Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism in Germany generated over EUR 123.8 billion for the economy. The sector directly contributed 4.0% to total GVA and provided over 2.1 million tourism jobs, or 4.7% of total employment in 2019. The impact of COVID-19 saw tourism employment fall to 1.5 million in 2020, or 3.5% of the national workforce. Economic losses for the tourism sector resulting from the COVID-19 crisis are estimated to be EUR 68.7 billion in 2020 and EUR 58.9 billion in 2021.

The recovery of tourism in Germany has been moderate. In 2021 there were 96.8 million tourists (domestic and international), 1.3% lower than in 2020. Of these, 11.7 million were international tourists, and 85.1 million were domestic tourists. International tourists remained 70.5% below 2019 levels, and domestic tourists remained 43.8% down.

In 2021, 266.1 million nights were registered in accommodation establishments. This was an increase of 2.0% compared to 2020. Expectations for the recovery of the German tourism sector to pre-pandemic levels range from 2022 to 2024.

The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action has lead responsibility for tourism policy development. The Minister is supported by the Advisory Council on Tourism Issues which brings together the interests of government, commerce, academia and others. The Commissioner for SMEs and Tourism is responsible for co-ordinating tourism policy within the Federal Government and with the German Parliament, in particular with the Parliamentary Tourism Committee.

The 16 Federal States (Länder) are responsible for developing, shaping and promoting tourism policy. Their ministries are charged with designing, implementing and funding policies to promote local tourism development. Each federal state has a Destination Management Organisation that represents the interests of regional and municipal organisations. Local tourism offices co-ordinate the work of tourism SMEs, promote product design and undertake relevant marketing activities. The Joint Federal/Länder Scheme for the Improvement of Regional Economic Structures (GRW) is the central instrument of the Federal Government’s regional policy. GRW project funding is provided in the form of investments in trade and industry, including the tourism economy, as well as municipal investments in economic infrastructure, including basic infrastructure for tourism (e.g. developing land for tourism and public tourist facilities).

The budgetary funds available to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action for tourism are concentrated on institutional support for the German National Tourist Board (DZT) with a 2022 budget of EUR 39 million. Support for tourism remains a focal point of the Federal Government’s regional policy. The GRW budget set aside for tourism was EUR 1.3 billion for 2016-20, divided evenly between federal and Länder contributions. This funding is invested in both the tourism sector and tourism infrastructure. Compared to 2015-19, this constitutes an average increase of 13%. Financing for tourism in Germany at municipal, regional, and Länder levels comes from various sources; in addition to public funds, revenue is also generated from spa and tourism taxes and bed taxes.

In 2019, Germany adopted principles for a new National Tourism Strategy. This strategy aims to strengthen tourism as a part of the economy and prepare the entire sector for the future. This also answers to the needs of the post-crisis recovery. The principles of the Strategy fed into the development of six goals:

  • Exploit the many different areas of economic potential in tourism, including creating additional employment opportunities in rural areas.

  • Strengthen Germany’s competitiveness as a tourism destination and bolster the tourism sector with a focus on SME development.

  • Create modern, accessible, reliable and sustainable mobility and digital infrastructure that takes account of tourists’ needs and challenges associated with an expected post-crisis tourism increase.

  • Develop quality tourism that flourishes and preserves valuable natural and cultural habitats, providing quality of life for all - whether visitors or residents.

  • Utilise the potential of tourism to boost economic development in other parts of the world and foster peace, tolerance and international understanding.

  • Support tourism development that is environmentally and climate friendly.

The National Tourism Strategy also considers the impact of outbound tourism on developing countries. The Federal Ministry for Co-operation and Development supports over 90 projects in developing countries that contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. COVID-19 has created a need for further robust policy responses that go beyond the principles of the National Tourism Strategy. This has been necessary to strengthen the sector’s resilience, particularly in terms of increasing the competitiveness of SMEs in the sector and supporting future structural changes that are now necessary.

Policy responses include:

  • Promoting projects for digitalisation and sustainability in tourism (e.g. guidance of visitors, avoiding queues at airports or simplified and compliant booking processes).

  • Safeguarding qualified employment by promoting professional training, particularly in the travel and catering sectors.

  • Creating the national platform “Future of Tourism” as the central instrument for the further development of a National Tourism Strategy. The platform will include representatives of the sixteen federal states and stakeholders of the tourism sector early in 2023 (Box 2.6).

  • Continuing further development of online tools offering businesses and others guidance on the funding opportunities relating to tourism promotion and development.

  • Promoting the development of scientific knowledge and know-how with the help of the LIFT Wissen programme initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (see box).

The crisis showed that the safeguarding of tourism jobs is a fundamental requirement. Despite measures like offering short-time work to secure jobs, many qualified employees left for jobs in other sectors and are now being sought to return to help the relaunch of the sector. As a result, Germany provided a package of measures to combat the impact of COVID-19 on companies.

The trend toward nature and outdoor tourism has helped stimulate the development of sustainable offers, which are increasingly in demand by German travellers. Germany is also focusing on further advancements in digitalisation with smart services. Online offers are frequently the first source of information in areas such as art and culture. Destinations also benefit from digital applications in management terms, for example, by guiding visitors to avoid peak times. Additionally, COVID-19 has increased the demand for reliable, digitally delivered information about regulations, hygiene, security and the state of infections in destination areas.

To show economic and environmental issues related to tourism, the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis) compiled the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) for the reporting period 2015-19. The methodological approach of the TSA is making economic and environmental issues associated with tourism visible in the statistical systems of national accounts and environmental-economic accounts.

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