What's New in Berlin?

With a new airport and a major five-star luxury hotel on the way, Berlin seems poised to get a new influx of visitors.

Berlin’s tourism marketing organization, visitBerlin, reported that last year, a total of 9.8 million people visited the German capital, to the tune of 22.4 million overnights. This corresponds to an increase of 9 percent in arrivals, and 7.5 percent in hotel nights, compared to the previous year. The city is now the third most popular travel destination in Europe—only behind London and Paris, and ahead of Rome.

Visitor numbers from North America have remained strong in 2011, with 267.000 U.S. arrivals (+2.2 percent) and 651,000 overnights (+2.5 percent), and 44,000 Canadian guests (+11.8 percent) spending 114.200 nights in Berlin’s hotels (+8.6 percent).

Presently, Berlin has 120,800 hotel beds; 7.5 percent more than a year ago. The average hotel occupancy of 51.2 percent was slightly higher than in 2010 (51 percent).

The Hotels

Of course, the big hotel buzz from the city is the upcoming Waldorf-Astoria Berlin, which is accepting reservations as of September 1 (and will have the country's first Guerlain Spa). According to Berliner-Zeitung, builders from the Alpine Group are currently still working on all floors of the skyscraper. The hotel seems poised to spur other luxury hotel development. Our sources tell us that it is "huge and gorgeous, about a city block wide." And while it is not open yet, "it will be a game changer for sure."

Last year, the InterContinental Hotels Group flag returned to the InterContinental Hotel in the city following a commercial dispute with the then-leaseholder Neue Dorint GmbH. At the time, Kirk Kinsell, IHG’s president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that the company was “determined to find a way back into the InterContinental Berlin." 

Last month, the first Hotel Indigo in Continental Europe opened in Berlin, according to Incentive Travel. Hotel Indigo Berlin Centre Hardenbergstrasse is a boutique hotel from IHG, opposite the Charlottenburg campus of the Berlin University of Arts and close to the Boulevard Kufuerstendamm, Berlin Zoo and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The 81-room hotel is owned by Azure Properties and was designed by Düsseldorf architects Klein Associates. Notably, the property is the first of two Hotel Indigo properties set to open in Berlin in 2012. The second hotel will open on Alexanderplatz in May 2012.

Coming up: A Crowne Plaza is under construction in the former Postpalais on Potsdamer Platz and is due for completion by June. The Spanish hotel group Whim will open its first hotel in August close to the Tiergarten park. Das Stue (Danish for “living room”) will have 81 rooms and suites, a daylight Spa and two conference rooms. And looking farther ahead, the Turkish Titanic hotel group will convert the former workshop building of the State Opera into a five-star venue.

Interestingly, a Bloomberg report in January noted that the influx of new supply is apparently depleting room rates: The Waldorf Astoria is taking advance bookings with rates from $460.

The Airport

After nearly six years of construction, Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) is set to open on June 3. Tegel and Schönefeld Airports will close the night before, and within a few hours, all of the city's air traffic will be rerouted to the new space.

The opening of Berlin Brandenburg Airport will see airlines expand their flight offerings to and from the city: airberlin has been offering a new long-haul flight to Abu Dhabi since January. As of May, the airline will also be offering a non-stop flight to Los Angeles. When airberlin joins the airline alliance oneworld in March, its flight offerings will be further expanded over the long term. Lufthansa has announced 30 new destinations from BER and will expand its Berlin fleet from nine to 15 aircrafts. Other airlines such as Condor, Air France and easyJet will increase the frequencies of existing flights and offer new destinations as well.

Getting to and from the airport will be easy, and the design has been set up so that half of all travelers will travel to and from the airport via public transportation. A six-track rail station with three platforms will be directly below the terminal with connections to downtown Berlin and the surrounding region. The Airport Express already connects Schoenefeld Airport with downtown Berlin in a half an hour, and the Airport Shuttle, a special express train, will connect Berlin Brandenburg Airport with downtown Berlin in 20 minutes.

Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Scholvien and VisitBerlin.de
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