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Germany

The billion-euro German leisure industry faces new challenges

Since the financial crisis started, Germans have cut back on spending for leisure activities. But the global economic situation is not the only challenge facing the country's leisure industry.

A wake boarder in Düsseldorf

Some Germans spend their free time in style

The world's biggest water sports fair, the "Boat" got underway in the German city of Düsseldorf on Saturday, January 22. Over the next ten days, exhibitors from 60 countries will be presenting every face of water sports - from the smallest fishing hook to the largest yacht.

The boat fair in Düsseldorf

Owning a boat requires constant upkeep

Like almost all branches of the leisure industry, the water sports sector has had to sit back during the economic crisis. But now, the optimism seems to be returning.

"We've seen sales increase by around 5 percent for all maritime goods and services,” Jürgen Tracht, a spokesman for the German water sports industry, told Deutsche Welle. “Total revenue has gone up to around 1.7 billion euros [$2.3 billion]."

In the past couple of years, people have been more reluctant to purchase boats and other expensive equipment because of the economic crisis.

"But at some point they need to buy something," Tracht said. "There are 50,000 boats in Germany, which need constant upkeep and have to be kitted out."

255 euros for leisure time

Even if the economic atmosphere has improved, German consumers tend to only spend a limited amount on leisure-time activities.

"The average household in Germany has around 3,000 euros at its disposal,” said Kristina Kott, a statistical analyst. “And they spend an average of 255 euros a month on leisure activities."

Figures on household spending are issued every five years by the National Statistics Office. In 2008, the Germans spent most of their leisure activity budget on the service industry (67 euros). That includes visiting cultural and sporting events, taking courses, going to the gym and buying radio and television licenses.

Consumers spend almost as much on package holidays: on average, 61 euros a month. Next comes expenditure on newspapers, magazines and gardening, at around 20 euros.

Holidays are sacrosanct

A beach on the North Sea coast

Germans can't do without their week in the sun

While disposable expenditure has risen by around 100 euros in the last ten years, the Germans are spending proportionately less on their free time. That's because of rising housing and energy costs. But there is one area of the leisure industry where Germans don't like cutting back: holidays.

According to Ulrich Reinhardt of the Foundation for Future Studies, Germans would much rather spend money on holidays than on clothes, technical gadgets or even their own pension funds.

"Not for nothing are we known as champion holiday makers,” Reinhardt said. “And we work about 50 weeks a year so that we can reward ourselves with an average two-week break, and get a contrast from the daily routine."

Active old age

Whether male or female, rich or poor, young or old - everyone loves holidays. But because of demographic changes, in 20 years time there will be double the number of over 60s as those under 20. That's why older people are now a major target group for tour operators, and are also becoming more important for other branches of the leisure industry.

Pensioners on holiday

Pensioners of the future are active and mobile

Leisure parks are beginning to offer more "passive" attractions - including more shows, parades and opportunities to take a rest. And gyms are also beginning to offering more fitness training for the 50-plus, 60-plus and 70-plus age groups.

The water sports sector is also feeling the effects of demographic change.

"There are more and more people who are selling their boats because they're growing old, and there aren't enough younger people to buy them," Tracht said.

That's why there's a lot of choice available on the second-hand boat market. In the last two to three years, the prices for used boats have dropped by around 20 percent. The gap between the cost of a new boat and a second-hand vessel is increasing, which makes it hard to sell the latest yachts.

Author: Marco Müller / jli
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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