Berlin: The Third Most Visited City in Europe

The first time I read about Berlin was when I was in high school. Being an African and a Zimbabwean, our school curriculum put great emphasis on the colonization of Africa. So we learned the 1884 Berlin Conference called by Otto von Bismarck, the then Chancellor of Germany, is part of the African history as it led to the partitioning of the continent as European countries compete for power. This was the first time I read about Berlin. With this in mind, I thought that Berlin was a medieval city with ancient buildings. After visiting the city several years later, I have discovered how wrong I was!

The city was reconstructed after World War Two because most of the buildings were destroyed by the allies during the war. This has given Berlin a fresh and young look compared to other, older, European capital cities, and one of the reasons it is so popular with tourists. Berlin is a city evolving in real time; it is constantly undergoing face lifts as evidenced by cranes and manpower working all over the city.

Berlin is a fascinating city, rich in history and culture. The city with just over 3 million inhabitants receives droves of tourists everyday. In fact, it is the third most visited city in Europe just behind London and Paris.

Rewind to twenty years ago, the city sat on the periphery of Europe’s tourism industry; it was not even ranked among the top ten. The tourism boom has made it one of the most visited cities in the world .It is common to see sightseeing buses roaming the streets with people taking photos all day long. It is also common to see people carrying their backpacks, clutching maps as they satiate their need to explore Berlin. A step or two on, one bumps into a tour guide explaining one or two things to a group of students who have visited Berlin.

Everything here is a tourist attraction. Food, museums, architecture and culture draw people from across the globe. In addition to European visitors, tourists are increasingly coming from Asia too.

I am from the mainland China. I came here as a tourist. We are a group of twelve and so far our experience have been amazing, said Choiping Xian, a woman in her mid-20s, scrambling to take the picture of the Bundestag, Germany’s Parliament Building.

Like most of the buildings in Berlin, the architecture of the building is impressive. Works from different artists from Britain, USA, France and Russia are on display. Just over the road sit the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Museum where a sombre atmosphere engulfs a British couple as they read texts of some of the victims on display.

I really wanted to visit this place because it is one of the largest holocaust memorial museums in the world. I am just happy that the Germans acknowledge that indeed this happened and they don’t want a repeat of this.

The increase in number of tourists did not happen over night. According to Christian Tanzler, the spokesperson of Berlin’s Tourismus Kongress, a company that promotes tourism in Berlin, it took years of careful planning and hard work to reach 11 million guests who visit the Germany capital every year.

We are now experiencing a tourism boom. It did not happen overnight. In 1990, after the reunification of Berlin, we only have 3 million guests. We had an average of 30,000 beds taken every night but now we have an average of 140,000 per night. Tanzler said Berlin was a tourist hotspot because of its history.

The city was divided for 28 years and when the wall collapsed, there was a surge in tourism. So special history plays a pivotal part in the number of tourists, he added. 

The Berlin Tourismus Kongress, the sole company that is in charge of tourism in Berlin is a public- private partnership. It is a consortium of hotel operators, transport operators, travel agencies, the government and the City of Berlin.

We have 43 offices worldwide, we stage festivals and music concert to promote Berlin. We also have partnerships in other cities, said Tanzler. 

The transport network system, a nightmare in cities like Rome or Budapest, is convenient for tourists as it is reliable and runs all night over the weekends.

Our transport system is effective. We have a ticket system that enables a person to use all forms of public transport. The transport is available all the days of the week, said Tanzler

Tanzler, who has been in the tourism business for more than 20 years said Berlin was cheap compared to other cities.

Most of Berlin’s international tourists come from Britain and other European countries, though the US also has a significant figure in the number of arrivals. However, most of Berlin’s tourists are Germans consisting about 53% of the total arrivals. This means that despite appearances, domestic tourism is very vibrant in Germany, and suggests that Germans are as intrigued as foreigners about the city’s complex history.

Will Berlin be the most visited city in world? Only time will tell.

By Problem Masau

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