Blazing heat this summer has proved to be a boon for Germany's Baltic coast. Tourists flocking to the seaside to escape rising temperature are boosting the economy of one of the country’s poorest regions.
Holidaymakers are flocking to the Baltic this summer.
There are a lot of beds in the hotels and pensions dotted along eastern Germany’s Baltic Sea coast--according to tourism officials, around 164,650. But this summer, actually reserving one of those beds for a last-minute seaside holiday is next to impossible. The summer on the Baltic is booked out.
“Hotels everywhere are full,” enthused Uwe Hanush, manager at the luxury Maritim Hotel in the coastal town of Heringsdorf. “It’s the best summer we’ve ever seen. We’re all profiting from the sun.”
The sun is indeed bringing unaccustomed profits to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the northeastern state that hugs the Baltic coast and one of Germany’s poorest and smallest. The unusually balmy climate over the past two months has sparked an unexpected boom in the region, helping this long-neglected and economically-depressed area become the country’s most popular tourist destination.
Sunny days, sold-out rooms
The summer of 2003 has been one of the hottest on record, and the Baltic has enjoyed more than six weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, a rarity in this region of mercilessly short summers that are often best viewed from under an umbrella. The sea, often chilly and grey on the best of days, has warmed up to five degrees above normal, taking on a near Mediterranean flavor.
With temperatures in some parts of Germany reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and even beyond, Germans are fleeing the overheated concrete of cities for the cooler coast. The result has been kilometer-long traffic jams, sunburned bathers and booked-out hotels. Some officials have said the demand for hotels during weekends is outstripping supply ten-fold.
“It’s a shame we don’t have twice as many hotels because demand is so great they could easily be filled,” Karin Zabel, a spokeswoman in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Economy Ministry told Reuters. “It’s the best summer ever for the Baltic region.”
The summer tourism season here, often limited to two months, has been stretched to at least twice that this year.
“Why spend money on a summer holiday abroad when it’s so warm and sunny here?” Michael Keanist, 21, asked a reporter.
His countrymen and women share the opinion. More and more Germans prefer to stay close to home when they take their vacations. Around 58 percent of Germans rank their own country number one when it comes to travel destinations.
New Hope for the Region
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Karte, Bundesland, Deutschland
For years, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was the forgotten corner of Germany. While the Baltic was one of the few travel options available to citizens of the communist GDR, before the Berlin Wall fell, there were only five hotels in the region to choose from.
But in the last ten years, some five billion euros have been invested in developing a tourism infrastructure. A combination of state, federal and European Union funds have been poured into the building of hotels, piers and beach boardwalks. Tourism has become the state’s biggest industry alongside agriculture and one in six jobs in the state depends on the travel trade. Tourism is growing faster here than in any other part of Germany. That is good news for a region which has an unemployment rate close to 20 percent and where young people are often forced to move west to find work. The skyrocketing growth of the tourism sector is providing the state with a source of hope for the future.