March: Empty cities, full beaches

March: Empty cities, full beaches

Chart of the Month
03.03.2021 Author/s: Dierk Freitag

In view of the uncertain situation, some hotel projects are currently being discarded. Banks have also become much more cautious with their commitments, and operators are focusing on already signed projects for the time being. But the situation varies from region to region, as a look at the number of overnight stays shows.

At the end of 2020, tourism demand in the German accommodation sector was 39% below the previous year's level at around 302 million overnight stays. No worse result has been achieved in the last 30 years.  Even the consequences of the health reform led to 308 million overnight stays in 1997 and even in 2009 after the financial crisis overnight stays fell only marginally by minus 0.2 % to 367 million.

From January to December 2020, German holiday regions recorded significantly fewer visitor declines overall than most German cities, as the first lockdown came at a comparatively favourable time for them and travel within Germany was possible again at the start of the main season.

The situation was markedly different in Germany's major cities. Cities with traditionally high shares of leisure tourists and low shares of foreign visitors fared better through the summer than, for example, Frankfurt, Berlin or Munich. Particularly affected were the large trade fair cities, where two-thirds of the guests are likely to have a business reason for visiting. In five out of seven German class A cities the drop in overnight stays was over 60 %.

Whether and when tourism in the cities will return to pre-crisis levels depends on many factors that are difficult to predict. The only certainty seems to be that cities with traditionally high domestic demand and high leisure value will "recover" more quickly. There is no doubt that the market for hotel developments will experience a significant dip for the next three to four years. This does not generally mean that no more new hotels should be built - some locations could certainly do with a modern hotel.

Contact person: Dierk Freitag, Head of Hotel and Leisure Real Estate at bulwiengesa, freitag [at]