Berlin Tourismus Marketing (BTM) new head Burkhard Kieker tells to eTN why Berlin should be more resilient than other European cities to the current economic recession. In 2008, Berlin hits an all-time record with a total of 7.91 million arrivals, up by 4.2 percent. Foreign arrivals increased even quicker at 7.8 percent, reaching a market share of 35 percent (2.75 million).
eTN: What changes did you do already implemented since taking office earlier this year?
Burkhard Kieker: My appointment comes in a time of uncertainties, with a crisis which has not reach yet its full impact on tourism. But we had to immediately adapt to this new environment and change the promotional message of Berlin. Rather than focusing on the city’s image, we communicate now on the “value for money” aspect of the city. I am confident that we have sufficient assets to resist better than other European capitals to the economic crisis. Over the last ten years, Berlin has turned into an increasingly popular destination and can now match other large European metropolis.
eTN: What are Berlin’s assets?
Kieker: We are easily reachable by air with one of Europe’s densest network of low cost connections. Over the years, we have earned the reputation of being one of the top cities in Europe for culture, nightlife, art and creation. And many people realize that all of it is available at extremely affordable prices. Among large capital cities in Europe, we are probably the one offering the best value for money.
eTN: How do you capitalize on your image of an affordable city?
Kieker: We just launched the ‘Berlin Calculator’ on our website where people can discover exactly how much they will spend for a day of activities in our capital. The range goes from a ‘0€’ two-day activity to a 1,596 € package for ‘credit-crunched millionaires’! And hotel accommodation can be 30 percent cheaper than major other big cities.
eTN: Do you get more money from the city government and which markets will you target with this additional budget?
Kieker: Politicians here understand that helping tourism is an effective and quick medicine to sustain employment in the city. We got more money this year from the Berlin government. However, I can’t tell you how much. Campaigns will mostly target domestic and European markets such as the UK, Italy or Spain. But we still continue to invest in overseas markets as we see growth potential for the future. We will then conduct promotion campaigns in the USA, China and India and also support MICE activities.
eTN: Is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall a major element in your promotion strategy?
Kieker: Of course, the end of the Berlin Wall and –not to forget- the Peaceful Revolution which brought down the GDR regime. The event already generates a big interest from most markets as it is perceived as it marked the end of the Cold War in Europe. Enquiries from journalists are already reaching us as an example. We have created a walk trail along the old border, an electronic guiding tour as well as a dedicated website, www.mauerfall09.de. Many exhibitions will also be organized such as an Open-Air Exhibition about the Peaceful Revolution and a Festival of Freedom at the Brandenburg Gate from 7 to 9 November. Another important event for tourism is the World Championship in Athletics (IAAF) organized from August 15 to 23.
eTN: How do you forecast Berlin tourism’s evolution for this year?
Kieker: It is difficult to give an exact forecast but we will definitely do better than many other European metropolis. I hope we will receive at least the same number of arrivals than in 2008. Arrivals in January were up by over 4 percent and over 7 percent for overnights. And February ran well according to hoteliers.