Elena Ivanova, Germany
Munich is called the northernmost Italian city for its architecture, for its " joie de vivre", unlike other German cities, for its cheerfulness, for its excellent restaurants and hotels. And, of course, Oktoberfest, a celebration of beer, sausages and an endless celebration. In just three weeks in October, 3 million tourists arrive in Munich. In 2019, the capital of Bavaria was visited by 8.8 million people. In Munich hotels, guests stayed more than 18 million times a year. About half a million people come from Russia to Munich annually.
After almost 3 months of quarantine, hotels opened in the city. But shutting down a business is much easier than restarting it again. There are few visitors to hotels. Most workers are sent for benefits and do not work. Requirements for reviewers are draconian. They did not speak with the owner of the hotel, which is called “Hotel”, and which is located in Schwabing. In this part of the city there are two universities, museums, galleries, the Academy of Arts and the Munich Film School, Thomas Mann and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin lived here.
11 years ago, two sisters Anette and Sabina decided to make a travel home out of a cheap, uncomfortable hotel. They bought all the furniture not in Ikea, but drove on weekends through flea markets, assembled old furniture, restored it and furnished the rooms. They educate their employees themselves too. Anette introduced me to Ayub, a young man from Afghanistan who works at the reception. He came to Germany on foot with thousands of other refugees in 2015. He was then 16 years old, he did not say a word in German. The sisters took him to the hotel as a student. Now Ayub speaks good German, knows all the intricacies of the hotel business and does everything, however, like the owners themselves.
Anette von Pfister, co-owner:
- The hotel business is not the easiest. People come from everywhere, they have their own habits and ideas about comfort. Something goes wrong all the time. Either the pipes become clogged, then the water does not flow, then the breakfast is small, then the breakfast is too big. But now we recall this with nostalgia.
- We have been working for almost a month, but there are practically no guests. Previously, the room cost us about 120 euros per night. We halved the price. But the result is not impressive. The fact is that most of our guests come to Munich for business. Universities organize conferences and seminars - we have an influx. The film school conducts film screenings and meetings of filmmakers - we have a full house, or the Academy of Arts makes exhibitions. Everyone lives with us. I generally am silent about the Oktoberfest - prices in the city jumped two to three times. At this time, we had cots in each room, four beds - and still we were forced to refuse even our regular guests. Munich is a city of fairs and business meetings. But now all these events are in the past. The workshops turned into webinars. Scientists, managers and gallery owners communicate among themselves on Zoom. Our business has stood up.
Is it only in your business segment that everything is so bad, or are other colleagues doing better?
- No, all hotels in the district suffer. Everyone hopes that it is possible to somehow make up for the loss at the expense of tourists. But judge for yourself - last year there were only half of the domestic tourists. Mass events are prohibited until the end of the year. And many hoteliers invested in new buildings, in the expansion of hotels, in their improvement. These are all loans, and they must be paid. We were lucky that the building belongs to us, and there are many hotels that rent buildings. And she will have to pay. And the authorities make our life no easier. Now we need to keep a cleaning protocol for each room. Every day it’s now supposed to be cleaned at least twice, whether you have guests or not. We have large rooms, 20-30 square meters. And the workers are all on benefits. This means that we call them to work, pay them, but there are still no guests. Tourists come for the weekend, but half of the 60 rooms are occupied. And in the middle of the week there are even fewer of them.
- This summer there will be fewer tourists. Americans are not allowed to enter Germany until September; there are no Arab guests either. Russian tourists will be able to enter Europe also not earlier than autumn. What will you do?
- We are really looking forward to tourists. Not only we hoteliers, but also shops and restaurants too. Look at Maximillianstrasse (the street where most of the most expensive boutiques and jewelry stores are located —NI). All the shops sank terribly. My son as a student worked as a limousine driver for wealthy Russians and Chinese. Previously, a Russian or Chinese couple went into the store and immediately bought 4 pairs of Cartier or Rolex. Of course, the stores made a turn on them. And now the shops are empty, and not because you need to keep a distance or wear masks. Buyers are sitting at home, but there are not many of them in Germany. The world has really become very open. We all benefited from this. And now the end has come.
“Do you think this is the end?”
“No, this is not the end, of course. But everything will be different. We just don’t know yet how different. In the meantime, we are glad to have even the most capricious guest!"