Germany offers ‘world’s best tourism experience’

The Semperoper is the opera house of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden and the concert hall of the Staatskapelle Dresden.
Updated 19 October 2016

Germany offers ‘world’s best tourism experience’

Culture and nature are the central elements that define the brand core of Germany as a fascinating travel and tourism destination. 
Germany, which is today frequented by a large number of Arab tourists including Saudi nationals, is the number one cultural and leisure destination also for Europeans.
Cultural and city tourism, especially in the metropolitan regions, is very important for Germany.
In fact, the large cities in Germany with over 100,000 inhabitants, which can boast to have rich cultural and tourism legacy, generate more than half (56 percent) of international overnight stays.
Nearly all of the 10 biggest German towns which form the marketing association “Magic Cities” have shown better growth rates. Research shows that 42 percent of foreign tourists travel to Germany for a city break, while 27 percent define their travel here as a sight-seeing trip or a cultural holiday.
On the other hand, health travel or medical tourism is becoming an increasing factor for inbound tourism to Germany. In 2015, the 350 high ranking health resorts and spas registered an increase of 5.4 percent accounting for 6.8 million overnight stays.
The preceding year only marked growth of just over 1percent.
To this end, it is also important to note that Germany’s tourism numbers are up for the sixth year in a row.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. After all, it was only recently that Germany was voted the ‘best country’ in a global poll.
The Germany’s Federal Statistics Office counted 436.4 million overnight stays in Germany in 2015, a 3-percent rise over the year before.
The trend is nevertheless significant.
Germany’s reputation as a stable, safe and affluent nation has boosted its status as an attractive travel destination in recent years.
Today, Germany is one of the most visited countries in the world.
From the Baltic Sea to the Alps, Germany today is more popular as a tourist destination than it has ever been before.
Most of the tourists visiting the country come from the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US besides a large number of them from Saudi Arabia and Gulf states.
The number of visitors from Saudi Arabia is increasing as alongside the UK.
This is in addition to a large number of Saudi and Gulf businessmen visiting Germany for business as well as for leisure every year.
With about 40 percent of all overnight stays Bavaria and its capital city Munich remain by far the strongest magnet for visitors from the Gulf region.
With its beautiful landscape and historic cities, Bavaria is attracting more and more tourists from Saudi Arabia.
Frankfurt ranks second after Munich followed by Berlin and Dusseldorf as most popular cities for tourists from the Gulf.
The German capital is especially popular among young people because they discovered Berlin as an excellent destination for the summer season.
Holidaymakers from the Gulf states are increasingly choosing Berlin.
Among the things they appreciate in the city are the affordable hotel prices, which are considerably lower than in other major international cities.
Gulf states are the fourth most important economic market for Germany.
The number of visitors from other Asian countries is also growing as an increase of about 20 percent has been reported in visitors from China, Japan is not far behind at 17.3 percent.
Germany’s tourism industry, which generates revenues of about €280 billion every year and employs 2.9 million people, is thus heading for its third record number of international bookings in a row.
Best known for its famous Oktoberfest and World War II history, Germany is also home to some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery, fairytale castles, important historic sites, museums and cathedrals set amidst exceptional natural landscapes and greeneries.
The country has plenty of fantastic tourist attractions and unique sights to offer.
Every year, international visitors travel to Germany to see architectural treasures and fascinating places of natural beauty.
Located in the heart of Europe, Germany is the strongest economy in the European Union. Germany has about 38 places on the UNESCO World Heritage list that stand evidence of some 2000 years of history.
Since reunification, Germany has gained a higher profile as a travel destination with the most visited destination is its capital city, Berlin.
Tourists visit Berlin to witness a significant event in world history, the demolition of the Berlin wall in 1989 that marks the economic and political reunification of Germany.
The Berlin wall stood for 28 years, dividing Berlin into East and West Berlin.
The historical importance attached to it makes it an important tourist attraction.
The remains of the famous wall has now become a 1,300 meters of art gallery displaying the ‘100 murals’ by artists from around the world.
The art interprets the meaning of peace and liberty felt after the historic 1989. Berlin has a significant cultural identity of its own.
One of the most fascinating capitals in Europe, Berlin represents a rich and vibrant culture.
It’s a happening city where one can witness various artistic works and a living culture.
Berlin is teeming in historic monuments, museums and the world famous ‘Olympic Stadium that unfolds the history of this region.
One of the most famous landmarks in Europe the “Brandenburg Gate”, built in the 18th century, is the only surviving city gate of Berlin and it symbolizes the reunification of East and West Berlin.
With over six million annual visitors, the Oktoberfest in Munich being held since 1810 is the largest folk’s fest in the world.
The festival is an important part of Bavarian culture. Also, Munich square in city center is a cultural hub and is worth visiting.
Scenic drives, hiking and horse riding through the Black Forest are popular things to do as well as cruises on the beautiful Rhine River with its marvelous views of picture-perfect sceneries like in movies.
Providing a romantic interlude, the river Rhine carves its way here through steep vineyard-covered hills topped with countless castles and ruins.
In Rothenberg, enroot the ‘Romantic Road’ half-way between Frankfurt and Munich, tourists can meander through this medieval city and absorb the rich history of architecture and art.
Must-see attractions include the stunning Gothic cathedral of Cologne and the iconic fairytale ‘Neuschwanstein castle’, the most photographed structure in Germany that resonated as an inspiration for the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castles in the Disneyland parks.
With historic treasures like the famous ‘Heidelberg Castle’ and the medieval ‘Old Bridge’, the Heidelberg-old city is a must visit.
The city center has retained its flamboyant charm of narrow streets, picturesque houses, restaurants, museums, art galleries and local markets.
The largest city in Germany’s federal state of Saxony, Leipzig, known for its vibrant arts and culture scene is a favorite destination for visitors as well.

The region is trendy among tourists, attracting the interest of holiday-makers with its own charm and almost unlimited possibilities of appealing to visitors’ tastes.
Another famous landmark ‘Rugen Island’ in the Baltic Sea is the largest island in Germany, connected to the mainland by the Rugen Bridge and Rugen Causeway. Charming villas, seaside resorts and beautiful beaches draw tourists to Rugen Island, but the star attraction is the Jasmund National Park, famous for its unique Rugen chalk cliffs rising 528 feet over the sea.
Other important cities include Dresden, Frankfurt- the digital hub, Hamburg, Rothenberg, and Hamelin city.
All of these cities offer significant historic sites, museums and arts their culture have often been reflected in classic literature scenes for ages.
Tourism in Germany has a remarkable mix of historical heritage, art and culture, world events and sports facilities that include the famous Olympic Stadium is worth mentioning as well.
Referring to the medical tourism, a report said that the internationally competitive offering with modern wellness and medical tourism are popular among the Saudi tourists. Appreciable German hospitality and service commitment represented in its people, places of beauty, haute cuisine and the luxury hotel sector keeps tourists coming back for more. Saudis also like Germany for its automobile innovation.
With leading manufacturers of a series of high-quality German automobiles, such as Porsche, Mercedes Benz, and BMW, Germany has reigned much over hundred years of unraveled competence in automobile technology. Hundreds of thousands of people visit BMW’s four-cylinder ‘BMW Tower’ and the bowl-shaped ‘BMW Museum’ next to it each year in Munich. The museum showcases the technical development of cars and motorcycles and some exhibits about the history of the company.

Saudi Arabia seeks to improve its knowhow

The challenge remains in changing a mindset in the Arab world which still focuses on the number of graduates rather than the quality of education.
Updated 19 January 2019

Saudi Arabia seeks to improve its knowhow

  • With the Kingdom ranking 66th out of 134 countries in the Global Knowledge Index, education is key to improving its standing
  • The Arab world needs to make strides in research, development and innovation in order to bridge the gap with the West

DUBAI: With Saudi Arabia standing 66th out of 134 countries in the Global Knowledge Index, the Kingdom is hoping that a focus on  innovative education will boost its ranking. 

Improving the quality and nature of education to enable youth to innovate and be creative will prove key to achieving that goal.

The index results were announced in Dubai last month by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to measure the knowledge sector in 134 countries.

“With Saudi Arabia, we obtained the information from international organizations which were provided data from the government,” said Dr. Hany Torky, chief technical adviser at the UNDP and project director at the Arab Knowledge Project. 

“We rely on international organizations like the World Bank and UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization),” but Arab countries “don’t convey data to international organizations” or they do so “very late,” he added.

The aim of the index is to map trends in different areas of knowledge to be able to identify challenges facing countries in the field.

Saudi Arabia scored high in sectors such as health and environment, information and communications technology, and features of the labor market.  It also proved strong in research, development and innovation, ranking 38th, and the economy, at 47th. 

But in other sectors, the Kingdom scored relatively low. Technical and vocational education and training landed it in the 117th position, followed by 87th in the general enabling environment.

Khaled Abdul Shafi, director of the regional bureau for the UNDP, said focusing on education will be paramount for Arab countries. 

“Education can give young people this freedom and not consider that it should be based on memorization,” he added. 

“All the stages of education are important, and if Arab countries focus on education, we’ll be in a much better position compared to where we stand now.”

The knowledge gap between the Arab world and the West is large, with the exception of the UAE and a few other countries. 

Abdul Shafi blamed this on the quality of education in the Arab world, which he said is based on spoon-feeding and does not encourage innovation as much as it should. 

“It’s also not really related to the marketplace, so students are graduating without really having the skills required for the economy,” he added. 

“Education is the main reason, so we need to pay a lot of attention to the education sector in all its different stages to enhance its quality. It’s very important to determine where the problem is to work on dealing with it.”

He said research, development and innovation as a whole are lacking in the Arab world compared to other countries, with an absence of youth participation and the unavailability of data and research. 

“The importance of the index isn’t the ranking of countries, but to analyze the knowledge status in each country,” he added. 

“They’ll be able to put their hands on their weak points and work on further enhancing these indicators to achieve much more progress,” said Abdul Shafi.

“We encourage countries and work with them to transfer the practices of developed countries to less-developed ones, so we’re not just producing a report, we’re also collaborating with some of these countries to transfer their experience and knowledge.”

As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, a major focus has been placed on youth and their education. 

With a predominantly young population, the Kingdom has identified and developed initiatives to bridge the knowledge gap between the Arab world and the West.

Some include the Misk Global Forum, the flagship platform of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s foundation, which held its “Skills for Our Tomorrow” conference in November to focus on youth, knowledge and innovation. 

The Misk Foundation has also launched a number of programs to foster talent across the Kingdom, with the aim of developing a knowledge-based economy as the country shifts away from oil.

“The report enables us to face reality,” said Aysha Al-Mansouri, a Saudi specialist in youth capabilities development. 

“In Saudi, we have a clear vision and a future objective, which we hope to achieve through our Vision 2030. We need to do right by our youth and our country.”

But with 30 million illiterate people under the age of 18 in the Arab world, the task at hand is momentous. 

“It’s shameful for us as Arabs, and I was surprised to see so many young illiterates,” said Jamal bin Huwaireb, CEO of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation. 

With 30 million illiterate people under the age of 18 in the Arab world, the task at hand is momentous.

“Success is going to be the result of those who work continuously and have a clear strategy. In 40 years, illiteracy was completely eliminated in the UAE, so countries like Egypt or Iraq, which used to disseminate knowledge for centuries, should work on this. We all share the same goal, so it’s not impossible.”

The challenge remains in changing a mindset in the Arab world, which Torky said still focuses on the number of graduates rather than the quality of education. 

“What’s the point in having 100 percent of graduates if they don’t have the skills required for the labor market?” he asked. 

“Investment in education is almost the same in all Arab (Gulf) countries, but the process and deliverables of education are problematic. To maintain the status quo is a failure, and we need to keep improving.”

The education sector will have to keep up with the pace of technological transformation. “There are impacts of the acceleration in technology, like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain and the Internet of Things, and the related skills that you need to acquire to deal with such developing technologies,” Torky said. 

“In the near future, there will be seven countries that will lead the world in knowledge, and the UAE is one of them, having jumped six positions in the index in 2018,” he added.

“Arab countries can actually reach such status, like the US, the UK, Singapore, Finland, Sweden and Brazil.”

Bin Huwaireb expressed hope that other Arab foundations will eventually collaborate with the UNDP in disseminating knowledge. 

“We have a single goal of reinforcing the concept of knowledge in the Arab world,” he said. “Over the years, we can now see that the difference is clear and everybody is speaking about knowledge, the knowledge economy, the industrial revolution and knowledge reports.”

Workshops are being held in Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt to create momentum across the region. 

“We are beginning to reap the benefits of this project,” bin Huwaireb said. “Many Arab countries have a problem with empowering environments, but they should do their best to bridge this gap between them and other developed countries so their knowledge indicators can climb to higher rankings.”

He touched on scientific research, a vital element still lagging in the region. “Scientific research centers are a real obstacle we suffer from in the Arab world, because without such centers there will be no progress and no knowledge generation,” he said.

“But there are major plans and strategies to allocate the proper funds for scientific research, and we want it to increase in all Arab countries. It needs some time, but encouragement, motivation and collaboration should continue.”