9 June 2022

Opinion of the month: “We must look at tourism policy from a cross-sectoral perspective”

DER Touristik CEO Sören Hartmann on challenges and creative energy in the tourism industry.

The tourism industry is diverse, crisis-tested and innovative – and after more than two years of the pandemic, it’s back on the up. At the same time, however, it is facing no shortage of challenges, such as climate change, digitalisation and the resilience of the industry, and in future, it will be essential for the travel industry to be viewed in all of its complexity – particularly by politicians. It is time for tourism policy to finally be understood from a cross-sectoral perspective, with the creation of a coordinated framework of conditions at all levels and the introduction of regulation with a sense of proportion.

Despite long being well-versed in handling crises, the travel sector has been and remains particularly affected by COVID-19. Following the efforts to repatriate citizens stranded in locations around the globe, the constant ups and downs of the pandemic have placed an enormous strain on the industry. At DER Touristik we are proud and grateful to be part of the REWE Group, which, as a cooperative enterprise comprising 1,800 independent retailers, has served as a strong partner for us. For example, unlike other industry participants, we have been able to manage without government assistance – except for short-time working allowances which we too found unavoidable during the pandemic.

After two years, consumers have regained their almost insatiable urge to travel again, and we are once more at pre-crisis levels. However, this does not mean that companies and politicians can sit back and relax. Resilience must be bolstered. And we need a plan for the autumn and winter. We have to develop better strategies to get ahead of the next wave as an emergency stop involving the closure of entire industries can no longer be our strategy of choice going forward.

We must also act, not react, when it comes to climate protection. This should be clear to both the travel industry and politicians. There is no alternative to the climate transformation. As a tourism company, we must drive this transformation more consistently and more innovatively – this is part of our responsibility. However, the political conditions must be right if we are to make progress in this area. Following the difficult years of the coronavirus, we will only achieve the necessary momentum with funding instruments and financial incentives.

But climate change is a global challenge and should be approached as such. For this reason, it requires international political solutions. Those living in the affected areas must be involved in the process as well so that effective solutions can be developed and implemented. After all, it is easy (or at least easier) for Germans to talk about climate protection from the comfort of their living room, compared with those in the regions that are affected by climate change. The travel industry has the potential to serve as a role model and to set an example around the world on the issue of sustainability, while also contributing to greater tolerance and openness.

The travel industry has the potential to serve as a role model and to set an example around the world on the issue of sustainability, while also contributing to greater tolerance and openness.

Sören Hartmann
Sören Hartmann

The challenges facing the tourism industry are huge. For this reason, we greatly welcome the commitment to progress and the creative energy of the coalition agreement as it relates to tourism policy. The tourism industry must be prepared for the future and the entire value chain must be included in these preparations.

As the employer of 9,400 people and as a tour operator for our customers, however, I also view it as our responsibility to contribute our experience to the political process actively and transparently. I am confident that we can serve as a real-world test for political projects – including for the planned national platform “Zukunft Tourismus” (“Future of Tourism”) as well as the national tourism strategy. It is therefore also my great pleasure to serve as the President of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW) and, with almost 100 days under my belt, to represent the entire industry in the political arena. After all, we can only overcome the challenges facing our industry by working together. Of this I am sure.

Sören Hartmann

Sören Hartmann

is CEO of DER Touristik Group and, since March 2022, President of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW).

The DER Touristik Group

DER Touristik Group has its head office in Cologne, Germany, and is REWE Group’s travel and tourism division. As one of Europe’s leading travel groups, DER Touristik Group encompasses more than 130 companies and employs 9,400 people in 16 European countries. Every year, millions of guests travel with one of the group’s tour operators or specialists. DER Touristik Group includes tour operators such as DERTOUR, Jahn Reisen, ITS, Meiers Weltreisen, Travelix, Kuoni, Helvetic Tours, ITS Coop Travel, Billa Reisen, Konig Aap, Apollo, Exim Tours and Fischer, as well as more than 2,300 travel agencies (such as DERTOUR, DERPART, Kuoni, Exim, and Fischer, as well as franchises and partners), the hotel brands Sentido, Aldiana, Calimera and Cooee, and the online travel agency Prijsvrij Vakanties. The DER Touristik Group also offers on-site support: The company runs an agency network with 74 offices in 29 travel destinations. The staff in the destination agencies assist the guests of the DER Touristik Group from their arrival at their holiday destination and until their departure.