The Chinese Are Coming
Germany banks on new tourist groups
TWIG - Germany is gaining ground as a tourist destination as the Chinese business elite discovers the country’s upscale boutiques and English vacationers weary of France turn increasingly to the country’s efficient tourist infrastructure.
Just over a year after the SARS epidemic froze travel into and out of China, travelers from the country are back full force - and they are heading west to Germany in record numbers.
Germany was the first European country to be awarded Authorized Destination Status (ADS) by the Chinese government, giving it a jump ahead of its European neighbors in winning over Chinese tourists. Now, they are the third largest tourist nationality from abroad, a fact increasingly being recognized by the German tourist industry.
More than 600,000 nights in German hotels will be booked by Chinese tourists and business travelers this year alone, according to the German Center for Tourism (DZT). And many of these visitors, riding on the tails of a booming Chinese economy, are coming with full pockets and plans to hit the stores.
This year, the Chinese will spend more per capita while in Germany than travelers from any other country except for Russia, which has long held the top spot as a top consumer group.
Frankfurt is by far the favorite landing point for Chinese traveling to Germany on business. The city - playfully dubbed "Mainhattan" for its strategic location on the Main River - is home to the country’s largest airport and the European Central Bank.
In the city’s upscale promenade on Goethestrasse, the world’s biggest names in fashion are already setting plans in motion to accommodate these new customers. They hope to cash in on the buying power of the average Chinese tourist, who spends a remarkable 217 Eur on each individual shopping trip in Germany.
"Asian women have a good chance of being hired," Frank Albrecht, the manager of a local perfume store, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. At other stores, many salespeople are already taking lessons in high Mandarin Chinese to afford their new clients, in the least, a welcome in their native tongue.
But unlike other tourist groups, the Chinese seem to be particularly interested in products that have a strong tie to the destinations they visit. Through this logic, perfume must be bought in Paris, clocks in Switzerland. Their taste has German stores racing to stock high-quality German goods such as knives and German leather.
Germany: The New France?
Tourists from China are not the only travelers rediscovering Germany’s attractive mix of old world charm and metropolitan flair. There are signs that Germany’s nascent trendiness as a tourist hub among the Chinese might parlay into a Europe-wide phenomenon - if for entirely different reasons.
A recent article by the Financial Times’ Berlin correspondent Bertrand Benoit even had Germany becoming "the new France," a country where joie de vivre has not yet been unraveled by atrocious prices and the danger of airline strikes.
"There is every reason that Germany should outdo its flashier neighbor," Benoit wrote before comparing the two countries in terms of prices, ambiance, accessibility and the attitudes of populace.
"Germany beats France hands down when it comes to accommodation," he wrote, adding that a land razed by war 60 years ago has just as much to offer as its unspoiled neighbor.
For more information on travel to Germany, visit the site of
the German National Tourist Board.
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