February 24, 2023

Berlin welcomes ITB back home

Finally, ITB Berlin is back in the German capital. Burkhard Kieker, CEO VisitBerlin, discusses the city’s tourism industry and top attractions in an exclusive interview with ITB Berlin News

2022 has been a better year than expected for Berlin with tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy almost back to 2019 levels. For Burkhard Kieker, CEO VisitBerlin, this is because of the”incredible magnetism” Berlin generates.

Berlin has a magnetic attraction, especially for young people and culture seekers. We also cannot forget the city’s nightlife, as we do not have a curfew, which is a rare asset these days. All of these elements have firmly placed Berlin among the top tier European destinations, along with London and Paris.

Why is it relevant for the tourism and travel industry to meet in Berlin at ITB?
ITB Berlin is one of the world’s top events. For me, it is a “camp fire” for the travel and tourism industry because it brings everybody together, to chat and make business deals. After three years of not being able to meet face-to-face, this year’s trade show is even more important, because we are all social animals. We want to meet people in person and ITB Berlin has a long tradition of success in this regard. The Conference programme is also very cutting edge and interesting. This means ITB Berlin is not only where you conclude deals, but also where you learn. This is the right mixture.

ITB Berlin is also an opportunity for people to discover the city. Where would you encourage people to spend a few days in the city ? What can they look forward to doing?
What I really recommend is the photo gallery C-O Berlin, next to the station Bahnhof Zoo. It shows photos from all across the world. A few meters away is the Helmut Newton museum of photography. During ITB Berlin, if you want to have see a theatre show, you should visit the Friedrichstadt Palast, the biggest stage in the world. They have a magnificent show of dance, theatre and acrobatics. You do not need to speak German to enjoy this great Las Vegas-style entertainment. Or if you are feeling a little tired after your day at ITB, have a drink and dinner at Bar Tausend [Schiffbauerdamm 11]. The place is easy to find, under the rail tracks at Friedrichstrasse. It offers a real 1920s experience and was even featured in the series “Babylon Berlin”. Or if you are looking for outstanding world cuisine, try some of the various restaurants between Kantstrasse and Kurfürstendamm….I could spend the next three hours recommending places!

For me, (ITB Berlin) is a “camp fire” for the travel and tourism industry because it brings everybody together

How about the performance of the tourism industry for Berlin in 2022?
We are very happy with the performance. We were among the last places to open up due to government restrictions. When we opened at the end of April, it was like when a department store opens its doors during the sales and everybody is pushing in. In weeks, we were almost back to the level of 2019. We expected to have a good restart but we were surprised to have one of the best restarts together with Barcelona and New York, in terms of visitor numbers and hotel occupancy rates. When you are closed and open up again, it’s like being the director of a theatre show, you never know if people are still interested. So to actually see people kick down the doors to get in, is a very nice feeling!

What would you expect of 2023?
Concerning congresses and meetings, I would say it is the last year on the path to recovery. We need to gain momentum if we are to exceed 2019 levels. Overall, we were 20% under 2019 numbers last year, and this year, I think we will be back at the same level as 2019. That means 30 to 34 million overnights. The city is already well booked concerning congresses. It can even be hard to find venues. Berlin is in full swing again…

Is reopening also a way to look at a new approach to welcome people?
For me, sustainability is not a new hot thing, it is a commodity. I think everybody expects us to be sustainable, to reduce carbon footprint as fast as possible. But never forget, the lowest carbon footprint is when travel does not take place. What we saw in Europe is that despite pandemics and a war, people are still travelling because it is a cultural habit. And for visitors at ITB Berlin 2023, I just want to say “Welcome back home”!

hub27 / Stand 303

Photo: © Stephan Widua – unsplash

Berlin tourism in numbers

Berlin tourism recovered to 75% of 2019 levels in 2022. According to provisory data running from January to November, the German capital welcomed 9.57 million visitors, up 105.1% over 2021 and still 25% down compared to the same period of 2019. From that number, 3.17 million came from abroad, Europe representing the largest share with 75% of all international arrivals. Overnights reached 24.41 million of which 9.21 were generated by international markets. Top international overnights markets in 2022 were the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and France. Only three countries generated a number of overnights superior at 2019 figures: Lithuania at +10.3%; Polen at +8.3% and the Czech Republic at +3.4%.

Berlin culture and tourism go hand in hand

Some 170 museums, 150 theatres and play stages including three opera houses. Berlin is one of the world’s most important metropolises when looking at art and culture. Covid took a heavy toll on the city’s cultural life, but it also revealed an interesting element – the need to have tourists. “Cultural institutions effectively learned how heavily they depended on international guests. They represent between 60% and 90% of the total audience in the opera, theatre or museum. Lots of institutions would not exist if we did not have guests from abroad. Many realised it, and it brought the tourism and culture sectors closer together.

Photo: © Stefan Widua – unsplash