Tourism in the 'low cost' capital
Two Catalans opened a guided tour business in Berlin making the most of the economic crisis and the fact that the city was ‘fashionable’. They set up ‘Cultourberlin’, a project that would offer Spanish and Catalan tourists guided tours of Berlin
Berlin (CNA) .- 'I think that Berlin has benefited from the economic crisis. It is the 'low cost' capital in Europe\u2019. It was with this idea that the two Catalans Maria Miguel and Ricard Camps decided to set up \u2018Cultourberlin\u2019, a project that would offer Spanish and Catalan tourists guided tours of Berlin.
Back in March 2008 when the crisis started to show, the two Catalans packed their bags and moved to Berlin and although they were drawn first for personal motives, the city captivated them. Three years later \u2018Cultourberlin\u2019 boasts its own office in the most central square of the city and the starting point for any guided tour, Alezanderplatz and is responsible for the publication of twelve city guides.
According to the two young entrepreneurs, although they had worked together before in Barcelona giving guided tours of the Palau de la Música (Music Palace), the business idea was conceived \u2018over coffee by accident\u2019. It was back in 2007. They were both in Berlin and met for a coffee. After a long chat, they decided to start the touristic project and target the Spanish and Catalan market. \u2018We were able to see the gap in the German market- we knew that Spanish tourists would flock to such a fashionable city\u2019.
But it was difficult in the beginning. Maria took care of the administrative tasks while Ricard prepared for the sightseeing tours. 'I was overwhelmed, Maria recalls, \u2018there was so much to deal with, I was dealing with affairs that I had never touched before on an executive level, and it was all through a foreign language, and then all the tax issues and bureaucracy.. I didn\u2019t know where to start. Maria admits that during this initial state she felt like a \u2018tiny little child\u2019.
\u201CWe were under so much pressue to succeed\u201D, says Miguel, though recognising that fear is always there. The thing is, the two Catalans both left their day jobs to focus on the new project 'Cultourberlin\u2019 and in doing so took a huge risk. 'I think the crisis is psychological though, says Miguel thinking about Barcelona. \u201CThe more you talk, the more afraid you become\u201D.
A friend in Berlin
Ricard is convinced that the crisis in Berlin can offer more benefits that any other European capital. \u201CWhen you travel to Paris, London or Rome, everything is really expensive\u201D, he says, \u201Cand then suddenly you arrive in Berlin, \u2018the great unknown', and it\u2019s so cheap!\u201D 'Cultourberlin' aims to do something different to the normal tour guide agencies by offering guided tours in Spanish, Catalan, German and even in Basque.
The 'alternative' character of Berlin can be dated back to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. At that time, other European capitals were affected by the crisis. The two Catalans want to reflect this ambiance in their business plan. \u201CWhat we offer is a more personal touch and people who speak your language. The idea is to offer more than a traditional guide- we want to offer tourists a friend in Berlin\u201D.
2,000 kilometres away from the crisis
The two Catalans advocate that the only way to avoid the crisis is to seek a gap in the market and start your own business despite the 'fear\u2019. That\u2019s what they did in an unknown country. Today, with the safety of having secured many businesses deals in Berlin, they can look at the economic crisis from a distance. \u201COur family and friends cannot believe it. They are so proud. Sometimes I don\u2019t even believe it!\u201D, says Maria. \u201CIn Catalonia, everyone talks about the crisis all the time\u201D. Miguel agrees with this point adding how there is a \u2018low feeling at home\u2019 with everybody talking about the crisis and about losing their jobs and about how expensive everything is.
Since German reunification, due to its young spirit, Berlin has become the cradle of dreams for many young people. The project of the young entrepreneurs depends on Spanish tourism in order to flourish so have they any doubts about the viability of the business? \u201COur audience is Spanish-speaking and Catalan-speaking\u201D, they explain, \u201Cand we know they this public has been affected by this crisis so we will have to wait and see how our luck goes\u201D.
Experts insist that a crisis creates opportunities and this statement can be proven by Maria and Miguel. \u201C I do think that the economic crisis can psychologically affect people\u201D, Maria says before stressing again her love for a wonderful city that gave her the opportunity to open a business in a financially difficult time.