Published on : Thursday, September 12, 2019
The opening of the border between East and West Germany on 9 November 1989 created opportunities to travel the world more freely – and not just for East Germans. Millions of international tourists could now also explore and experience the natural beauty and the culture of the former GDR. Active holidaymakers love the 200,000 kilometres of well-signposted footpaths and 70,000 kilometres of long-distance cycle routes, as well as a huge variety of things to see and do in the unspoiled beauty of Germany’s low-lying mountain regions. The German Unity cycle trail runs for 1,100 kilometres through seven federal states – from the former West German capital of Bonn through North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hessen, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg to Berlin. Visitors can experience the unique story of reunification at first hand at around 100 historical sites along the way.
Over the intervening thirty years, tourism has become an increasingly important economic factor. It now contributes more than €105 billion to Germany’s economy – around 4 per cent of gross value added – and provides around three million jobs.
In the wake of reunification, tourism infrastructure also benefited from substantial public and private investment in both halves of the country. The ‘German Unity’ transport project saw capital spending in the region of €40 billion in order to bring autobahns, major highways and the rail network up to standard (source: Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, 2016).
National and international hotel companies and many individual entrepreneurs helped to develop hotels and restaurants so that the standard of service and the choice available in the former East Germany is now indistinguishable from that in the old federal states. Today, Destination Germany has more than 20,000 hotels offering 800,000 rooms with almost 1.5 million beds and catering for every need, from price-conscious tourists to travellers demanding the highest standard of service. More than 300 Michelin-starred restaurants in all regions of the country are proof of the excellence of Germany’s high-end cuisine.
The new enlarged Destination Germany includes unique attractions of historical and cultural importance that have been extensively restored in the years since reunification and opened up to international tourists. They include cultural hotspots such as the centre of Dresden with its restored Church of Our Lady and palace containing the treasures from the ‘Green Vault’. In Berlin – the federal capital since 1999 – Museum Island radiates a new-found splendour and the renowned City Palace is currently also undergoing restoration. Leipzig, Halle, Schwerin, Magdeburg and many other towns and cities have vibrant, multi-genre arts scenes that regularly attract culture lovers from all over the world. International visitors also flock to architectural attractions such as the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg.
The cultural highlights in the new federal states are not limited to the big cities. To mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Germany, there has been investment in some of the places in Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia that are most closely associated with Luther, drawing on the latest scientific and academic findings. Modern exhibition centres have been built in Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia in time for the ‘100 years of Bauhaus’ celebrations. Across the whole of Germany, former industrial sites such as those in the Ruhrgebiet now host prestigious cultural events. There are numerous industrial heritage routes that provide a fascinating experience for visitors from all over the world, and UNESCO world heritage sites in all of Germany’s regions. Before 1989, there were eight places in the former West Germany designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Since then, the number of German world heritage sites has ballooned to 46. Fourteen of these important reminders of human and cultural history are in the new federal states.
International sporting events such as the men’s football World Cup in 2006 and the women’s World Cup in 2011 have helped to forge the image of Germany as an open and welcoming holiday destination. The hospitality of the hosts was a major contributory factor, along with the sports infrastructure and state-of-the-art stadiums such as those in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden.
Since 1970, areas of countryside particularly worthy of protection in Germany have been designated as national parks and in the years following German reunification, their number has risen from four to 16. Seven of these are wholly or partly located within the new federal states in eastern Germany.