Germans like to travel. In their own country as well, indeed especially there. After all, for years now the Alps, the coasts, the North German lakes, nature reserves, and river valleys have headed the list of destinations. Germans have long since shared a passion for the diversity of the countryside, and for sightseeing, sport and relaxation options with a continually growing flow of visitors and tourists from abroad. Germany has for years been gaining popularity as a tourist destination.
In 2014, the number of overnights rose to 424 million; guests from abroad accounted for 75.6 million (17.8 percent), which was a record. The positive trend in tourism to Germany began immediately after German Reunification back in 1990 and has since led to a steady rise in the number of overnight stays by foreign guests – by around 88 percent or 33.7 million. A good 75 percent of all foreign guests come from Europe, primarily from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Italy.
At the same time the number of visitors from Asian countries, particularly China and India, as well as from the Arab Gulf States is rising twice as fast, and they now account for over 11 percent of the total. Almost 10 percent of foreign guests come from North and South America. In Europe, since 2010 Germany has been second in the league of most popular destinations among Europeans – after Spain and ahead of France. Seasonal distribution reveals peak figures from June to October during the high season, and regional distribution very high numbers for Bavaria, Berlin, and Baden-Württemberg. Germany is an attractive country to visit for young people aged between 15 and 34, who contribute to the positive trend in tourism.
A successful trade fair and congress centre
In 2014, for the 11th time in a row, Germany maintained its position as the no. 1 conference and congress centre in Europe. In the international congress centre rankings Germany is in second place behind the USA. Every year 2.7 million guests from Europe alone come to trade fairs in Germany, which is regarded as the most important trade fair location. In 2014, a total of 25.6 million international participants attended events in Germany. In particular the “magic cities” of Berlin, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Hanover, Leipzig, Cologne, Munich, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart are the magnets for foreign guests. First and foremost among them is Berlin, which in 2014 recorded 11.9 million visitors, and some 28.7 million overnights. In terms of absolute figures for overnight stays the city is in third place in Europe after London and Paris.
According to a survey conducted by the German National Tourist Board the top international visitor attractions include classics such as Neuschwanstein Castle and Cologne Cathedral. The numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, among them Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam and Classical Weimar, are also popular. In addition, events such as the Oktoberfest in Munich, with around 6.3 million visitors the world’s biggest public festival, also attract visitors. A football stadium is also on the list of tourist magnets: the Allianz Arena, a masterpiece by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, and the Bayern Munich home ground.
Like culture, movement in general plays a big role in Germany’s appeal. Around 200,000 kilometres long, the network of hiking trails alone offers extremely good conditions and magnificent views, for example on routes through the national parks or against the backdrop of the magnificent Alps. On top of this there are more than 200 well-established long-distance cycle trails covering 70,000 kilometres, for example the Iron Curtain Trail (1,131 kilometres) or the 818-kilometre long German Limes Cycle Route. Those looking for a cheap night’s accommodation will find plenty of opportunities, for example in one of the 500 youth hostels, 130 of which are family youth hostels, or on one of the 2,870 campsites.
Feel-good holidays and environmentally friendly travel
Wellness is an important topic in Germany. It includes such unusual features as the river sauna in the Emser Therme thermal complex, as well as the numerous feel-good facilities in spa resorts such as Bad Wörishofen and Bad Oeynhausen, with its Wilhelminian-era architecture. In Germany, there are a total of 253 spa resorts, which use a label recognised by the “Deutscher Heilbäderverband”, the German Association of Spa Resorts. The quality of the medical treatment and support also attracts numerous guests to Germany.
Ever more frequently, travellers are not only taking care of their own wellbeing, but are also paying attention to the environment. In Germany, the demand for ecological tourism and sustainable travel is growing. Organic farms offer holiday rooms, there are 104 nature parks and 15 biosphere reserves, in which great importance is attached to sustainable development and biodiversity. In order for everyone to be able to move around easily in Germany countless initiatives ensure that the disabled too can travel without hindrance.
Attractive tourist destinations in the former East Germany
The five federal states that formerly made up East Germany play a major role in tourism. After Reunification, tourism proved to be an opportunity for many regions in eastern Germany to put themselves on a sound economic footing. Areas of countryside such as the Spreewald biosphere reserve, cultural centres with long-standing traditions such as Dresden and Weimar, and Baltic seaside resorts such as Binz on the island of Rügen attract tourists from Germany and abroad.
Since 1993, the number of overnight stays in eastern Germany has more than doubled. With over four million, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north east is almost on a par with the state of Bavaria in the south when it comes to holiday trips of more than five days’ duration. No matter how much one has already seen – as a travel destination Germany still has more to discover, experience, celebrate and marvel.