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Berlin forbids new hotels – the capital is moving away from tourism

Profile Photo By: Carsten Hennig
February 2, 2017

Berlin forbids new hotels – the capital is moving away from tourism

A “cheeky interjection” of Carsten Hennig, no real story …

The German election campaign becomes sharper: Inspired by the leftist political objectives of the new SPD-candidate for chancellor and among topics like the tighter cat regulation and new environmental constraints for the airport construction site BER, the so called red-red-green coalition of Berlin instituted a fatal ban: new hotels are prohibited with immediate effect, private renters were threatened with high penalties, sharing platforms like Airbnb must be withdrawn, otherwise internet traffic will be deliberately restricted. This will be published via official tweet “R2G: No Mass Tourism – luxury hotels stopped – Airbnb connection cut” in the night before next Monday. A not fully informed spokesperson will then stammer into a camera that this enters into force with immediate effect.

Only a few hours later, the Senate will actively oppose obscure rumours about visa for foreign party tourists with a non-Christian background; until then wild speculation will have spread thousandfold via postings and tweets. There will be tumultuous scenes among foreign visitors in hardboiled establishments, like the legendary “Berghain”- Club.

But there is another intention behind the hotel ban – it was apparently triggered by a real decree, issued by the municipal administration of Barcelona: nearly all political parties decided that Berlin as the German capital should decide for a more patriotic identity. Mass tourism and a predominantly English speaking public – like in large parts of central Berlin – do not comply with the new self-perception, which also exists among leftist young inhabitants of the Eastern city districts.

Furthermore, the so-called misuse of urgently required living space has taken on huge proportions: According to a study of students from Berlin, which has not been published yet, the number of currently 12,800 places bookable via Airbnb is by far too low – the actual dark number is much higher (around 45,000 beds); hotel market experts suggest not to quantify the entire market in rooms – as is usual in the hotel sector – but to count single beds instead. The aim is to calculate realistic market volumes, similar to the seat occupancy approach of airlines.

In the course of the 6-month election campaign for the „Bundestag“ and due to political calculation, potential high claims for damages of the real estate industry were shunted aside as an unpredictable risk. Legal advisors mainly expect the negotiation of out-of-court-settlements due to low city budgets and with reference to further adjusting screws like the tightening of legal restrictions on fire safety, hygiene management and event security. First hotel protests failed against the prohibition of events in Berlin.

The capital hospitality with around 780 commercial operations is now considered as „frozen“. According to first considerations of the „Roten Rathaus“, ruins of large construction projects around the train stations „Zoo“ and „Alexanderplatz“ will now be converted into living space and mini apartments for people in need. The funding of the applauded plan to remove over 20,000 homeless people of the wild campsites has not been clarified yet.

In the meantime, the radical turn away from tourism has boosted other German cities. The permanent competitor Hamburg is planning to stop the construction works for the renovation of the inner city congress centre, in order to be able to attract major events away from the river „Spree“ towards the river „Alster“. Due to the construction stop of new hotels – recently far over 20 development projects – the opportunity to organise international conferences is indeed restricted in the German capital. External organisers are determining to relocate big fairs to the nearby city of Leipzig.

Some observers suspect the advent of public protests from mini-jobbers and self-employed people (like rental chefs, hobby caterer, city guides and Berlin blogger) just a few weeks after the body blow against tourism. This is because their income is based on the increasing number of foreign visitors, willing to spend a lot of money. According to a left-wing politician with a GDR background, who is specialised on housing, the construction stop will cause a long-term damage to the diversity and the lifestyle of the colourful and dynamic city of Berlin. Further, this action is unfortunately only concerned with making a profit for the benefit of a few real estate speculators. Even the generic parties had nothing to add to his statement.

Life goes on within grey everyday life in the capital. Interestingly, the number of malicious comments –like “DitIsBerlin” (this is Berlin) and “Is mir egal” (I don’t care) – remains moderate. It has just been announced that there will be a crisis meeting with the German Minister for Tourism at the end of September to discuss this topic in detail.
About the author: Carsten Hennig, born in 1970, trade journalist of the high-end hospitality and top gastronomy sector. The moderator of HOTELIER TV & RADIO is highly appreciated as an interview partner and keynote-speaker. His visionary comments, known as ” cheeky interjections”, should be understood as contributions to the public debate; constructive contradiction is highly appreciated. You can reach him via email: 


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