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People are visiting cities again – but this time it’s different

At a virtual round table with tourism managers from Cologne, Frankfurt and Leipzig, lessons learnt from the coronavirus crisis were among the topics discussed

The global pandemic and resultant travel restrictions have seriously affected the travel industry. Images of deserted beaches and promenades in particular are a clear indicator that for the holiday hotel industry the upcoming period will be very difficult and will incur large financial losses. The fact that big cities have also been impacted by a decline in leisure and business travel was highlighted at a virtual round table with tourism managers from Cologne, Frankfurt and Leipzig. According to them, what is needed is more effective lobbying and a new financial model.

A 60 per cent drop in visitors and lost revenues in the order of 2.7 billion euros. Those were the figures given by Dr. Jürgen Martin Amann, managing director of KölnTourismus GmbH, as he looked back at 2020. They were the result of no tourists and business travellers in the metropolis on the Rhine. For Volker Bremer, head of Leipzig Tourismus and Marketing, and Thomas Feda, managing director of Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt/Main, the situation was no different, although it came as no great surprise. Despite being seemingly different these three major cities are very similar. They are characterised by lively trade fair business, large numbers of business travellers and a wide range of cultural attractions.

Nevertheless, along with the other two cities Leipzig had good news too, and was able to strike an important note for the future. “Our marketing efforts have placed an emphasis on the national media and social media channels, thus targeting people locally and motivating them to visit. As a result, we have made up almost entirely for a lack of business travellers by attracting the general public. The city will be well frequented in the weeks to come“, said Bremer. According to Thomas Feda, head of tourism in Frankfurt, it was also important to attract different types of visitors. In addition to promoting well-known advantages for business travellers he wanted to create a master plan to emphasise the city’s cultural highlights. However, he cautioned against overreacting. “There is a sense of optimism now and we are planning events. But we must tread carefully, otherwise we will slip up.”

Amann targeted 2024/25 as the date for returning to pre-2019 levels. Until then he had fewer events scheduled – and at the same time a political goal. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown how important tourism is for cities. Many financial models require self-funding. That does not work. We are hoping that awareness among policymakers will change, and for more effective lobbying.”

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