Exclusive Interview: Petra Hedorfer, German National Tourist Board’s CEO

Wagner Matheus – CNW’s Editor-in-Chief

 

Petra Hedorfer, German National Tourist Board ’s CEO, tackles the German National Tourist Board’s decision to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for its services and highlitghts GNTB’s recent key achievements in the sector. 

 

Germany has become one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. How is the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) responding to this positive trend?

Figures from the World Travel Monitor reveal that European travellers made 59.3 million trips to Germany in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 5 per cent. This puts us in second place among the most popular countries for Europeans to visit – behind Spain (66.6 million) and ahead of France (44.6 million).

Germany’s increase in popularity as a travel destination is not just a short-term phenomenon either. In 2018, we recorded 87.7 million overnight stays by guests from abroad, the ninth record year in a row.

In order to maintain this upward trend, we have formulated a multi-level digital strategy which sees us analyse possible future scenarios, tap into current trends and implement the latest technological developments.

Promoting Germany as a destination to the international travel trade is still one key focus of our marketing efforts. We work with around 5,000 tour operators worldwide in pursuit of this objective. The online market is already hugely important, and so we have significantly stepped up our cooperation with online travel companies (OTCs) and regularly launch targeted campaigns with them.

The digital transformation has opened up new opportunities for us to target end consumers more effectively. We make active use of all relevant social media worldwide and also harness the reach of influencers in our marketing.

 

What has the GNTB been doing to attract more international tourists from outside Europe?

Our global marketing activities – i.e. our activities that also cover source markets outside Europe – are centred around campaigns and specific themes that are designed to meet the demands of the market. We use market research and benchmark analyses to formulate annual campaigns that focus on different facets of Destination Germany. In 2019, for example, the spotlight is on the Bauhaus centenary and the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We also launch annual global initiatives, such as this year’s German Summer Cities campaign promoting cultural tourism in cities and rural regions.

To exploit the potential in growth markets such as South East Asia and South America, the GNTB is continually expanding its network of agencies. New sales and marketing agencies were opened in Singapore and Buenos Aires, for example, and marketing activities were started in Mexico.

 

What are the main marketing platforms that the GNTB has been using to consolidate Germany as one of the world’s top tourist destinations?

As well as positioning Germany as a travel destination to the online (OTC) and offline travel trade, the GNTB also promotes Germany directly to end consumers through its global digital marketing strategy. We use more than 30 social media channels to tell people about what’s going on in Germany and to run campaigns targeted at specific markets. Influencer marketing also plays a role. Strategic collaborations with selected high-reach influencers generate quality content for our own channels and give us access to the influencers’ networks. The GNTB also uses media networks for macro-regional and international activities in order to achieve the highest possible media coverage.

 

In March of last year, the GNTB began to accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for its services. What has the response been like?

By using blockchain technology as a means of payment in our global operations, we are setting an example of how to drive forward innovation and provide impetus for change within the tourism industry. Blockchain technology offers considerable potential – not only for payments but also for reservation technology. And those are just two of the many possible applications.

The announcement that we would begin accepting cryptocurrencies as payment for our services generated a great deal of interest within the travel industry and in the media.

 

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and the travel-trade-focused Bestkoin have been slowly and steadily getting attention from more investors all around the world. How is the GNTB responding to trends in digital assets?

We continuously monitor and assess trends in technology, implement them in a targeted manner and share our experiences with partners.

Digital assets that are already playing a key role in our marketing work include virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and conversational interfaces. Consumers in the US and the UK, for example, can now use Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to help them plan their trip to Germany. In Asia, where mobile payment systems are much more widespread than in Europe, GNTB partners allow payment by smartphone in order to maintain an edge in the market for travel destinations.

Together with our partners in the German travel and tourism industry, we are working on open-data standards, linked open data structure and knowledge graph projects that will provide end customers worldwide with up-to-date, high-quality data on their chosen destinations.

These are just a few examples of how we are actively driving forward the use of digital assets in order to present Germany as a travel destination in an innovative and modern way.

 

What can domestic and international tourists expect from innovations related to Destination Germany in the years to come?

The GNTB will continue to use data-driven business models, the platform economy and disruptive competition. By unlocking the world of possibilities presented by artificial intelligence, immersive technologies and conversational marketing, we will be presenting our marketing as an experience while never losing sight of the Destination Germany product.

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