The completion of a new five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel on Potsdamer Platz brings the famed German square to the brink of a new era. But it remains to be seen whether the city can use another luxury accommodation.
Rooms with a view: the Ritz Carlton on Potsdamer Platz
After nine years of construction at Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, the building projects have come to an end – for now. The latest addition: a Ritz Carlton luxury hotel that brings the number of five-star hotels in Berlin up to 17.
Potsdamer Platz was one of the most vibrant city squares in Europe in the 1920s, a crossroads of trains and trolleys, cafes and clubs. In its day, the Platz was the center of nightlife in Berlin – and therefore, Europe. But in World War II the badly damaged Platz became a ruined no man's land between east and west. After reunification, it was the biggest construction site in Europe.
A tony new center
Now, two new five-star properties -- next to the Ritz Carlton, a Marriott is soon to open up -- should bring yet more life to the area. The hotels are part of the €450 million Beisheim Center, an art deco style complex of offices, shops, restaurants and 50 luxury apartments.
Two existing buildings from the time of the fall of the Wall were used in building the complex. Millions were spent to move the imperial banquet hall of the previously standing Hotel Esplanade, where the last German Kaiser Wilhelm II liked to eat, in order to integrate it into Potsdamer Platz's centerpiece Sony Center, which was finished some five years ago. And the historic wine bar Huth, which was used as a viewing platform during the construction years, is integrated into the nearby Daimler City.
Das Ritz-Carlton am Potzdamer Platz, Berlin, wenige Wochen vor der für den Januar 2004 geplanten Eröffnung. Foto: Ritz-Carlton Berlin
At the hotel, 350 full time and 100 part time workers provide service for the well-to-do. Ritz Carlton General Director Walter Junger says he expects that the Ritz-Carlton will become the priciest hotel in Berlin.
An overcrowded market
But does Berlin need another expensive hotel? The first test is coming in February, when international film stars will flood to the city for the Berlin International Film Festival, Berlinale. The question is whether the rich and famous will choose the new Ritz Carlton over established, sometimes historic, competitors like the famed Hotel Adlon or the Four Seasons, or over artier, upscale design hotels.
Berlinale or no, the numbers don't look good for more hotel properties in the city. Economically beleaguered Berlin now has a total of 17 five-star hotels, and insiders are warning of a market glut. In 2002, the last year that numbers were published, 3.6 percent fewer tourists visited the city than in 2001, and there were nearly 3 percent fewer hotel stays. Overnight stays from domestic clients were down nearly 6 percent, too.
However, a Ritz spokesman said the hotel's clients come predominantly from Great Britain, America and Asia, and Berlin saw an increase of 3 percent in the number of foreign visitors in 2002 over 2001.
Whatever the numbers, Ritz General Director Junger says he isn't worried about the competition. He's banking on his hotel chain's reputation for service – together with its location on Potsdamer Platz, one of Berlin's prime real estate locations.