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Difficult general conditions: Cologne reports decrease in visitor numbers

Difficult general conditions: Cologne reports decrease in visitor numbers

Cologne tourism year 2016 lagged behind the record-breaking year 2015, posting a total of 3.35 million arriving guests and 5.8 million overnight stays. The decreases amount to 2.9 percent for arrivals and 3.5 percent for officially recorded overnight stays in hotels. After 15 years during which the figures for overnight stays have doubled since 2000, last year many different kinds of influencing factors – some of them global – had negative effects on the development of tourism in Cologne.

As Elisabeth Thelen, Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of KölnTourismus GmbH (Cologne Tourist Board) explains, “In view of the many years in which there were big increases in visitors coming to Cologne, and considering the difficult conditions we experienced last year, the decrease in arrivals and overnight stays should be called moderate. The terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin caused tourists to have reservations concerning security. The consequences of that have been felt by big cities in particular. Against this background, we are very satisfied with the figures for last year.”

From the very start, Cologne’s image in 2016 was impacted by the attacks on New Year’s Eve, which received international publicity. Events such as Brexit, which was accompanied by a decline in Britons’ purchasing power, and the presidential election campaign in the USA, during which Americans traditionally travel less, had an effect on Cologne’s two most important source markets abroad, the UK and the USA. There were no notable changes in the rankings of the most important countries of origin, but there were decreases in all of the relevant source markets except China. In order of their volume of overnight stays, these countries are: Germany (-2.8 percent), the UK (-12.1 percent), the USA (-2.3 percent), the Netherlands (-8.5 percent), Switzerland (-7.7 percent) and Belgium (-1 percent).

“Between 2013 and 2016, Cologne had a disproportionate increase in overnight stays, which exceeded the averages for Germany and for the ten Magic Cities Germany,” says Josef Sommer, CEO of the Cologne Tourist Board. “Our aim now is to stabilize these figures and continue to publicize the many strong points of Cologne, which continues to be a popular destination for city tours and business trips. This marketing strategy will be targeted at national and international media. We are confident that the slight decrease will be offset by developments in the medium and long terms. The visitor figures from September onward indicate that this is the case.”

Cologne’s congress and convention market was constant in 2016

Cologne’s market for congresses and conventions is looking back at a generally constant event year. That’s the conclusion of the current TagungsBarometer, a survey of convention centres, conference hotels and event locations that is conducted regularly by the Cologne Convention Bureau (CCB) in cooperation with the Europäisches Institut für TagungWirtschaft (EITW). Approximately 48,700 events attended by a total of 3.82 million participants were held in Cologne in 2016.

That represented a small increase by comparison with the previous year (+1.6 percent and +1.7 percent). In the area of event venues, the city slightly expanded its range of offers. It now has a total of more than 169 event locations. As in previous years, more than three quarters (76 percent) of the events were business meetings. Banks and insurance companies are still the main sectors in this category, followed by the medical and pharmaceutical sector and by communication companies. A total of 24 percent of the events were held by associations and other non-profit organizations. It’s notable that the figures for the first half of 2016 were considerably less positive than the figures for the second half. This runs counter to the usual pattern, and it also runs parallel to the overall development of the visitor figures for the year.

#urbanCGN and #urbanana ride the trend of urban discovery

Through its ongoing promotion of the central theme #urbanCGN – cologne urban lifestyle, the Cologne Tourist Board continues to ride the trend of individualizing travel experiences, which is establishing itself in parallel with traditional sightseeing-oriented tourism. Increasingly, tourists want to dive into the local scene in the cities they visit and temporarily move around inside these cities in the same way their inhabitants do. The blog visit.koeln offers this discerning and Internet-savvy target group a range of content that has been put together by Cologne insiders in the areas of design, art, urban art, food, fashion and music. Since 2016, the Cologne Tourist Board has also offered city tours that go beyond the main routes taken by traditional tourists. These new tours explore the urban lifestyle in the Belgian Quarter and the Ehrenfeld district. The Cologne Tourist Board will soon be cooperating with the organizer of the CityLeaks Festival, art.rmx, to offer tours of urban art in Cologne all through the year.

Another initiative throughout the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is now raising #urbanCGN activities to a new level called #urbanana. That’s the name of an EU-supported project to promote the growing segment of creatively oriented city tourism. It will be run jointly by Tourismus NRW and its partners Cologne, Düsseldorf and the cities of the Ruhr region until the end of 2019. The aim is to appeal to fans of individualized tourism and boost the international profile of these cities’ creative neighbourhoods and scenes, together with their leading figures from the areas of art and the creative economy. The first visible results of the project are the local-design magazine Guide to the West, a series of features in me.urban, and InstaPaniPixi, a limited-edition Instagram sticker book. Further projects, such as an English-language city magazine and cooperative activities with the art magazine Monopol, will follow during the year.

2017 will offer a broad range of events

From May 5 to 21, the international spotlight will be on Cologne and Paris as the venues of a highlight event for the sports world: the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. There will also be many incentives to travel to Cologne this year, including major concerts by famous artists such as Phil Collins, Green Day, Ed Sheeran, Kings of Leon, Aerosmith and Elton John in the Lanxess Arena, which recently moved up to sixth place in the global ranking of arenas. The trade fair calendar for 2017 will feature strong events such as gamescom, dmexco and Anuga, as well as the congresses EUROMIT (International Meeting on Mitochondrial Pathology), the European ISSX (International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics) Meeting, and the convention of the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ), as well as the returning fvw Congress.

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