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City tourism as a growth driver during the crisis. But only one-third of European capital cities have a targeted tourism strategy in place

Munich/Vienna, November 30, 2011

  • New study "European Capital City Tourism" by Roland Berger shows that city tourism is a driver of economic growth
  • Between 2005 and 2010, Berlin and Stockholm saw the biggest increase in the number of overnight stays
  • London, Paris, Berlin and Rome enjoyed the highest number of overnight stays in 2010
  • Paris, London and Amsterdam achieved the best room prices and optimal occupation rates
  • Only one-third of European capital cities have a targeted strategy for developing their tourist economy

City tourism has become an engine of economic growth in Europe in recent years, particularly in capital cities that have a tourism concept in place. Between 2005 and 2010, the greatest increase in the number of overnight stays was seen in two such cities: Berlin (7.3%) and Stockholm (5.7%). The highest number of overnight stays in 2010 were found in London (48.7 million), Paris (35.8 million), Berlin (20.8 million) and Rome (20.4 million). But not all capitals are exploiting the potential of their hotel rooms to the full. Paris, London and Amsterdam do the best in terms of earnings per room, with the highest prices among the capitals investigated. These are the results of a new study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants entitled "European Capital City Tourism," which looks at 24 European capitals.

"Our research shows that economic crises have a less drastic impact on city tourism than on other areas," says Vladimir Preveden, Partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. "Moreover, tourism is a key engine for overall economic growth – especially tourism to European capitals."

To quote some figures, average gross domestic product (GDP) in the countries in the study fell by 4.3% during the crisis in 2009, while tourism to capital cities fell by just 3.5%. In 2010, GDP showed only moderate growth, while European capitals enjoyed an increase of nearly 7% in the total number of overnight stays.

More overnight stays in Europe

London and Paris lead the Top Ten ranking in terms of the total number of overnight stays in 2010: almost 49 million in London and 36 million in Paris. Berlin (21 million), Rome (20.4 million) also did well. The strongest growth between 2005 and 2010 was experienced in Berlin (+7%), Stockholm (+5.7%) and Ljubljana (+5.2%). "Cities such as Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam and London have a clear strategy for developing their tourism-related activities," says Preveden. "This has had a positive effect on both the number of people arriving in the cities and the total number of overnight stays."

Marketing and communication directed at a home audience are also important. Indeed, they are essential for the success of tourism strategies, according to Preveden. "The local population must have a positive attitude toward visitors, otherwise the best advertising in the world is useless at the end of the day." Only 7 of the 24 cities in the study have appropriate tourism concepts in place.

Overnight capacity not fully exploited

Changes in the number of available beds are a good indicator for private investors. More beds does not automatically mean higher prices and better occupancy rates, however. Preveden: "Take Berlin, for example. There are plenty of hotel beds but many of them remain empty. And the very low room prices mean that many Berlin hotels are actually on the verge of bankruptcy." The average price of a hotel room in Berlin is EUR 60 per night, putting Berlin third from bottom in the rankings for earnings per room. Last place goes to Prague, at EUR 44 per night.

Paris (EUR 131 per night), London (EUR 122) and Amsterdam (EUR 95) perform much better, leading the rankings for revenue per available room. "Paris, London and Amsterdam show us the way forward. They achieve the highest room prices and the best occupancy rates," says Preveden. "Another key factor in achieving growth is the mix of guests. The number of international guests, particularly guests from outside Europe, is a key factor in a city's success. It also indicates diversification and a broad positioning on the global market."

In this respect, Berlin has some catching up to do. Only 41% of visitors to the German capital come from outside Germany, including 10% from outside Europe. By comparison, Prague welcomes 90% international visitors, including 18% from outside Europe. In London almost 80% of visitors comes from abroad, of which almost half from outside Europe.

Good accessibility a key to success

Accessibility is a vital factor in the success of a city as a tourist destination. "If a city can be reached easily by air, it stands an excellent chance of attracting many tourists. Low-cost airlines are very important in this respect," says Preveden.

Accessibility by air has an influence on the city's positioning as a major conference location, too. According to the Roland Berger study, cities with fewer than 60 direct flight connections to other locations are not accessible enough. This makes them sub-optimal locations for conferences. Cities with between 60 and 180 direct flight connections, on the other hand, have established themselves as perfect conference locations in recent years. "Here, we see clearly that Berlin has become one of Europe's most important centers for tourism and conferences, thanks to its well thought-out tourism strategy," says Preveden.


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