Berlin draws record numbers of U.S. visitors

NEW YORK -- With Berlin now firmly re-established as the capital of Germany following the reopening of the famous Reichstag parliament building last April, American visitors are flocking there in record numbers, prompting Berlin Tourism Marketing here (BTM) to double its U.S. marketing budget for 2000.

The city's public-private partnership for visitor marketing, BTM is targeting some special events for promotion in the next two years and also will start to recommend other cities in the region, like Dresden, for short excursions from Berlin, according to Hanns Peter Nerger, BTM's president.

"We are extremely pleased that we had more visitors from America this year [1999] than in any preceding year," he said, estimating that by year's end, U.S. arrivals would account for 320,000 bed nights.

That would represent a 5.6% increase compared with 1998 figures, which had risen by more than 20% from 1997 levels.

"All current market indicators show that the American market will continue to be of growing importance for Berlin in the future," he added.

As a result, BTM, which maintains offices here and in Fredricksburg, Va., is boosting its budget for U.S. promotional activities, but a spokeswoman said exact figures were confidential. The increase means Berlin will likely be participating in more trade shows and working more closely with retailers.

Part of the increase will be spent to attract niche markets , like the gay and lesbian market and the Jewish market, Nerger said. The gay-lesbian promotion will by done jointly with the city of Hamburg, he noted.

Meanwhile, Nerger said BTM will work more closely on joint promotions with nearby cities like Dresden, which is suitable for short excursions by visitors to Berlin as it is only two hours away by train.

Although the city of Dresden, with dozens of new hotels, is attracting lots of German and European visitors, it counted only about 35,000 overnights from Americans among its 2 million total tourist overnights in 1999, according to Yvonne Kubitza, managing director of the Dresden Tourist Promotion Board.

Although much of downtown Dresden was leveled by massive bombing raids in World War II, most of its baroque buildings have been restored to their original state; the last major project remaining is the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, which is expected to be finished in 2004.

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