In 2017, overnight stays by Romanian travelers are set to hit the one million mark. Romania’s fast economic growth, the intensification of its bilateral relations with Germany – a strategic partner – and the rising profile of Timisoara and Cluj, have contributed to demand for the launching of new air routes between the two countries and, for the first time, to a boom in outbound tourism to Germany.

As Annett Biener, international marketing manager with the Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board puts it, right now, “Romania is one of the hottest exporters of travelers to Germany.” In the past year, the Eastern European country has become one of the source markets with the highest increases in terms of overnight stays by foreign tourists visiting Germany.

According to figures released by the German National Tourist Board, Romania generated over 800,000 overnight stays in the country last year. The most popular destinations for Romanians travelling to Germany were in four southern and eastern states. Bavaria, which attracted 27.2 percent of all overnight stays, followed by Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse, all at between 15 and 13 percent.

Frankfurt am Main : Banken © 2007 Jochen Keute, Frankfurt am Main

 

Moreover, the outlook for 2017 is very positive. While January and February brought a whopping 26.4 percent year-on-year increase, between January and October, the overall growth rate stood at 25 percent. “According to our estimations, in 2017 overnight stays by Romanians are set to reach the 1 million mark, placing Romania in the top 18 source markets for Germany, worldwide,” says Cristian Sallai, marketing & sales manager for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania and Bulgaria. “This is a huge development and makes Romania one of the hotspot markets for Germany’s incoming tourism.”

While this is part of a steady growth trend, which saw the volume of overnight stays increase by 140 percent between 2008 and 2016, according to Sallai, the 2017 peak is attributable to a mix of reasons.

More value for more money

Romania’s economic expansion is a major factor in the boom in outbound travel to Germany. After recording 3.7 percent growth in 2015, its biggest since 2008, the economy continued to fare well, increasing by 4.8 percent last year, outperforming all other EU member states. For this year, the outlook is equally positive, after the economy expanded by 5.6 percent in the first quarter, and the second and third brought steady gains of 5.7 percent and 8.6 percent year-on-year, respectively. According to Sallai, the fact that Romania’s economic growth is constant, and has brought a higher and more stable income to many Romanians, is all the more important in a market with a high desire to travel. Plus, the value for money is excellent in Germany, he argues. “If you compare the value for money between, let’s say, Berlin and other European capitals you will see that Germany is very attractive to Romanian tourists.”

Diversity is key

Most Romanians travelling to Germany, approximately 44 percent, are holiday-makers. Germany’s tourist offer is very diverse, with attractions ranging from city visits and events, such as concerts and exhibitions, to nature getaways. According to Sallai, this makes Germany a very attractive destination for Romanian tourists, who treasure diversity. Moreover, their holidays are highly customized. Out of those who choose to vacation in the country, more than half opt for touring holidays, which allow them to explore more destinations. The other 15 percent head to Germany for city breaks or to attend particular events, such as concerts and festivals, while only 13 percent choose to spend their holiday in the country’s traditional tourist regions.

©Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus e.V. (Saskia Wehler, Photography Wehler, Saskia)

Business travel has room for growth

Business travelers represent 29 percent of the total number of Romanians who visit Germany. Most of them, 82 percent, went for traditional business trips, while the remainder took business trips for promotional purposes, mostly to attend exhibitions and trade fairs. According to Sallai, the constant increase in the number of companies that have invested in Romania plays a major role in the increase in travelers to Germany.

Figures released for the first half of 2017 reflect a further intensification of the trading and economic activity between Romania and Germany, cementing the latter’s position as the country’s main economic partner. In the first half of 2017, exports to Germany increased year-on-year by 18.2 percent to EUR 7.2 billion, while imports went up by 7.9 percent year-on-year, to EUR 7.3 billion, according to data released by Romania’s national statistics body. Overall, this represents 23.1 percent of Romania’s total exports and 19.9 percent of imports, respectively.

 

Frankfurt/Main: Museum Embankment Festival ©Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt am Main

Currently, around 7,500 companies with German capital are active in Romania. Here, they “make a decisive contribution to gross value added, but also increase competitiveness through the transfer of know-how as some of the most important employers,” Sebastian Metz, general manager of AHK Romania, told Business Review.

According to Metz, the Romanian regions that profit the most from German investment are, besides the capital Bucharest, the western and central parts of the country. Home to numerous German manufacturing companies, especially in the automotive sector, as well as those active in trade and services, cities such as Timisoara and Cluj are enjoying a rising profile. Their well-developed infrastructure, friendly business environments, high standards of living and the presence of several major universities make them stand out and attract foreign investments.

Moreover, investment breeds investment, Metz points out, and the current emphasis on research and development is a strong foundation for a business ecosystem that focuses on innovation, attracting even more foreign companies and boosting local entrepreneurship.

“The positive effects of foreign investment were proven by several studies that showed that in the regions where the level of foreign investment is high, Romanians’ entrepreneurial spirit is also developing well,” the AHK Romania representative argues.

“We have noticed rising interest from Romanian producers in the manufacturing industry for the German market, who become suppliers for German companies or sell their products on the market directly.”

Timisoara and Cluj become more connected

The growing number of direct flights from Romanian cities to Germany, is yet another important factor behind the 2017 record outbound travel figures. The number of Romanians who choose to fly to Germany has been increasing substantially over recent years, he says.

“The high number of direct flights from Romania to Germany makes the latter a very accessible destination for Romanians, increasing its attractiveness.”

Credit: Patrick Kuschfeld

As the general manager of Lufthansa Romania & Moldova, Antonio Tassone, points out, high demand for daily flights to Germany made Lufthansa introduce two new routes between the two countries in autumn. The two daily flights, operating since October 29, connect Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara – already linked via daily flights to Munich for a decade – to Frankfurt, the airline’s biggest hub.

“Since the beginning we have enjoyed unwavering success, so Lufthansa gradually increased its offer to three flights per day to and from the Bavarian capital. As a result of high demand, both from the business community and private travel, we are now able to connect Lufthansa’s biggest hub, Frankfurt, to these two cities on a daily basis,” Tassone told Business Review.

According to Tassone, the two cities have shown of late “an impressively steady and healthy dynamic. We have seen big interest from international companies to invest here, in particular from the IT sector and automotive industry,” the Lufthansa representative said. “The new routes represent a capacity increase of 5 percent, which means an additional 60,000 seats per year to and from Cluj and Timisoara.”

Not least, those who visit friends and relatives represent 27 percent of total travel to Germany.