Vacations with a Cowboy Hat: Vacations in the USA on the Upswing among German Tourists
Berlin – The dollar is cheap, the mood is great: During the travel fair “IBT” in Berlin, broad smiles and laughter were guaranteed when talking to one of the many agents of the offices for US tourism.
After years of decreasing numbers of tourists from “good old Germany”, things are looking up for the Americans: For the first time since the end of the nineties, the number of tourists from Germany is significantly increasing again. In 2007 alone, the number grew by about eight to nine percent, reaching 1.5 million. And it keeps increasing at a constant rate: for 2008, the USA is expecting about 1.58 million German tourists, which would mean an increase of five percent.
It is not only the low exchange rate of the dollar that sparks new interest in the “land of opportunities” – it is also the prospect of a political change. ”America’s image in Germany is changing, the election campaign is observed positively”, states Dörte Buss, New England’s representative in Germany. She furthermore adds that the “German dream about America had been thrust aside by other things in the past years, but is now experiencing a comeback”. Wolfgang Streitbörger, who represents the Southern states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi, even feels that “a dam is breaking right now. An intense longing for the USA has built up and is now finding a new way to express itself.”
This year, not only loyal USA-fans will fly across the Atlantic Ocean, but also many first-time visitors, thinks Rita Halle, the president of the Visit USA Committee Germany (VUSA). Most tourists are likely to visit classical destinations like New York, Florida, California, and the Southwest. Additionally, many frequent flyers will take advantage of new air connections that will take them to places other than the well-known. For example, Lufthansa has just introduced a new connection between Frankfurt/Main and Seattle, “Kranich-Airline” has established a new route from Duesseldorf to Chicago, and KLM/Northwest Airlines tops it off with a one-stop flight to Portland, Oregon.
For many tourists, shopping is the main reason to visit the USA – after all, one Euro is currently valued at 1.53 Dollars (March 7th), which causes many a tourist to hunt for bargains in clothing and computer supplies. But not only inexpensive shopping lures the German tourist, but also a large variety of new sights. One of them is the “Newseum” in Washington D.C., which will reopen on April 11th after its relocation to a newer and bigger building. Matt Gaffney, marketing vice president for the tourism corporation in the US-capital, says that the “Newseum” is the only museum worldwide to deal with the history of communications. In addition, tourists can also take a look at the biggest piece of the Berlin Wall exhibited in the United States.
But also New England is expecting considerably more visitors from Germany. “Last February, we obtained visitor rates from several travel businesses and compared them to last year’s rates. We learned that in 2008, the numbers were 20 percent above the 2007 average” says Doerte Buss. One of the many reasons to visit the region is the newly renovated downtown area of Boston, Massachusetts. According to Buss, “it was the biggest construction site in the U.S. for the past 15 years”. But now, after enormous expenses, the urban regeneration project is finished. The biggest change is probably the new expressway that goes directly beneath Boston.
With all the euphoria at the IBT, the tightened immigration regulations of the U.S. are negligible. At some airports, arriving passengers are now required to have all ten fingers scanned before being granted entry into the U.S. “With the tightening of its regulations, America did a disservice to itself”, says Klaus Laepple, President of the Federal Association of the German Tourism (DRV). In the same breath, however, he adds that “the entry into the United States isn’t that difficult”. And given the rising number of visitors, many tourists seem to share his opinion.
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