest source of tourism. Arrivals from the United Kingdom, by comparison, registered around 5.2 million overnight stays, up 254,989 from the preceding year.
Germany’s Overseas Tourism Market
For the first time, Chinese visitors accounted for more than two million overnight stays in Germany. With a growth of 20.6 per cent year on year, arrivals from the Arabian Gulf States remained just short of the two million mark. However, the USA remains Germany’s largest overseas market, with 5.2 million stays by Americans during 2014, a rise of around five per cent on 2013.
In 2014 tourism contributed 4.4 per cent to Germany’s Gross Domestic Product in 2014. Remarkably, that’s around double the input made by the country’s automotive industry. It’s estimated that €278.3 billion was spent by people on day trips and hotel stays last year, resulting in the direct employment of 2.9 million people.
Holidays remain the biggest reason for travel to Germany. Approximately 61 per cent of trips made to the country during 2014 were for vacations, compared to 11 per cent for family visits and 27 per cent for business reasons.
Modes of Transport to Germany
Nearly half the visitors spending time in Germany arrived by car while eight per cent also used roads to cross the country’s borders in coaches. Roughly a third of visitors touched down by plane last year, up 5.3 per cent on 2013. With numbers up by 10.8 per cent on 2013, the mode of transport showing the most marked growth was railways. Rail travel brought nine per cent of Germany’s inbound tourists in 2014.
“The secret of Destination Germany is that we have something for every guest,” said the GNTB’s CEO during the press conference.
However, one reason why tourism to Germany is increasing may be the country offers value for money. During 2014 the average cost of a night in Berlin was €89, matching the average room rate (excluding breakfast and taxes) for stays in cities within the European Union. Munich was, on average, the most expensive German city, at €110. This compares to €151 a night for a room in Paris, €157 in London and €211 in Geneva.
Tourism Trends in Germany
Trends indicate that sustainability and barrier-free travel will be growth areas over the years to come while annual themes allow elements of the country’s culture and heritage to be highlighted. During 2015 Germany’s customs and traditions are being showcased. In 2016 holidays in the heart of nature will become the focal point. 2017 – 500 years on since the Protestant Reformation – will result in destinations associated with Martin Luther receiving a greater push.
Berlin registered 12,495,526 overnight stays by foreign visitors in 2014, making it by far the most popular city in the country. Munich followed, with 6,650,914 stays, ahead of Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg and Cologne.
Those cities were hosts during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which proved a turning point in the worldwide perception of Germany as a tourism destination. During the first quarter of 2006, Germany was ranked 19th but is now seventh. Over that same period, the nation’s image as a cultural destination climbed from fifth to first.
The 2014 results were overwhelmingly positive and the future looks good for tourism in Germany.
“Our analysts have predicted further strong growth up to 2030, consistent with modelling done by the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO). Based on an annual increase of 3.5 per cent, there is realistic potential for the number of overnight stays in Germany generated by inbound tourism to reach 121.5 million,” said Ms Hedorfer.
The Free State of Thuringia lies at the geographic centre of Germany and is the home to more than 2,221,000 people.
Thuringia is bordered by five other German states (Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony) and has good rail connections with major cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Munich.
Find out more about Germany and tourism destinations throughout the country on the Germany Travel website.