During a recent media discussion, Romit Theophilus, Director of the German National Tourist Office in India, along with Georg Enzweiler, Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy, share insights on the post-pandemic developments; numbers reflect a great rebound with 70-80 per cent overnight stay projections for 2023.
– Vartik Sethi
At the outset, Theophilus highlighted the extensive global network of the German National Tourist Office, which boasts 25 agencies covering more than 41 countries, facilitating and enhancing their tourism efforts. In India, the office is located in Delhi, with Theophilus and his team at the helm. The media interaction proudly revealed that the German National Tourist Board achieved the esteemed Green Globe certification for the 2022-2023 period, symbolising its commitment to sustainability. This achievement was particularly notable as they secured the highest standard, positioning them as a platinum member within the Green Globe community. The optimism resonating in the industry was palpable, with Theophilus expressing excitement for the upcoming year after the substantial progress made in 2022.
The travel volume to Germany is on a remarkable rebound, almost reaching pre-pandemic levels. The occupancy rates in hotels have surged, and the ambiance in Germany is a reflection of hope, gratitude, and joy. The media interaction provided insights into the significant increase in overnight stays, highlighting that although the figure for 2022 was 65 per cent of the 2019 level, the trajectory in 2023 appears promising, with projections ranging from 70 per cent to 80 per cent compared to 2019.
Diversified Travel Trends
The travel landscape has evolved, with a shift from predominantly business trips to a balanced mix of business and leisure travel. Theophilus noted that 52 per cent of travellers are now embarking on holiday trips, while the significance of visiting friends and relatives (VFR) has grown to 9 per cent. The types of trips have also diversified, with 39 per cent being city trips and 17 per cent round trips. Notably, the booking behavior trends have shown 87 per cent of travellers book online, while 43 per cent prefer the guidance of travel advisors, tour operators, or travel agents, and 29 per cent opt for direct bookings.
Addressing Visa Rejections
The discussion also delved into the issue of visa rejections and the impact they can have on travellers. Georg Enzweiler, Deputy Head of Mission, German Embassy, acknowledged that the popularity of Germany as a destination has led to an increase in visa applications, which, in turn, has contributed to a higher volume of rejections. He affirmed the embassy’s commitment to ensuring deserving applicants receive their visas, aiming to prevent unfortunate cases where travellers invest time and money into bookings only to face visa denials.
The issue of Schengen visa rejections, especially among luxury travellers, was addressed, acknowledging the negative implications such rejections can have on the perception of both Germany and the Schengen area as a whole. Enzweiler acknowledged visa processing improvements, affirming, “We hope to get better… we are optimistic that we will be able to do so.” Together, their endeavours aim to establish Germany as an accessible and sustainable destination, offering enriched travel experiences for Indian tourists.
Enzweiler highlighted efforts to expedite visa processing times. Through measures such as a considerable staff increase in Mumbai, waiting periods were notably reduced. The waiting time had reached around eight weeks, showcasing substantial progress. He further conveyed optimism about achieving further improvements in the embassy’s pursuit of enhanced efficiency.
Germany’s Global Perception
Germany’s reputation as a destination has remained strong during and after the pandemic. The nation brand index ranks Germany number one for the sixth consecutive time, emphasising its excellence in categories spanning culture, healthcare, tourism, governance, and more. The media interaction underscored the exceptional value and affordability of Germany as a destination. A comparison of average room prices in Germany with other European destinations highlighted the affordability factor, with Germany ranking significantly lower than its counterparts.
Sustainable and Accessibility Oriented Initiatives
One of the media interaction’s key focuses was Germany’s commitment to sustainable travel. Initiatives like barrier-free travel and accessibility were highlighted, showcasing Germany’s efforts to accommodate travellers with disabilities and ensure their enjoyable experience. The ‘Embrace Germany Nature’ campaign spotlighted the nation’s natural treasures, including national parks, biosphere reserves, and hiking trails, underscoring Germany’s commitment to preserving and sharing its biodiversity. Another campaign showcased the wealth of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany, encompassing historical and modern landmarks.