Christmas Markets in Germany: Local Tastes Best
Each year, the beginning of Advent also heralds the start of the Christmas market season – and it is extremely successful: there are approximately 270 million visitors to German Christmas markets every year. In a recent study, IUBH professors Linda Schnorbus and Felix Wölfle have analysed who exactly makes up the throngs of people at the mulled wine stands, decorated Christmas trees and Bratwurst grills each day.
In your study, you and your tourism studies students asked over 1000 visitors to Christmas markets about their visitor behaviour. Why did you want to find out more about the influx of visitors?
Linda: Christmas markets are an integral part of the Advent tradition in most German cities and a highlight on the event calendar. Visitors can enjoy the Christmassy atmosphere and the markets generate significant revenue for the market traders and local retailers. The visitor profile seems to often represent a cross-section of the population. We wanted to find out more about that.
And what did your visitor survey reveal?
Linda: We were first able to show that the masses of visitors to Christmas markets in Germany are predominantly locals: 58 percent have a journey of less than 50 km; only 15 percent travel more than 250 km. The markets in Münster and Cologne were the exceptions. More than half of the visitors to these already very popular tourist destinations travelled from further afield, i.e. more than 50 km.
Felix: Furthermore, most visitors visit their local market several times a year. As a stroll through the local Christmas market is part of the Advent season for most Germans, local authorities could infer from our results that Christmas markets do not seem to require any additional expensive advertising campaigns. These markets have now become an Advent tradition throughout Germany, meaning that a visit to the Christmas markets is an essential part of the pre-Christmas period for many people in the country.
What makes Christmas markets so appealing?
Linda: Our study shows that for most visitors Christmas markets are social events: only 3 percent of our respondents stated that they visit the Christmas market alone. The vast majority make plans to meet other people there so that theycan celebrate the Advent season with glögg and roasted almonds. 42 percent attend with friends, 25 percent with their partner and 22 percent with their family.
Felix: Due to the social nature of visits, we were not surprised to see catering as the most commonly used service at Christmas markets. Visitors most enjoy spending their money on mulled wine, bratwursts, etc.
Christmas markets are also very important for local Christmas trade. Are visitors generous or do they tend to hold onto their money?
Felix: A typical visitor to a Christmas market spends between 25 and 49 euros. That may not sound like very much at first. But when you consider the vast number of visitors, even the relatively low spending of individual visitors provides good revenue for market traders and for retailers close to the market too. Christmas markets therefore remain important sources of income for pre-Christmas business.
Attendance is thriving, revenue too… so all is good with Christmas markets in Germany?
Linda: Well, almost. Local authorities should not automatically expect a consistent influx of visitors. Visitors to Christmas markets have consistently expressed dissatisfaction with the supporting programme and food prices in particular. Disregarding these kinds of visitor perceptions could result in visitors attending other markets – especially in metropolitan areas where lots of Christmas markets are competing for the same visitors. Our visitor surveys can help event organisers to identify important trends and moods. To ensure the festive spirit is even better next year!
Professors Linda Schnorbus and Felix Wölfle both teach tourism studies at IUBH locations in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf. When they are not visiting Christmas markets for their research project, they particularly enjoy strolling around the local markets with friends.