HamburgAmbassadors began a three-day meeting Monday (May 8-10, 2017) in the Hanse city. The honorary representatives of Hamburg live permanently abroad e.g. in London, Paris or New York where they often have outstanding positions in commerce, culture or society. These are representative offices to which the mayor appoints candidates. The senate is honouring the ambassadors in City Hall for their important work under the theme “Digital City”. Hamburg News surveyed ambassadors in six cities on behalf of all 33 ambassadors in 21 countries about the image of Hamburg, the risks and opportunities of Brexit and G20 and the perception of the Elbphilharmonie landmark abroad.
Brexit as an opportunity
Hamburg and its port are apparently never-ending and the harbour plays a key role in shaping the city’s image abroad. Yet, gradual change is noticeable. “The name recognition of Hamburg in London and Britain is good. But that has more to with the Beatles than the Reeperbahn. Hamburg is not yet seen as a modern economic location with many fledgling sectors,” said Christoph Lampert, HamburgAmbassador in London. This contrasts with cruise ship passengers “who know the port as a travel destination“. Brexit holds “enormous opportunity” for Hamburg as “it will lead to many relocations and Hamburg has a good opportunity to present itself as an attractive alternative.” Brexit should begin to take shape after elections in Britain on June 8, 2017. Lampert noted: “Many firms will have to reach a decision then.”
Digital issues – bonus for Hamburg
Hamburg is positioning itself as a centre of innovation, research and digitalisation. But have other countries taken note of these efforts? “After the port and logistics, I would mention the civil aviation cluster, new energies, life science, medical technology as well the creative industry including media, IT and design as growing sectors in Hamburg,” said Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Wolfgang Michalski, HamburgAmbassador in Paris. He added: “The new dynamism in tourism is certainly a factor. 3D printing and virtual reality are not dynamic growth sectors and constitute new horizontal key technologies that offer diverse cross-sector opportunities.”
“Japan sees Germany as a pioneer of Industry 4.0,” said Nikolaus Boltze, the HamburgAmbassador in Tokyo. Hamburg could raise its profile by showing how Germany’s ‘Industry 4.0’ can connect up with Japan’s ‘Society 5.0’ and artificial intelligence as the binding link.“
Pushing ahead with diversification
But changing global policies offer both chance and opportunity for Hamburg and its traditional role as a cosmopolitan trading city must be secured. “Hamburg’s future lies in preserving free trade,” said Leif H. Sjöström, the HamburgAmbassador in Stockholm. Michalski, the HamburgAmbassador in Paris, said: “Hamburg should make its political influence felt wherever possible to preserve an open, world economy. Hamburg should also continue to strengthen economic ties with Southeast Asia.”
Diversifying commerce in Hamburg to less export and foreign trade-intense sectors such as port, logistics and civil aviation could be a third element of a strategy towards stabilising and developing commerce in the city. Boltze note: “The signing of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement in summer should result in new impetus for relations between Japan and Europe.“ Then Germany and the Hamburg Metropolitan Region would be in a good position.
Attracting big organisations to city more important than once-off events
The Hamburg promoters take discerning views of staging big international meetings such as the G20 summit in July. “The themes of meetings held in Hamburg should have a certain link to the city’s immediate needs. This is stronger in relation to the G20 summit i.e. in terms of international trade and climate protection and the participating countries, than is the case with the OSCE meeting,” said Michalski.
He added: “Attracting international organisations or authorities such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which will probably relocate from London to the continent in the wake of Brexit, is far more important than series of conferences held over many years or once-off events. “
Elbphilharmonie shows new aspect of Hamburg
The ambassadors all agree that the Elbphilharmonie has boosted Hamburg’s international image and costs and delays have been forgotten. “The reports have been very positive and show a very new, different side of Hamburg,“ said Sven Oehme, the HamburgAmbassador in New York. The resonance in French media has been diverse and mainly positive, said Michalski. “Problems and delays to the build were never an issue in Japan“, Boltze stressed, adding, “Japanese music fans want to come to Hamburg and hope to get tickets soon.”
Interest in the model of the Elbphilharmonie alone has been “enormous”, said Angela Reverdin Gabriel, the HamburgAmbassador based in Marseille, and suggested: “That should be repeated – perhaps on the 60th year anniversary of our twinned towns next year.” Lampert noted: “Britons love music. Operas and concerts are always well attended and nobody shies away from travelling.” Raising and stabilising awareness and continued good communication are imperative, all the ambassadors agreed.
Creativity and patience
Creativity and patience are needed apart from relying on classic means of communication, said Sjöström. Groups of young people and students or showing Hamburg as a city for children are other points worth highlighting. Sjöström added: “Parents want to go where their children feel at ease.” Joint events in e.g. the Baltic Sea region should be boosted with the help of the HamburgAmbassadors, he added.
Survey by: Karolin Köcher