The water’s fine: Houseboats are in high demand as Germans book holidays close to home

Febuary 22, 2021

As arctic temperatures froze rivers and lakes in northern Germany this winter, workers at houseboat charter companies already had started gearing up for what they expect to be a busy summer season, Reuters reports.

Cross-border travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic last summer prompted a run on domestic tourism, including floating accommodations. Many expect that 2021 will be no different.

“I think that big trips abroad and flying will still not be the dominant type of vacation for people this summer,” Dagmar Kuhnle, spokeswoman at the Kuhnle Tour houseboat charter company in the northeastern Mecklenburg lake district between Berlin and the Baltic Sea, told Reuters.

Family-run Kuhnle expanded its fleet to 160 boats from 120 just before the pandemic reached Germany last sprin—and promptly lost two months of business due to a coronavirus lockdown in April and May.

Once travel became possible again, nearly all of its boats were booked out, and bookings are looking good for the coming season as well, Kuhnle said.

The big question for charter companies like Kuhnle remains when the season will start.

Aquare Charter, which offers bungalow boats in the eastern state of Brandenburg, told Reuters that it was fully booked for this summer and would start renting out boats from March 18 if restrictions on overnight stays for tourists are lifted.

“It is of course not clear if it will work out or not,” Philipp Sommer, a manager at Aquare Charter, said.

The government last week dampened hopes that the economy could reopen soon—targeting an infection rate of no more than 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, down from 50 previously.

On Monday, that number was 59, having fallen from a high near 200 in late December. It was last below 50 in October.

Given the government’s caution, Kuhnle Tour is cutting the hours of ten employees starting next week. “We don’t see the end of pandemic in sight. We have somewhat corrected our optimism,” Kuhnle added.

Research contact: @Reuters

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