At the World Routes conference, an event hosted earlier this week in Berlin where airports and airlines meet together, Visit Berlin Tourism CEO Burkhard Kieker highlighted the fact that the German capital is now Europe’s third most-visited city with over 20 million tourists a year. “This is even more incredible when we think back to the position we had two decades ago. We took over last year Rome and are just behind London and Paris now,” he explained.
Signs of Berlin’s vitality are not only to be observed in the number of tourists strolling in the city center but also in the number of construction projects which are to be seen all over the capital. Among the most impressive ones is an €800 million large project in the City West. Previously the heart of West Berlin, the area which stretches between the famous Kurfürstendamm boulevard, the train station “Zoologischer Garten” and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, has been neglected over the last two decades as investors mostly turned their eye to the Eastern side of the reunified capital.
The iconic church of former West Berlin is now under renovation and will now be surrounded by skyscrapers. The first one to be completed before the start of 2012 is the 119-meter-high Zoofenster building with its 32 floors. The structure will incorporate Germany’s first Waldorf Astoria hotel property with 242 rooms, as well as the famed “Romanisches Café,” which was destroyed in WWII. Green light has also been given to another 120-meter-high building, the Atlas Tower. To be constructed opposite to the Zoofenster tower, the Atlas tower will be 120 meters high. Nearby, the 1950s-style “Bikini House” will be fully restored to its earlier glory. It will integrate a hotel and elegant shopping facilities, as well as roof terraces offering a view on the nearby zoo.
However, the most spectacular sign of Berlin’s strong international appeal is the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. The infrastructure will open its doors in June 2012 and will finally put under one roof all airlines’ activities currently accommodated at both airports of Tegel and Schönefeld. “For the first time in Berlin, we will have a single structure, which will help us to raise Berlin’s airport status to a new hub for Europe,” explained during Routes World Rainer Schwarz, Berlin Airports CEO. Berlin Brandenburg International Airport will have an initial capacity for 30 million passengers compared to an estimated traffic output of 24 million travelers in 2011. “As we continue to experience stronger growth rates than in other parts of Germany, we already prepare our next phase which will see the addition of a satellite for 15 million passengers,” said Mr. Schwarz.
Berlin has already been selected as the new international hub for Air Berlin and its partners of Oneworld alliance, which the airline is due to join next year. “We then will become extremely attractive for long-haul operations, especially to Asia and Eastern Europe,” added Berlin Airports CEO. Among potential airlines are Cathay Pacific or even Qantas which is currently looking at another European gateway besides London Heathrow. Competition is likely to be even hotter as Lufthansa is due to join as well.