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The tourism geography of Austria, Germany and Switzerland

The tourism geography of Austria, Germany and Switzerland

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Apart from Germany’s short North Sea and Baltic coasts, the area under consideration

in this chapter is landlocked. Three major physical regions can be identified:

The North German Plain and the coast are of relatively limited importance for


The Central Uplands, which include areas such as the Rhineland and the Harz

Mountains in Germany, the Mittelland plateau in Switzerland and the Danube

Valley in Austria, are more significant.

The Alpine region is of major importance for international tourism. It includes

most of Austria, half of Switzerland and the south of Bavaria in Germany.

Forests, lakes and mineral springs are major recreational resources in all three


With the exception of the North Sea coast, the region has a continental climate,

with winters getting colder the further one travels east, but also as a result of altitude. In the mountains the climate is bracing, with clean air and brilliant sunshine,

but the weather varies with aspect and altitude and fogs are frequent in some valleys

during the winter. The cold winters bring the snow which made possible the development of winter sports, yet the resorts on the shores of the more southerly lakes

bask in almost Mediterranean temperatures. The Föhn wind frequently blows down

some of the south-facing valleys of the Alps bringing unseasonal warmth and

excessive dryness during the winter months.

Despite their very different historical backgrounds, all three countries are federal

republics, with considerable devolution of powers (including tourism responsibilities) to the states in Germany, provinces in Austria and cantons in Switzerland.

Major population concentrations include the Rühr conurbation of Germany, Vienna

in Austria and in Switzerland, Zurich, though not the capital, is the largest city.

German is the dominant language throughout the region, but in Switzerland,

French, Italian and Romansch are also official languages.

The economies of the three countries are highly developed and industrialized

with a high standard of living and quality of life. This is reflected in the widespread

demand for environmentally sound tourism. Both Germany and Austria are members of the European Union, while Switzerland – in line with its historic tradition of

neutrality – has no political affiliation. A central geographic location and good communications mean that levels of outbound tourism are high in all three countries.

However, high prices do limit the number of inbound tourists. In Austria and

Switzerland the annual holiday entitlement is four weeks or more, and in Germany

entitlement is five or more weeks. In Austria there is a 35–40 hour working week, in

Germany 40 hours is the norm, but in Switzerland working hours are relatively high

and attempts are being made to reduce them.


Austria is a small country with a capital that is larger than might be expected, due

to the historical fact that Vienna ruled the vast Hapsburg Empire until 1918. The

lavishly decorated Baroque churches, monasteries and palaces are part of that heritage. Austrian composers – notably Mozart and Schubert – made an immense

contribution to the world of music and are now celebrated through annual music

festivals. But for most people, the abiding image of Austria is its scenic countryside



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of lakes and mountains, while its reputation as one of the world’s major winter

sports destinations has tended to overshadow the many cultural attractions.

Tourism plays a major role in Austria’s economy, accounting for 5 per cent of the

gross national product. Austria has the benefit of both a summer and a winter season – the winter sports market has grown steadily since the late 1950s and is now

more significant in terms of tourist spending than summer tourism, although it

remains smaller in volume. Skiing helped to restore national pride following the

disaster of two world wars, and ski-racing is a major spectator sport. For many

years Austria was in the top position as a skiing destination, having overtaken

Switzerland in the 1950s, but more recently France has relegated it to second place.

Much of the resort development took place in the years following the Second World

War as part of the reconstruction of Austria’s economy.

Demand for tourism

Domestic and outbound tourism

The travel propensity of Austrians is increasing (over two-thirds of the population

take a holiday) of which domestic holidays account for the majority of trips. There

is a growing move towards taking more than one holiday, particularly in the form

of short breaks to events in Austrian cities, and this is spreading the holiday pattern

away from July and August. Farmhouse stays have been successfully promoted to

encourage tourism throughout the rural areas, but there is still a concentration of

holidays in the Tyrol, creating considerable congestion, with visitors outnumbering

the inhabitants in many villages. Austria is a major generator of international

tourists on a world scale, though the majority of trips are to neighbouring countries,

emphasizing Austria’s favourable location in Europe. The majority of holidays

abroad are to Mediterranean countries – particularly Italy, Greece and Croatia.

Inbound tourism

Austria attracted around 18 million international visitors in the early years of the

twenty-first century, giving Austria a surplus on its travel account. The majority are

on a holiday visit and there is no doubt that proximity to Germany is important to

Austria as that market accounts for well over half of all arrivals. The next two countries, the Netherlands and the UK, are also important sources of tourists but together

only account for a small proportion of overnights. New markets in Eastern Europe,

coupled with marketing initiatives also mean that Austria is receiving an increasing

number of visits from this region. In addition to their proximity, Germans are

attracted to Austria because there is no language barrier, their currencies have similar buying power, and yet Austria, with its more relaxed lifestyle, is sufficiently different from Germany to give a feeling of being in a foreign country. This reliance on

one market does leave Austria vulnerable in times of recession and the concentration

of visits determined by holiday periods in Germany causes congestion at the borders.

In popular holiday areas many resorts become totally geared to the German market.

Supply of tourism


With the German market so dominant, the majority of tourists arrive by car on the

18 000 kilometre road network and experience traffic congestion at the beginning



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and end of the main holiday periods. The tortuous nature of some of the roads

emphasizes the difficulty of transportation in this elongated and mountainous

country, yet the network reaches into the most remote parts, and includes Europe’s

highest road to the summit of the Gross Glockner. There are over 6000 kilometres of

railway including 20 private railway companies, and these are well integrated with

rural bus services reaching the most remote communities.

With six airports of international standard in Austria, this is the main mode of

travel for outbound tourism, although some argue that a restrictive policy on

inbound flights to Vienna in the past has held back the development of the tourist

industry and compounded Austria’s dependence on the German market. On the

other hand Austrian Airlines is expanding its international network, with Vienna as

the hub, in partnership with the charter airline Lauda Air.


The majority of Austria’s bedspaces are in serviced accommodation and except in the

cities, these are mainly small, family-run hotels and guesthouses. The authorities are

improving the quality of accommodation as a means of boosting both domestic and

foreign tourism. Although business travel is relatively unimportant in Austria, the

small conference market is being developed, particularly in Vienna, Linz, Salzburg,

Innsbruck, Graz and Villach, as well as in the larger schlosshotels (castles and palaces

formerly owned by the aristocracy) which have been converted into hotels.


Each of the nine Austrian provinces has responsibility for tourism administered by the

provincial government and a tourist board. At national level tourism is the responsibility of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Promotion of Austria is the responsibility

of the Austrian National Tourist Organization, a joint public/private agency with

funding from the government and the Chamber of Commerce. The organization has

undergone a restructuring to ensure an overtly marketing focus in the face of stagnant

demand from the international market. The tourism authorities in Austria are upgrading tourist infrastructure generally, particularly in the area of sports and facilities for

activity holidays, and extending the network of ski lifts and funiculars. Nevertheless

some resorts (such as Mayrhofen) have halted further development in line with

Austria’s green image and this may have persuaded potential skiers to choose France


Tourism resources

Austria contains 35 per cent of the Alpine area (compared to Switzerland’s 15 per

cent) and the country is famed for its lake and mountain scenery, winter sports facilities and picturesque towns and villages. Trending east–west across the country and

separated by the deep valley of the river Inn, the mountains are Austria’s main

attraction. Here tourism is often the only economic land use and is seen as a remedy

for the problems of a declining agriculture. However, this is not without environmental costs, such as forest hillsides and meadows scarred from ski-lift development

or villages marred by insensitive building.

Each of the Austrian provinces can offer distinctive attractions:

The Tyrol is by far the most popular destination for foreign visitors, containing

the most spectacular Alpine scenery and the greatest number of ski resorts.



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Tyrolean folklore and costumes are the best known of Austria’s traditional

cultures. Most of the resorts have been developed from farming villages situated

in the tributary valleys of the river Inn – the Otztal and Zillertal for example – at

altitudes of between 1000 and 1800 metres. Traditional building styles, based on

the chalet that is well adapted to heavy winter snowfalls, provide a pleasant ambience for holidays. Summer activities in the Tyrol include hiking and gliding, while

most villages are equipped with a swimming pool and facilities for tennis and

other sports. Tourist centres include the following:

᭺ Innsbruck, which is not only the capital of the Tyrol but an important cultural

centre. The many Renaissance buildings are a reminder of its former role as a

summer residence for the Hapsburg emperors. Along with the ski resorts on the

slopes nearby, the city has twice hosted the Winter Olympics.

᭺ St Anton, Kitzbühl, Söll, Seefeld and Mayrhofen are also ski resorts of international significance.

The Vorarlberg to the west of the Arlberg Pass is similar to the Tyrol, but also has

some affinity with neighbouring Switzerland. Lech and Zürs offer up-market

skiing, while Bregenz on the Boden See is a popular lake resort and venue for

music festivals.

The tiny independent principality of Liechtenstein, which is better known as a tax

haven than as a winter sports destination, has strong historical ties to Austria but

uses the same currency as Switzerland.

The province of Salzburg and the Salzkammergut area (so called because of the

historically important salt mining industry) offer gentler lake and mountain

scenery. St Wolfgang is the most popular of the resorts in summer, but its entertainment scene is subdued compared to Söll or Kitzbühl in winter. Other attractions include the Krimml waterfalls in the Hohe Tauern National Park, the

Dachstein ice caves and the spas of Bad Ischl and Bad Gastein.

Domestic tourists mainly favour the forested ‘green province’ of Styria, although

the city of Graz was designated as the ‘European capital of culture’ for 2003 by the

EU Council of Ministers. Carinthia is increasingly popular with foreign visitors as

a summer holiday destination, where the warm sunny climate and lakes such the

Wörther See, offering many facilities for water sports, are the main attractions.

The remaining provinces of Austria, occupying the Danube Valley, are scenically

less attractive, with large areas of lowland supplying most of the country’s agricultural needs. The Burgenland is similar in its steppe landscapes to neighbouring Hungary (to which it historically belonged), while the shallow Neusiedlersee

is an important nature reserve. Both the provinces of Upper and Lower Austria

contain vineyards, monasteries (such as Melk) and castles (such as Dürnstein) and

it is possible for the tourist to see these on a Danube river cruise from Vienna.

Whereas Graz, Linz and Innsbruck are important regional centres, only two of

Austria’s cities – Vienna and Salzburg – attract huge numbers of visitors from all

over the world, thanks to their heritage of music and architecture:

Vienna is full of reminders of its imperial past. These include the monumental

buildings lining the Ringstrasse encircling the old city, and the art treasures

housed in the former palaces of the Hofburg, Belvedere and Schönbrunn. Music

and dance are as much a part of the city’s social and entertainment scene as they

were in the time of the ‘Waltz King’ (Johann Strauss) in the nineteenth century.

The State Opera House and St Stephen’s Cathedral are also part of this musical



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heritage. Although Vienna trades on nostalgia for its tourist appeal, the city is an

efficiently run modern conference venue, with an international role as a United

Nations centre, while geographical location makes it the recognized gateway to

Eastern Europe.

Salzburg has a flourishing tourism industry based on:

᭺ The summer music festival, which was further boosted in 1991 by the Mozart

bicentenary celebrations. During festival time, accommodation in this relatively

small city is at a premium.

᭺ The ‘Sound of Music connection’. Classical music lovers are outnumbered by

those tourists who are attracted to the city and the scenic countryside of lakes

and mountains nearby, through their associations with this popular film.

᭺ Its unique heritage of Baroque architecture – probably unrivalled outside Spain

or Italy – which was brought into being by the powerful Prince–Bishops who

once ruled Salzburg.


Switzerland is poor in natural resources and contains a diversity of languages and

cultures. Yet its people have achieved a degree of political stability and economic

prosperity that is envied by the rest of the world. Swiss industrial products, based

on a high input of skill in relation to the value of the component raw materials, have

an international reputation for quality. Similarly, the country’s scenic attractions –

arguably the most spectacular in Europe – have been intelligently exploited by a

hospitality industry that is renowned for its professionalism. Historically, the country developed as a loose federation of cantons – small mountain states – fighting to

preserve their independence from foreign domination, and in many respects the

cantons still play a more important role in Swiss politics than the federal government in Berne. At the local level the communes also determine tourism planning

and development to a large extent, in line with the Swiss tradition of direct citizen

participation in politics.

Tourism in Switzerland has a long history, and the industry was already well

established in the late nineteenth century. Its development came about as a result of

a number of factors:

From early times, Switzerland was a transit zone for invading armies, merchants and

pilgrims, and later had to be crossed by wealthy travellers undertaking the Grand

Tour. The Swiss were in demand as guides, as there were no serviceable roads and

the Alpine passes were often hazardous. Accommodation was also needed for travellers, the most famous example being the hospice on the St Bernard Pass.

As a result of the Romantic Movement in art and literature at the close of the

eighteenth century, the mountains were no longer seen as a barrier to be feared,

but as a resource to be valued. For example, Byron and Shelley stayed for a considerable time by Lake Geneva, and summer resorts gradually developed for

well-off tourists around other lakes in Switzerland.

From the middle of the nineteenth century the demand for tourism in Switzerland

grew as the result of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe, the improvement

in road and rail communications and the growth of the middle class, particularly

in countries like Britain, where Thomas Cook did much to popularize the country.



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The more adventurous tourists sought the challenges of mountain climbing,

following Whymper’s ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. More remote areas of the

Alps were progressively opened up to tourism with the construction of funicular

and cog railways, and hotels were built at what was then the edge of the Alpine

glaciers, such as the Aletsch.

Although Switzerland had been known for its spas since Roman times, substantial

development of health tourism occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth

centuries as a result of the spread of tuberculosis in the industrial cities of Europe.

The pure mountain air in spas such as St Moritz Bad and Arosa was believed to

provide a remedy for the disease.

Skiing and other winter sports were introduced to St Moritz and the resorts of the

Bernese Oberland by wealthy British tourists at the close of the nineteenth century. At first, the existing mountain railways – now operating year-round – were

used to transport the skiers to the slopes, but as demand grew from the 1930s

onwards, they were largely superseded by faster, more efficient aerial cableways.

International trade had long been important to Swiss cities such as Geneva. The

strict neutrality of Switzerland and its multi-lingual character encouraged the

growth of all kinds of business and conference tourism. Starting with the Red

Cross, Geneva became the venue for many international organizations, while

Zurich is a financial centre of worldwide significance. Berne and Lausanne – the

headquarters respectively of the Universal Postal Union and the Olympic

Committee – also provide important conference functions.

Demand for tourism

Domestic and outbound tourism

The Swiss have one of the highest holiday propensities in the world, with around 75

per cent taking a holiday of at least four nights. Holiday-taking is at its highest

among upper-income groups, the middle-aged and those living in the larger towns

or cities. Demand for domestic tourism has grown in the past five years with the

high frequency of holiday-taking meaning that most domestic holidays are second

or third holidays.

Domestic holidays contrast with those taken abroad as they tend to be winter

sports or mountain holidays, many taken in the months of January to March. Swiss

holidays abroad are concentrated into the summer months of July to September and

the most popular destinations are Italy and France.

Inbound tourism

Demand from foreign visitors to Switzerland has stagnated since the 1990s (although

the travel account remained in surplus) for the following reasons:

the strength of the Swiss franc, which has given Switzerland a reputation as an

expensive country to visit as is reflected in the increasingly short lengths of stay

of foreign visitors

declining levels of service

an old-fashioned image of Switzerland.

As in Austria, Germans account for the majority of visitors. Around 40 per cent of

bednights occur in the winter season (November to April), a figure boosted by the

Swiss participating in winter sports.



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Supply of tourism


The private car dominates travel in both the domestic and foreign travel market. As

in Austria, the transport networks are tortuous and the topography often demands

major engineering feats – the 18 kilometre tunnel under the St Gotthard being an

outstanding example, while the roads over the Alpine passes are spectacular. Even

so, roads in the High Alps are often blocked by snow from November to June. While

the road network brings many remoter parts of the country within reach of day

visitors, this has created congestion in holiday areas. Imposition of tolls may alleviate

this congestion.

The Swiss Federal Railways and the private railway companies operate 5000 kilometres of track (1400 kilometres are narrow-gauge) and there are many mountain

railways, funiculars and rack-and-pinion systems which are often tourist attractions

in themselves. Although the cost is high, tunnels and snowploughs allow the railways

to operate throughout the year.

There are three international airports – at Zurich, Geneva and Basle. Swissair – the

former national airline – was a casualty in the wake of 9/11, and was replaced by

Swiss International Air Lines, financed by the private sector. Other features of the

Swiss transport system, which is highly integrated, include the postal coaches –

which penetrate the remotest villages – bicycle hire at many rail stations, and lake



The development of accommodation since the 1970s has led to an excess of supply

over demand. About a third of the serviced accommodation capacity is only available in the winter season, particularly in the high ski resorts (such as St Moritz and

Arosa). Most hotels are small with the few larger hotels found mainly in Zurich and

Geneva. Hotels and holiday chalets (mainly catering for groups of skiers) are highly

dependent on foreign labour. ‘Supplementary accommodation’, including holiday

chalets, apartments, holiday villages and camping/caravan sites, provide a lowercost alternative to hotels for foreign visitors, but they are also popular with domestic



In the face of declining international demand for Switzerland in the 1990s, the Swiss

National Tourism Organization was renamed ‘Switzerland Tourism’ in 1995 and

underwent restructuring and a refocusing of priorities. It is responsible to the

Federal Department of Public Economy and formulates and implements national

tourism policy. Switzerland’s maturity as a destination is reflected in the long tradition of tourist associations and information services at local and regional levels.

There are also many specialist organizations such as the Swiss Travel Bank that was

founded to give less privileged workers the chance to go on holiday.

Tourism resources

The most popular area is the Alpine zone, attracting over half of all visitor arrivals.

Here lie the majestic snow-capped peaks, glaciated valleys and winter sports developments that are Switzerland’s trademark. However, tourist development has



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placed pressures upon the society and environment of the area and the integration

of tourism into the agricultural and forest economies has needed sensitive handling.

Each of the Swiss cantons has its own range of attractions, but several major

tourist areas stand out.

The Bernese Oberland The most spectacular Alpine scenery is found here, south

of the lake resort of Interlaken. An excellent network of funicular railways and cableways provides access to the snowfields and glaciers, the most famous ascending the

slopes of the Jungfrau and Eiger. At Lauterbrunnen there is a classic example of a

glaciated valley with spectacular waterfalls. Long popular with British tourists, the

area preserves Swiss rural traditions and at the same time has some of the most

sophisticated ski resorts in Europe, notably Gstaad, Wengen and Grindelwald.

The Valais This includes the upper Rhone valley as far as the Simplon Pass and

a number of small historic towns. The most well-known resort is Zermatt, with its

views of the Matterhorn, but the most popular ski area is Crans-Montana, where

considerable development has taken place.

Lake Lucerne and the Forest Cantons The fjord-like Lake Lucerne is arguably

the most beautiful body of inland water in Europe. The cantons around it, especially Schwyz, are historically important as the cradle of Swiss independence.

Lucerne is a picturesque city, famous for its medieval Chapel Bridge.

The Grisons In some respects this is the most traditional part of Switzerland. In

the villages of the Engadine Valley the Romansch language is still spoken and a

pastoral type of rural economy persists, protected by government subsidy. This

canton also contains the Swiss National Park where endangered alpine species

such as the chamois are protected. In contrast are the number of spas and ski

resorts catering mainly for wealthy tourists, the most famous being St Moritz,

Davos and Klosters.

Lake Geneva This French-speaking area attracts a wealthy international clientele to its schools, the festival resort of Montreux and the shopping and nightlife

of Geneva. This city’s role as a United Nations centre is showcased by the Palais

des Nations.

The Ticino The Italian-speaking Ticino enjoys the warmest climate in Switzerland

due to its sheltered location and the moderating effect of Lakes Lugano and

Maggiore. The landscape has Mediterranean features such as palm trees, lemon

orchards and colourful towns and villages. Travellers from northern Europe appreciate the contrast most in early spring, when they emerge from the cold and gloomy

weather prevailing north of the St Gotthard into the warm sunshine of the Ticino

Valley. Locarno, Lugano and Ascona are important holiday resorts and major conference venues.

The Mittelland Most of the Swiss population lives outside the Alps in the

plateau region to the north and west, and the important industries are located in

the Basle–Winterthur–Zurich triangle. Basle on the Rhine has a historic university

and is a major cultural centre, while Zurich contains the Swiss National Museum,

but Berne is probably the most interesting city from a tourist viewpoint. The

picturesque old town, with its medieval shopping arcades and Clock Tower, is a

World Heritage Site.

The Jura The western boundary of Switzerland lies along the forested Jura

Mountains. Less spectacular than the Alps, this region accounts for only a small

percentage of tourist overnights. The small towns of the region, such as Les Chaux

de Fonds, are noted for traditional Swiss crafts such as watchmaking.



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Unlike Austria or Switzerland, Germany lacks a well-defined tourism image, with

many people regarding it as a destination for business rather than holiday travel.

This is not surprising as Germany is the world’s third largest economy. Yet the

country is well endowed with a variety of beautiful scenery and cultural attractions,

particularly those based on music and the applied arts and sciences. The Cold War

political division of Germany between East and West has tended to obscure the

long-standing physical and cultural differences between the Protestant northern

part of the country and the predominantly Catholic south and west. Regional differences are also a legacy of the time, prior to the nineteenth century, when

Germany was a patchwork of small, virtually independent states forming part of

the so-called Holy Roman Empire. As a result Berlin has strong rivals in several

other major cities, which act as world class cultural and business centres.

The development of tourism in Germany has also been complicated by the fact

that from 1945 to 1990 the country was divided, along with the city of Berlin. The

two Germanies that resulted from this division had widely differing political and

economic structures, and a continuing legacy:

West Germany, officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany or BRD,

prospered under a democratic style of government and a free market economy.

East Germany, officially called the German Democratic Republic or DDR, was

compelled by its Soviet masters to adopt Communism and a centralized command economy. Tourist enterprises such as hotels were nationalized and the

whole industry was subject to state control. East Germans were discouraged from

visiting other countries, with the exception of those in the Eastern bloc, such as

Romania and Hungary. Visits from West Germans were virtually prohibited while

tourism from other Western countries was subject to many restrictions.

This structure changed rapidly after 1989 with the removal of the Berlin Wall and

the reunification of Germany a year later. This meant that Germany could offer a

range of new tourism products and domestic markets for tourism. For example,

there has been a flood of West German tourists into East Germany, attracted by the

low cost of accommodation. East Germans now have the freedom to travel abroad,

but it will be some time before they have the financial resources to do so in large

numbers. The economy of the former DDR was badly depressed because it was

based on industries that could not compete with foreign products without the protection of state subsidies, a pattern repeated in other countries of the former Eastern

bloc (see Chapter 18). The cost of reunification also contributed to the downturn in

the German economy as a whole after the late 1990s. The former West Germany

comprises 80 per cent of the population, and dominates both tourism supply and

demand in the new Germany.

Demand for tourism

Domestic tourism

The Germans have been amongst the world’s greatest spenders on travel and

tourism for many years and they attach great importance to their annual holiday, even

in times of recession. Generous holiday entitlement means that travel frequencies



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are high and holiday propensities reach almost 75 per cent, though this does vary

according to age, socioeconomic status and place of residence. Residents of the

former East Germany also have high holiday propensities but these are still mainly

expressed in domestic trips. The domestic market accounts for the great majority of

bednights and so dominates the industry. Domestic holidays are particularly concentrated into the summer months and in the south of Germany and on the coast.

Business travel is important in the domestic market. Germans are very healthconscious and over 200 spa resorts based on abundant mineral springs have long

been developed to meet this demand. These cater for a wide cross-section of the

population, and have been supported by generous state-sponsored health insurance

schemes. Most spas are located in the uplands of the Mittelgebirge in the central

part of the country. Hiking is popular and Germany was the first country to provide

a nationwide network of youth hostels. Since the 1980s there has been considerable

investment in theme parks and other purpose-built visitor attractions, such as

the Bremen Space Centre.

Outbound tourism

Germany was for many years the most important generator of international tourists

in the world until the 1990s, when it was overtaken by the USA. Around two-thirds

of all holidays are taken abroad, and the majority of trips are to Mediterranean

countries (particularly Italy and Spain) and to neighbouring Austria. Many trips are

package tours sold by the highly organized travel industry that has grown up to

meet the demand for holidays abroad. Spain is by far the most important package

holiday destination; Germans take roughly the same number of holidays in Spain as

the British, but they are much more likely to take a second holiday in their own

country. Long-haul travel is also important to a wide range of destinations.

Inbound tourism

The high volume of travel abroad keeps Germany’s travel account in considerable

deficit, even though in the early years of the twenty-first century there were around

18 million arrivals. The main countries of origin are Germany’s neighbours – now

more numerous as a result of reunification – and excursionists form a significant

tourism flow into Germany. Generally, average lengths of stay are short – around

two days – and this does mean that foreign visitors contribute only a small percentage

of the bednights in the country. Business travel is important in the inbound market,

exceeding the volume of holiday traffic from abroad.

Supply of tourism


The car is the most important form of tourist transport. The road network is excellent with autobahns (high-speed motorways) and also specially designed scenic

routes for visitors. A major problem is seasonal congestion both en route to, and in,

the popular holiday areas. Rail travel is the second most popular form of travel, with

promotional fares and inclusive package holidays available; plans for a high-speed

train network (ICE) are well advanced. The larger cities have a fully integrated

public transport system of trams, buses, ‘U’ Bahn (underground), and ‘S’ Bahn (fast

suburban trains).



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Air travel is served by ten international airports, all well connected by rail with

the urban areas they serve. The national carrier, Lufthansa, is based at the main gateway and hub at Frankfurt. Tourists arriving by sea can use ferries from Harwich to

Hamburg, from Trelleborg in Sweden to Sassnitz, and from Roby Havn in Denmark

to Puttgarten. Cruises are also popular on the Rhine and the other major rivers, the

canals that link these natural waterways and on the Boden See (Lake Constance).


Domestic business travellers and most foreign visitors are accommodated in hotels

in towns and cities. Demand for self-catering accommodation exceeds supply, as

does that for most types of accommodation in the peak season. There is a concentration of hotels and guesthouses serving the holiday market in Bavaria and BadenWürttemburg, and a shortage of accommodation throughout most of the former

DDR, although many hotel chains are now developing properties in this part of

Germany. Holiday parks (groups of chalets around a pool and other leisure facilities)

are popular with German families.


Tourism in Germany suffers from a long history of having no representation at

senior level in the federal government. Tourism responsibilities are in the hands of

the länder (states) who have considerable independence to promote and develop

tourism but this does result in considerable fragmentation. There is, for example, no

national tourism policy as tourism is low on the list of government economic priorities and little federal aid is available for the industry; this is mainly used to boost

accommodation in less-developed areas and to stimulate farm tourism. The states

provide funds for both upgrading accommodation and for season-extension developments (such as indoor swimming pools) in resorts.

The German National Tourist Board (Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus – DZT) is

the major marketing agency for Germany, with responsibilities for both domestic

and international promotion. It is mainly financed by the federal government and

aims to boost visitor arrivals and revenue, and to reposition Germany as a multifaceted, attractive destination.

Tourism resources

Each of the sixteen länder has a historical identity, but they vary greatly in size and

tourism potential. For example the Saarland and Schleswig–Holstein compare

unfavourably with Bavaria’s scenic variety. Germany’s cities on the other hand

have world-class facilities for music and the performing arts. These will become

more prominent in the tourism sector, as the generous state subsidies to cultural

institutions have been scaled down owing to the stagnation of the economy.

Northern Germany

This region includes the states of Schleswig–Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hamburg,

Bremen, along with Mecklenburg–West Pomerania in the former DDR. In this part

of Germany the main tourist attractions are found on or near the coast. Inland, there

are large areas of forest, heathland, and lakes – such as those of Holstein and

Mecklenburg, providing some variety in the otherwise featureless expanse of the

North European Plain. The North Sea is colder and rougher than the Baltic, and the

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The tourism geography of Austria, Germany and Switzerland

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