European merchants hope for profit in the 2022 Christmas markets

FRANKFURT, Germany: An increase in new cases of covid-19 left a worried feeling about Frankfurt’s Christmas market, as well as in other markets around Europe.

In Frankfurt, masked customers have to pass through a one-way entrance to a fenced wine cellar and stop at the hand disinfection station, while security officials check their vaccination certificates.

Despite these inconveniences, stable owners in Frankfurt and other European cities are relieved to be open for their first Christmas markets in two years, amid new restrictions in Germany, Austria and other countries caused by a record number of COVID-19 infections.

But others are not so lucky, as many holiday-related events were canceled in Germany and Austria, which means that tourists will not spend their money on restaurants, hotels and other companies.

Craftsman Jens Knauer said he hoped the Frankfurt market would “stay open as long as possible,” adding: “If I can stay open for three weeks, I can make it through the year,” according to the Associated Press.

After other Christmas markets were suddenly closed in Germany’s Bavarian region, business owners were unsure of holiday sales.

On Monday, Austria’s markets closed when a 10-day shutdown began, with many stable owners hoping the shutdown would not be extended so they could reopen.

The Czech government closed Christmas markets on Thursday to slow a record increase in COVID-19 cases.

In addition, there were fewer spectators this year at Frankfurt’s market, and the stalls are spread over a larger area.

Heiner Roie, who runs a mulled wine house, predicted that he would take in half of the revenue he made in 2019, adding that a shutdown would cause “incredible financial damage” to himself and others.

The market “has a good concept because what we need is space, space, to keep some distance from each other. Unlike a brick restaurant, they have their building and their walls, but we can adapt to circumstances”, says Bettina Roie, who sells Swiss raclette, a popular dish with melted cheese, reported by the Associated Press.

It was important to reopen “so that we can give people, even during the pandemic, some joy”, she added.

Europe’s economic recovery has been concerned by the recent rise in covid-19, which has led some economists to hedge their growth expectations during the final months of the year.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London, has lowered his forecast for growth in the last three months of the year in the euro countries from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent.

At the same time, in European countries where the pandemic does not hit as hard, life is returning to normal. The traditional Christmas market at Madrid’s Plaza Mayor will open completely on Friday, in the size it was before the pandemic, but masks and social distance will remain mandatory, the organizers stressed.

In Budapest, Hungary, Christmas markets have been closed and visitors must show proof of vaccination before entering.

In Vienna, merchants said last year’s closures and new restrictions had catastrophic consequences, but markets were crowded last weekend as people made the most of them before the new lockout began.

Laura Brechmann, who sold illuminated stars in the Spittelberg market before the lockdown, said: “The main sales for the whole year take place in the Christmas markets, this break is a huge financial loss,” she told the Associated Press.

In the Austrian ski region Salzkammergut, they hope in the tourism industry that the national lockout will not be extended after 13 December.

“Overall, I think if things reopen before Christmas, we can save the winter season,” said Christian Schirlbauer, head of the region’s tourism industry, according to the Associated Press.






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