Mass rush despite Corona: Fear of guests – the economy

This is good news, but it has bad side effects for Michael Beckmann: For several days now, there has been no more than 200 district in North Rhine-Westphalia. This means that the travel restrictions agreed by Angela Merkel with the Prime Minister do not apply. Beckmann, the mayor of Winterberg in the Hochsauerland, must be ready for a new horror weekend. Residents of the Rhineland-Palatinate metropolitan areas continue to enjoy free snow travel.

There are no ski lifts

Although the hospitality in the Sauerland is just as finished as in the rest of the republic, tens of thousands have come to play in the snow in recent weekends. There is not a single ski lift in operation, but people are still attracted from their city forces to the mountains. December 27 was bad and unbearable last weekend. Cars crawled through narrow valleys over 45 kilometers of traffic jams. “We didn’t expect it in terms of size,” Beckmann told Tagesspiegel. After consulting with the state government in Düsseldorf, which provided 100 police officers, the mayor shut down. The federal road through the Ruhr Valley was closed, parking spaces and ski and toboggan runs.

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The Winterbergs feared law and order. “People are out in the snow with their slippers,” Beckmann describes the behavior of clumsy townspeople. “You slip, get hurt or break your leg while sledding.” When escape routes are blocked, it is difficult. Snow has attracted people to the Sauerland, but the snow may also make it impossible for them to take a trip to the land of thousands of mountains next weekend. “It’s snowing at lower altitudes,” says Beckmann. So people from Düsseldorf or Dortmund no longer have to go to Kahler Asten to build a snowman with their children.

“Help us! The city is appealing

Winterberg is experiencing a bizarre winter season. The town usually can not have enough guests. These weeks, however, they are practically begging to stay at home. “Help us!” It is a challenge for “dear people from near and far,” please let them “let their love for the mountains rest” and stay in the Ruhr. There are no mountains, but toilets.

Michael Beckmann has been mayor of Winterberg since last autumn. The place in the Hochsauerland is especially popular with guests from … Photo: promo

The city can cope with the fantastic winter season, because many visitors came in the summer and the hospitality and upholstery ended the year. Beckmann explains that Winterberg was fully booked from mid-June to mid-October. The increase compared to the summer season of 2019 was 15 percent. Meanwhile – and completely independent of Corona – summer is even more important than winter, as the Rothaargebirge region with 500 kilometers of hiking and cycling trails is ideal for active holidaymakers and families. In Winterberg alone with 4,500 inhabitants there are 6,000 beds. With a good 60 percent share in economic performance, tourism is of paramount importance. Nowhere else in North Rhine-Westphalia is tourism so important, says Beckmann. The city is visited by more than 400,000 guests every year.

New business model for the spa

Only half came 20 years ago, recalls Beckmann, who worked as director of tourism (since 2003) on the “Ferienwelt Winterberg” profile and was elected mayor in September for his success. With a good 63 percent, he got a result that is relatively rare for men with CDU, even in the conservative Catholic area.

Thanks to the clean and harsh air, Winterberg can be called a “spa with a healthy climate”. This is one of the reasons why the city was the most obvious recreational area for workers in the coal and steel industry in the Ruhr. Until various health care reforms in the 1990s ended stays financed by health insurance companies. The spa needed a new business model. In Winterberg, they said goodbye to club and party hiking and attracted hikers to the Rothaarsteig. Then there are cyclists. The bike park, trail park and 1,000 kilometers of cycle paths are used by a growing peloton of retirees on e-bikes. “Since 2015, we have known that our concept works,” says Beckmann about the summer business. However, Winterberg is not called Sommerberg and remains a center of winter sports.

120 million for ski infrastructure

Owners of ski lifts suffer especially from hard locking, but the season, which can last until Easter, has not yet been written off. According to Beckmann, approximately € 120 million has been invested in the modernization of the ski infrastructure since 2006, most of it for chairlifts and snowmaking systems. At an altitude of 668 meters above sea level, natural snow becomes rarer.

In the coming weeks, Beckmann also hopes for real flakes in the lowlands that will keep guests out of their throats. Affected Sauerlanders seek legal advice from the state government in Düsseldorf and support them with police forces, for example to deter “drifters” who have to dig hundreds of their cars through slush in the meadows. “What is preceding us is the difficult face of a pandemic,” the city writes to potential visitors for whom there are no beds, restaurants and toilets. “Don’t do it for yourself!” Beckmann will know on Sunday if the name tag arrives.

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