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Germany’s latest tourism accolade

Travel guide publisher Lonely Planet has announced its influential top ten list of countries to visit in 2019. Number one is Sri Lanka, still enjoying the big boom in tourism that followed on from the end of the civil war. Number two is….. Germany, which will definitely come as a surprise to some, given that it doesn’t have a particularly sunny climate, nor does it have substantial beach tourism, both of which are usually pre-requisites of popular tourist destinations.

No doubt there’ll be some commentators who will say that Germany, already a sophisticated, wealthy country, doesn’t need such an accolade. The likes of Sri Lanka, where many people are still living in substantial poverty, make more worthy recipients.

So why now? Why has Germany been recognised this time round? Lonely Planet justifies its choice by picking out the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus movement, which will be celebrated next year, particularly in Weimar, the epicentre of everything Bauhausian.

I would suggest, however, that a slightly obscure (as far as most of the world is concerned) movement in architecture and design is not the whole story, but just the last bit of heat that finally brought the kettle to the boil.

Germany’s recent resurgence as a tourism destination properly began back in 2006, when it hosted the World Cup. The press descended on the host cities, as did huge numbers of people who wouldn’t normally choose to visit Germany, and they found a destination that conformed to the stereotype of efficiency, but was also hospitable, good looking and good value.

That, combined with the enormous success of Berlin as a trendy post-Wall citybreak destination, gave visitor numbers a healthy boost. Since then two other major factors have chimed in: the boom in river cruising (Germany has three of the greatest cruise rivers, the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe), and the steady rise of tourism to Christmas markets. Both have introduced travellers to the sort of German towns which weren’t massively damaged by bombs in World War II.

Quite what effect the Lonely Planet nomination will have remains to be seen, of course, but Germany’s tourism figures have been rising inexorably, year by year, for the last decade, so that direction of travel will certainly continue.

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