Cooperation in the Field of Tourism

Philip Nedelcu, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Relevance of the Practice

Tourism is a substantial source of income for local governments (LGs), especially for some more rural regions in Germany. At the same time, also big cities like Berlin or Munich gain profit from visitors, spending money within the city.[1] Therefore, furthering tourism is an aim pursued by both urban local governments (ULGs) and rural local governments (RLGs), although the cooperation aspect might be more important for neighboring RLGs due to potential necessity of pooling resources. This follows the general trend that inter-communal cooperation plays a bigger role in rural and peripheral areas, as lack of resources might otherwise limit the scope of measures each LG is able to take. A cooperative approach might also increase the chance of funding by the Land or the federal Government. On the other side, also an ULG and neighboring RLGs might gain substantial benefit and profit from cooperation.

Description of the Practice

As outlined in the introduction to the structure of local government in Germany, local municipalities have several possibilities of cooperating with each other. In the field of tourism, cooperation mostly occurs between neighboring communities that want to pool resources to achieve a more significant impact for their advertising and marketing projects.[2] Cooperation between several communities occurs especially in the area of nature-related tourism within the area of those municipalities which tend to be RLGs. The fact that the nature (e.g. a forest or lake) stretches beyond the territory of one municipality makes cooperation the natural way of enabling and furthering tourism.

Such a cooperation could be limited to joint marketing, but might extend to other areas and even encompass the joint operation of public facilities. It can occur in the form of a public corporation (Kommunalunternehmen) or under the framework of a private company. For a closer cooperation in the fulfilment of public tasks, the municipalities can establish a joint inter-municipal corporation (Zweckverband).[3]

One prominent example of a region with a high amount of tourism is the region of Lake Tegernsee. The municipalities adjacent to the lake established a cooperation in the form of a private company (limited liability company), the Tegernseer Tal Tourismus GmbH.[4] The City of Tegernsee and four smaller municipalities are the sole shareholders of the company.[5] All of the participating communities belong to the same county (Miesbach). However, the county comprises many other municipalities and is therefore responsible for a wide range of tasks going beyond tourism in the Tegernsee region. This might explain the municipalities’ interest in establishing another form of cooperation that is in a way ‘located’ between the municipality and the county level. The company’s main task is to engage in marketing and advertising activities, both for leisure tourism but also for corporate activities such as seminars or conferences. Additionally, the company supports local projects and runs a free Wi-Fi in certain areas around the lake.

Another, more complex example of cooperation in the area of tourism is taking place in the area of Berchtesgaden, close to the Austro-German border. The Government of Bavaria established a national park (Nationalpark Berchtesgaden) there in the 1970s.[6] Whereas the overall responsibility for running the park is not vested with the municipalities, but in accordance with the establishing regulation with the Land and county authorities (a potential overlap with report section 5 on intergovernmental relations), the municipalities in the region still engage in a multi-pillar system of cooperation. The municipalities in the County of Berchtesgaden established three associations mirroring the three historical regions of the county, namely two registered associations (eingetragener Verein)[7] and one joint inter-municipal corporation[8], each bringing together different municipalities of the county. The corporation and the Erlebnisregion Berchtesgadener Land – Rupertiwinkel – e.V are in turn shareholders of a joint county-wide marketing agency established as a limited liability company.[9] As the City of Bad Reichenhall is the third shareholder,[10] all regions are represented among the company’s shareholders. Similarly to the one in the Lake Tegernsee region, the company is in charge of marketing the region, whereas the associations established by the municipalities make up another layer of cooperation, distinguishing the Berchtesgaden model from the one employed for the Tegernsee region. Most importantly, the associations are not merely meant to facilitate the activities of the LGs as shareholders, but have their own set of tasks, e.g. the collection of a tourist tax (Kurtaxe)[11] or the management of facilities.[12]

Assessment of the Practice

The area of tourism shows that cooperation between LGs can be an effective and efficient tool to lower costs while maximizing effort. Of course, tourism might be especially prone to cooperation, especially when the sights or spots attracting tourists stretch beyond the boundaries of one RLG, making cooperation the logical consequence. Besides the natural circumstances speaking in favor of cooperation, one could make the argument that cooperation is a ‘must’ for the RLGs while it is a choice for ULGs, as the financial rewards are much more likely to be substantially felt (and needed) by RLGs. Joint investments also have the potential to make the area more attractive for tourism. When speaking of rewards, one must also keep in mind the aspect of burden-sharing. If LGs jointly operate e.g. a public spa, each individual municipality will feel a lack of visitors less. Thereby, such cooperation can especially serve to support smaller and financially less powerful municipalities. All these aspects might make the area interesting for field research, as there is a lot of history of cooperation and different models of cooperation that maybe do not exist in other areas of governmental cooperation. However, especially a multi-layer system like the one in the Berchtesgaden region can also lead to controversies or an alleged lack of effective representation.[13]

In general, cooperation in the field of tourism is more prevalent among RLGs. This is exemplified also by looking at metropolitan cooperation. In this field, cooperation relating to tourism is not always the main priority. In some metropolitan regions, e.g. Munich, there seems to be no (explicit) cooperation in the area of tourism. To the contrary, advertising for activities in the region is done independently both by the city[14] and the respective RLGs.[15] Local cooperation is encouraged by the legal framework itself by setting out different means of cooperation like the joint inter-municipal corporation. These enable municipalities to fulfill tasks more effectively and at lower personnel expenditure, but do not alter the allocation of the respective competences (as it is usually in the interest of municipalities to retain their competences).[16]

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

—— ‘Bereiche und Beispiele der kommunalen Zusammenarbeit‘ (Bayrisches Staatsministerium des Inneren, für Sport und Integration)          <>

Baer S, Ganzheitliches Tourismus-Marketing – Die Gestaltung regionaler Kooperationsbeziehungen (DUV 2003)

Deutscher Städte- und Gemeindebund, ‘DStGB-Dokumentation Nr. 74 – Interkommunale Kooperation im Tourismus‘ (2007)  <> accessed 3 June 2020

Fuchs O, ‘Cooperation as a Strategic Element of Regional Touristic Development’ (2007) 65 Raumforschung und Raumordnung 502

Garbe C and others, ‘Zukunftsorientierte Tourismusentwicklung im Landkreis Berchtesgadener Land‘ (Ökologischer Tourismus in Europa Ö.T.E. e.V. 2005)  <>

Gloden L and Hengel M, ‘Grenzüberschreitende Kooperationen zwischen Kommunen in der Großregion‘ in Wolfgang Lorig and others (eds), Die Grossregion SaarLorLux (Springer VS 2016)

Kuehn M and Weck S, ‘Interkommunale Kooperation, Konkurrenz und Hierarchie‘ in Matthias Berndt and Heike Liebmann (eds), Peripherisierung, Stigmatisierung, Abhängigkeit? (Spinger VS 2013) Schröder M, ‘§ 3 Bayerisches Kommunalrecht‘ in Peter M Huber and Ferdinand Wollenschläger (eds), Bayerisches Landesrecht (Nomos 2019)

[1] See the data on revenue created by tourism in 2019                 <> accessed 6 June 2020.

[2] Cooperation in the area of tourism also takes place within metropolitan regions (Metropolregionen). For a general explanation of such regions under the concept of Ballungsräume, see the General Introduction to the System of Local Government in Germany, 4. Political and Social Context in Germany. Metropolitan regions are also discussed in report section 5.3. on the Creation of a Further Third-Tier Administrative Unit.

[3] See for this model of cooperation the General Introduction to the System of Local Government in Germany, 2. Legal Status of Local Governments.

[4] For further information, see <> accessed 3 June 2020.

[5] ‘Gesellschafter’ (Der Tegernsee) <> accessed 3 June 2020.

[6] See for the history ‘Aufgaben des Nationalparks Berchtesgaden’ (Nationalparkverwaltung Berchtesgaden, 2020) <> accessed 20 March 2020.

[7] The Kur & Verkehrsverein Bad Reichenhall / Bayerisch Gmain e.V., see <>, and the Erlebnisregion Berchtesgadener Land – Rupertiwinkel – e.V (no individual website).

[8] The Zweckverband Tourismusregion Berchtesgaden – Königssee, <> both accessed 3 June 2020.

[9] The Berchtesgadener Land Tourismus GmbH, see <> accessed 30 April 2020.

[10] ibid.

[11] The statute (Satzung) enabling the joint inter-municipal corporation to collect this tax is accessible at <> accessed 3 June 2020.

[12] See for further tasks e.g. <> accessed 3 June 2020.

51 e.g. one municipality left the above-mentioned Erlebnisregion Berchtesgadener Land – Rupertiwinkel – e.V, c.f. ‘Diskussionen um “Erlebnisregion BGL”’ (, 10 March 2017) <>. There are also general complaints about the association: ‘Landkreis tritt nicht aus Erlebnisregion aus’ (, 31 October 2018)          <> both accessed 3 June 2020.

[14] ‘Impressum’ (einfach München) <> accessed 3 June 2020.

[15] e.g. Tegernsee <> accessed 3 June 2020.

[16] See, therefor, Meinhard Schröder, ‘§ 3 Bayerisches Kommunalrecht‘ in Peter M Huber and Ferdinand Wollenschläger (eds), Bayerisches Landesrecht (Nomos 2019) marginal no 241ff.