»The importance of tourism is usually underestimated in international politics. Even though tourism policy is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Economics, as a cross-sectional task it does have points of contact with the areas of responsibility of the Foreign Ministry, in particular in the area of foreign cultural and educational policy. Through it, the federal government projects a positive image of Germany abroad and promotes the location of Germany. The German Foreign Office and the total of more than 200 German diplomatic missions abroad support German tourists with all the latest travel and safety information and as a contact for consular assistance in an emergency.
Tourism as means of exerting pressure
Tourism is also an indicator of a country‘s political stability. What is often the most effective means of exerting pressure on states which do not comply with rules, is exerted by the travellers themselves. Their absence in the affected countries is usually much more effective than any sanction. Peace and political stability are indispensable factors for prospering tourism. This is an experience which is currently being painfully experienced by Turkey.
On my travels abroad I am repeatedly reminded of the concrete importance of tourism for international politics and cooperation. As the spokesman on Middle East Affairs for my party, I have directly experienced in Israel, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Iran and in Egypt, just how important personal exchanges, the knowledge of the respective other countries and, last but not least, tourism are as economic factors. The consequences of the revolutionary upheavals in the Arab region since 2011 have led to significant losses in the tourism sector. Germany has been working hard since then, within the scope of its development partnerships, to support these countries.
Tourism as a door-opener
Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has recently announced a new direction in German foreign policy, which aims to involve Asia more strongly. Also in this process, tourism can be a door-opener and further promotes the exchange between people and cultures. Tourism can also, however, create problems if the local population does not receive an adequate share of the income or local ecosystems are destroyed. In the final analysis, the responsible behaviour of the holidaymakers and respect for the cultures and traditions of the countries visited is and will remain particularly important.
Undoubtedly, violent attacks all over the world have unsettled many holidaymakers. This makes me have all the more respect for the continuing openness and curiosity of many Germans to learn about other countries and peoples. This, too, characterizes the image of Germany.«