People, Travel

PEGIDA Hurting Dresden Business

PEGIDA Hurting Dresden BusinessPEGIDA Hurting Dresden Business

The German city of Dresden, known for its Baroque architecture and romantic Christmas market, worries about the damage to its image caused by the xenophobic protests of the PEGIDA movement.

The historic city’s tourism industry is going “through its deepest crisis since national reunification” in 1990, said Johannes Lohmeyer, president of the tourism federation in the city dubbed the “Florence on the Elbe” river, AFP reported.

For more than a year, the city has made headlines as the birthplace and center of the far-right populist movement “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident”, whose flag-waving members rally every Monday against refugees.

To many Germans, Dresden — the largest city in the former communist east, a region which still lags the west in prosperity and jobs — has become a symbol for the ugly backlash against migrants, in stark contrast to the welcome seen in many other places.

Lohmeyer was quick to add that, despite a fall in bookings, “certainly, the situation is not catastrophic” for the tourism sector, which is worth about $1 billion and generates around 20,000 jobs in the Dresden area.

“The tourists are still there, and conventions are being held, but the decline in reservations worries us,” said the Egyptian-German.

Indeed, many people hesitate to travel to Dresden. In the year’s first nine months, overnight stays in Dresden fell by 2.3% compared to the same period in 2014, while arrivals in other major cities rose.

The number of German tourists, who account for over three-quarters of the total, fell by 4.2%.

Lohmeyer said he blamed the PEGIDA effect and, above all, “the obsession of the German media with this movement”, which he argued had unfairly tarnished the reputation of the city.

The beleaguered industry is now, however, getting a boost from its famous Christmas Market, which opened on the last November weekend with great fanfare for the 581st time.

“Hotels are fully booked for weekends in December,” said Bettina Bunge, president of Dresden Marketing, which has launched a campaign to draw people to “a magical winter in Dresden”.