Checkpoint Charlie Uses "Passport Marketing" To Attract Visitors

You may not know it, but this weekend is the 18th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and there is a celebration in Germany called Unification day to celebrate the reformation of one Germany. An important remaining part of this story is a place called Checkpoint Charlie. During the war there were 300 of these "checkpoints" spread out across the perimeter of the wall. They were manned by soldiers whose only job was to make sure that people did not try to cross the wall – often using deadly force to carry out their duties. Estimates range in the hundreds (or thousands, depending on whom you talk to) for the number of people who were killed by this checkpoint squad during the time the wall was up. As is often the case with some of humanities worst moments, today the three remaining checkpoints are all tourist destinations.

At Checkpoint Charlie, the most frequently visited of these checkpoints, there is a special marketing program designed to attract travellers. When you visit, they will put a stamp in your passport commemorating the former separation of Germany. You usually carry your passport with you for ten years, and through that time you collect stamps from countries you visit, visas from exotic places, and a living record of where you have been and what you have seen. Most international travellers use their passports as the ultimate travel keepsake. For those travellers, getting a unique stamp from a now defunct destination is an appealing idea. For some, it is probably even their sole reason for visiting Checkpoint Charlie.

Though there is some conversation on travel forums such as the Lonely Planet site about how this technique may invalidate your passport, most of the travellers visiting the site seem to have had no such problems. Assuming the international community doesn’t start some sort of crackdown on people getting these sorts of stamps in their passports, how many other places in the world could use this technique? I wrote in the past about how some nation’s Tourism Bureaus are using their stamps to connect with philatelists and offer something unique to a certain niche of travellers. Perhaps passport marketing is in the same category as the new undiscovered marketing technique for national tourism boards …

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