An assessment of the tourism figures published by the State Office for Statistics again indicates a challenging situation for Munich as compared to 2019. Nonetheless, the figures do show some bright spots for the industry as compared to the pandemic year of 2020: overnight stays increased by 13.0 per cent to 7.95 million (pre-pandemic year 2019: 18.30 million overnight stays), tourist arrivals increased by 3.5 per cent to 3.11 million (pre-pandemic year 2019: 8.80 million arrivals) and average room occupancy was at 34 per cent (pre-pandemic year 2019: 75 per cent).
The pandemic was again the key factor impacting on tourism in 2021. The City of Munich Department of Labour and Economic Development, München Tourismus, successfully focused on the right themes and target groups in the period from June to October, when action was possible due to the easing of infection control measures. Travel patterns during this period gave cause for optimism since it was a phase that remained largely unaffected by the pandemic. In the course of November, however, an increase in infection rates led to another significant downturn in the development of tourism.
“We made the most of 2021 despite an extremely challenging situation – even outperforming some of our competitors in the tourist industry. As an urban destination with global outreach, the drop in demand that Munich had to contend with differed significantly from that faced by rural travel regions. Nonetheless, positive developments during the months between the spring lockdown and the autumn wave of infections are an encouraging sign for 2022.”
A total of 3.11 million arrivals were recorded last year (2020: 2.99 million 2019: 8.75 million) in commercial accommodation facilities. These generated 7.95 million overnight stays (2020: 7.03 million 2019: 18.29 million). This is an overall increase of 3.5 per cent in arrivals and 13.0 per cent in overnight stays as compared to 2020. Compared to the 2019 figures, there was a drop of 64.6 per cent in arrivals and 56.6 per cent in overnight stays. The length of stay increased to 2.57 nights (2020: 2.35 nights, 2019: 2.09 nights).
In the second pandemic year, the domestic market was once again least affected overall. 5.66 million overnight stays were recorded in 2021 (+15.4 per cent as compared to 2020, -41.5 per cent as compared to 2019). In the period from June to October 2021, Munich was able to register almost the same number of overnight stays from within Germany as in 2019.
All in all, the German-speaking markets (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) accounted for around 74 per cent of overnight stays in 2021, the same as in 2020 – a level that was significantly higher than before the pandemic (2019: around 57 per cent).
A total of 2.39 million overnight stays were recorded from foreign markets – 7.8 per cent more than last year. Compared to 2019, the difference was -72.8 per cent. The months of June to October saw an increasing revival of the European markets. Due to the very long length of stay, the numbers of overnight stays in the case of some Eastern European markets (e.g. Romania and Bulgaria) came close to the figures for 2019.
There was also an increase in the numbers of guests welcomed from the USA, the Arab Gulf States and Southeast Asia. These long-distance markets, which are so important for Munich, developed better than expected in 2021 – another positive signal for 2022. Nevertheless, tourism from long-distance markets as a whole was once again hardest hit in 2021.
For example, tourism service providers saw a dramatic drop in the number of guests from China (20,366 overnight stays, -61.6 per cent as compared to 2020, -95.3 per cent as compared to 2019). Guests from Australia also generated -68.9 per cent fewer overnight stays than in 2020 (2019: -95.7 per cent), with only 7,358 overnight stays.
Taking the USA as an example – the strongest foreign market in 2021 – it is evident that despite the positive development compared to 2020 (+35.6 percent), there is still a long way to go to reach 2019 levels. Around 1 million fewer overnight stays were recorded from this market in 2021 than in 2019 (-80.4 per cent).
The Russian market was significant for Munich up until 2019. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market plummeted and has shown no signs of recovery to date. As a result of the Russian war against Ukraine, the Russian market is now cut off from the international airline network and mainstream international financial transaction platforms. This means that the basic requirement for any functioning tourism is now also lacking. Despite the removal of many pandemic-related obstacles to travel and the fact that international travel is now getting underway again, it can be assumed that the Russian market will not be very significant for Munich again in the foreseeable future. Overnight stays decreased by -87.5 per cent since 2019 (2021: 55,000).
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Munich has traditionally been very well established as an international city destination. Until the pandemic crisis, there was an almost equal balance between the number of guests from home and abroad. What is more, the share of foreign visitors from overseas markets was above average.
In the months of June to October 2021, München Tourismus successfully motivated city travellers to visit Munich, achieving better results than other major German cities. As expected, the fastest recovery was seen among guests from the domestic market.
Room occupancy in 2021 was at 34 per cent – 16 per cent higher than 2020 but -55 per cent lower than 2019. The unexpectedly positive development in the long-distance markets that are so important for hotels – such as the USA, the Arab Gulf States and Southeast Asia – was another hopeful sign for the hotel industry with a view to 2022.
In order to promote tourism and the event industry, the Department of Labour and Economic Affairs, in coordination with Tourismus Initiative München e.V. (TIM) developed and adopted a restart strategy early on. This meant that it was possible to respond virtually without delay to the first indications that travel would be resumed.
The advertising measures were initially aimed at domestic guests, starting from the Munich metropolitan region and extending to the entire German-speaking market. The radius of action was subsequently extended to the European markets and finally to the long-distance markets.
After the lockdown, München Tourismus targeted Munich residents with a postcard campaign and radio commercials to draw their attention to special offers which could be booked for friends and relatives. VFR travellers (Visiting Friends and Relatives) were the first to return to the city after restrictions were eased, while the “Summer in the City” programme provided travel incentives for day visitors and travellers who were on holiday in the area surrounding Munich. The idea was taken up by numerous other cities and made positive headlines in 2021.
The number of visitors to the IAA Mobility trade fair (around 400,000) demonstrated people’s enormous need to be able to take part in a major event again.
München Tourismus was very successful in establishing the guiding theme "Hood Love Munich” on the market, focusing on the charm of the Munich neighbourhoods and appealing to guests’ desire for exploration and discovery. A desire to explore the city and its neighbourhoods and to become immersed in the authentic life of local residents is one of the most powerful drivers when opting to take a city break to Munich.
The situation for Munich as a tourism destination is set to remain challenging in 2022. It is difficult to predict how the pandemic will develop or how the Ukraine war will affect the tourism industry as a whole.
“The prospect that all far-reaching restrictions will be removed with the lifting of infection control measures on 20 March is a clear sign of confidence and ties in well with the start of spring. This year’s calendar of events also reflects a sense of optimism and confidence in the future. It includes significant attractors that will positively impact on people’s decision to travel to Munich – from appealing concerts through to the Oktoberfest. I believe that as infection figures decline and restrictions are eased, even those who are hesitant will take heart and want to indulge their wanderlust.”
Nevertheless, a cautious forecast can be made that both the tourism and congress industries will see a revival in 2022. The leisure sector will recover faster than business travel. München Tourismus anticipates that tourist activity will pick up considerably earlier than in 2021.
München Tourismus is the city’s central tourist organisation and is part of the City of Munich’s Department of Labour and Economic Development. München Tourismus works with its business partners in the private sector and the tourist organisation München TIM e.V. to develop marketing and PR campaigns and tourism products in a bid to establish Munich as a destination on the international travel market. The strategy for achieving this aim is defined by the Tourismuskommission München, a joint undertaking between the city council and the local tourist industry.
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