The scenery in Luxembourg, particularly along the Moselle, lends itself perfectly to active tourism. With a successful first Vëlosummer cycling initiative and unprecedented use of hiking trails, it’s been a record-breaking year despite the public health crisis.
Although it’s still too early for a detailed review of tourism in Luxembourg in 2020, the major trends are already clear. “It’s been a poor year for the capital and its surrounding area,” admits the Minister for Tourism, Lex Delles, making no attempt to sugar-coat the situation. “A large percentage of hotel bookings are dependent on the MICE sector (editor’s note – Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions), which has ground to a complete halt.”
However, this has not necessarily been the case elsewhere. “Hoteliers in the rest of the country have fared better,” adds the minister. “Although the number of nights in hotels has obviously not been the same as in a normal year, it has been far from disastrous.” Due to the unusual circumstances this year, local tourism has clearly increased its appeal. Rather than getting on a plane, many residents of the Grande Région have opted to explore places that, although closer, are not necessarily any more familiar to them!
This trend has been encouraged by €50 accommodation vouchers issued by the government to all residents and cross-border workers. By mid-October, 63,000 of these coupons had already been used (they are valid until 31 December). “This is a very positive result, providing support for the hotel sector in the short-term and beyond,” assures Lex Delles. “In the medium-term, people who enjoyed their stay in a hotel will recommend it to their friends and family, and in the long-term they might return themselves, having had a good time there!”
Although it has not always been easy to cross the borders, the Vëlosummer initiative proved a boon. In August, 40,000 cyclists hit the country’s tourist trails fuelled by a craze for cycling combined with favourable weather. The brand-new Move, we carry service, enabling visiting cyclists and hikers to have their luggage transferred between hotels, also hit the mark. The scheme was even offered free of charge this summer. “To be honest, it took us by surprise … so much so that it wasn’t easy to meet demand every day,” smiles the Minister for Tourism. “In total, we delivered some 2,000 items of luggage, representing approximately 1,000 nights in accommodation.”
However, this year in particular, tourism cannot be gauged solely on the basis of room bookings in various types of accommodation. Some people preferred to go on day trips at the cost of lunch in a restaurant at midday and a drink on a café terrace in the afternoon. Again, some regions appear to have done well out of this, and the Moselle is a prime example.
The Dream Loops (Traumschleifen in German) were featured in Vinorama no. 3 (available at www.vinorama.lu). These routes are approved by the German Hiking Institute, which guarantees the quality of trails and also their cultural value. Three of them can be found this side of the Moselle, and have been given high (or in some cases very high) scores: Manternacher Fels (91/100), Ahn Palmberg (73/100) and Schengen Stromberg (83/100). Well, they have proved a big hit in 2020!
In 2019, 2,730 hikers used the Schengen loop, compared to 3,403 already by 31 September 2020. The increase in numbers on the path crossing Palmberg (near Ahn) was even more marked, rising from 2,416 to 3,671 hikers. However, it was Manternach that saw the most spectacular leap, with 6,332 hikers in 2019 rising to 10,122 in 2020, and that’s before the year is even out! This just goes to show that although the public health crisis has affected us all, it has also increased our need for fresh air and exercise.
“In recent years, both foreign and local visitors have been in search of new experiences, and the Traumschleifen offer just that,” asserts Gilles Estgen, Chairman of the Regional Tourist Office. “They are already very popular in Germany and maybe this year our neighbours were more interested in exploring the ones outside their own country. In any case, it’s clear to us that the Covid year has also been a great year for hiking!”