Germany’s Rhine region considers shutting down ‘extreme tourist numbers’

Despite warnings that the surge in visitors to the Rhine valley is driving tourism operators to record levels, the Bavarian state government has decided to cancel the reopening of a Christmas market in Munich this year.

An economic advisor to the government called on tourism authorities in the Rhine region to “put a brake” on tourist traffic to the region in order to slow “extreme tourist numbers.” A comparable market should be opened in less-affluent districts around Munich, she said.

Tourism is said to be helping to keep communities in the Rhine region largely intact, while many others are being overrun.

The Munich market was originally scheduled to open in November after being closed to the public for ten years. However, Bavarian state tourism officials have been unable to secure a permanent home for the market by then.

In the first half of 2016, the National and Rhine states accounted for 7.6 million foreign visits to the Rhine region, a record for a period of just two years. That was almost a third of all foreign tourists who travelled to Germany in the same period.

Picking the lock

Since tourism in the Rhine region is so good, it has fuelled pressure on the region’s inns, restaurants and Christmas markets. In Rhineau, for example, the tourist office reported that it has had to close its tourist information services in order to cater to customers’ demands.

Chris Zeschke, a media executive and chairman of the Rhine Regional Tourism Authority, has welcomed plans for smaller markets to be run in less tourist-friendly areas of the town, but he has acknowledged that the big attractions must continue to survive.

“The problem is we’re running out of places,” he said. “We just haven’t got the room for all these, and tourism could overload the Rhine, which will have a negative effect on tourism.”

Some Bavarian regions have successfully resisted attempts to block Christmas market growth. By the end of last year, 74 of Bavaria’s 183 cities and towns had a wintertime market in operation, compared with just 18 in 2007.

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