By Ron Bernthal
With Germany’s reunification on October 3, 1990, Berlin was reinstated as Germany’s united capital city. The five states of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Extensively restored historic towns and cities became popular travel destinations, as well as places renowned for sustainability, originality, culture, nature, UNESCO sites, art, and art history. According to a study by IPK International’s World Travel Monitor for 2019, Germany became the number one culture destination for Europeans.
On October 3, 2020, all of Germany will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the German reunification. The peaceful revolution in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the opening of the internal borders finally led to the unification of Germany. These historic events also provided the opportunity for the German National Tourist Board to market all the cities and towns of the 16 federal states in Germany as one, unified entity.
Shortly after reunification, 31.3 million international overnight stays were counted in the Federal Republic, and in the former GDR, including Berlin, 3.4 million overnight stays were recorded. By 2019, incoming tourism to Germany had increased to 89.9 million overnight stays.
Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), recognizes the events of 1989/90 as a milestone for the successful development of incoming tourism in the following years: “The success of the reunification is particularly reflected in the immense growth of the new states, including Berlin,” said Hedorfer.
In Berlin, the number of overnight stays by tourists has risen by 6.2 times over the last three decades, reaching 21.1 million. Simultaneously, the share of the new states in incoming tourism for all of Germany has more than doubled from about 10% at the beginning of the 1990’s to 23%. In particular, extensively restored historic cities have become popular travel destinations, such as Saxony’s capital Dresden, which recorded 960,000 overnight stays from abroad last year, and nearby Leipzig, with more than 500,000 international visitor overnights.
However, the Corona pandemic in the anniversary year 2020 represents a rare setback in Germany’s incoming tourism success story. According to an analysis by Tourism Economics, the number of overnight stays in Germany is expected to fall by at least 51.1%, as compared to the previous year, to 44.1 million in 2020. This number is roughly identical with the statistics from 2004.
“According to the recovery scenarios of Tourism Economics, we can return to the level of 2019 for incoming tourism by 2023,” said Hedorfer. “With our strong tourism offers in all 16 Federal states, and Germany’s excellent positioning as a travel destination in the international competition, we are confident that we will meet this challenge and emerge stronger from the crisis.”