Tourism revenue is down in the city of Dresden and the local government blames the PEGIDA movement for scaring away potential visitors.
The total number of overnight stays in the German city of Dresden have decreased in 2015 according to Die Zeit. The Saxony capital has seen a three per cent decline in hotel bookings though they were still able to attract 4.3 million visitors.
The managing director of Dresden Marketing (DMG) Bettina Bunge lays the blame not at the declining global economy, which has seen severe contractions, but rather at the PEGIDA movement. She said that the group which meets weekly in the main square of Dresden and often attracts hundreds to thousands, had caused a loss of image due to what she called xenophobic sloganeering.
She went on to say: “People have consciously decided not to to visit Dresden and cancelled their personal and business trips from what tourism operators and industry representatives have told us.”
Tourists from within Germany do seem to have declined slightly according to figures but international visitors haven’t been deterred or influenced at all. Stays by international tourists have actually increased by 6.1 per cent in the last year to almost 900,000 people.
Most tourists to the city come from neighbouring countries Switzerland and Austria but also many come from the United States. The only significant decline in international tourism was from Russians who have cancelled many holiday plans all over Europe because of the falling price of the rouble against the euro.
Business leaders in Saxony are afraid that the attention PEGIDA has brought, and likely the German media response, is giving many the impression that Dresden is a haven of xenophobic activity. Leaders met with regional vice minister Stefan Brangs to counter the image and make the city have a more welcoming image.
The president of the business federation of Saxony is sceptical of results and says that the decline in tourism could hurt many businesses in the area. He blames PEGIDA, saying they’re probably not interested in how well businesses do.
Saxony has become the epicentre of the latest media controversy in Germany after a video went viral showing bus full of migrants who were stopped by local protesters in the small town of Clausnitz. Media reacted by calling the non-violent protesters xenophobic and went as far as saying their slogans of “we are the people” were inciting hate against migrants.
Members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party admitted involvement in the protest, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung but while leader Frauke Petry regretted the tone of the people involved she supported the right of the people to protest saying:
“We believe that protest is necessary, not against those entering Germany, but against those who are responsible for this migration policy.”
The Clausnitz asylum centre director was also fired after the video, reports Kurier, following allegations that he was also a member of the AfD. It is alleged that his brother was one of the organisers of the protest and that he was removed from his position for his own safety.