The brisk, snow-scented air, the warmth of mulled wine in your hands, and the myriad of illuminated stalls at night offering gifts and delightful treats: Could this be the secret behind why travellers adore Christmas markets?
Regardless of the reason why, the most recent data obtained through our D / AI Destinations platform, focused on some of Europe’s most renowned Christmas markets — in Vipiteno, Bolzano, and Munich — illustrates the significant impact this attraction has on tourism.
What are the main trends observed?
Visitors love Christmas markets: All three destinations see more people and increased hotel bookings throughout the entire market period, lasting between 4 to 6 weeks.
In Italy, most market-goers are Italians who visit both Vipiteno and Bolzano markets during the same trip. In Munich, mainly foreigners, including Italians, Spaniards, and other Europeans, make up the majority of visitors.
Hotels in Vipiteno and Bolzano listed on OTA platforms report a significant rise of up to 31% in average rates for 2023 compared to the rest of the year.
Munich experiences a noticeable surge in international flight bookings during the first week of the markets compared to the previous week.
Let’s dive into the details.
Vipiteno and Bolzano: 75% of visitors during the entire Christmas market period are Italian
Vipiteno and Bolzano, two popular spots for Italy’s Christmas markets, show very similar tourism trends.
To understand the tourist patterns during this crucial time, we’ve examined:
2022 data versus the yearly average (Nov 24, 2022 – Jan 6, 2023, vs Jan 1, 2022 – Nov 23, 2022)
2023 data versus the yearly average (Nov 24, 2023 – Jan 6, 2024, vs Jan 1, 2023 – Nov 23, 2023).
The data we’re presenting has been gathered in real-time using our D / AI Destinations platform, specifically designed for data analysis and destination management for DMOs and tourist destinations. During the 2022 Christmas market season, both cities experienced an increase in domestic visitors: around 75% of online digital traces were attributed to Italian visitors – a significant rise compared to the average of 30% throughout the rest of 2022.
It’s worth noting that Germans and Austrians make up the other prominent visitor groups frequenting both destinations. This suggests that those opting to explore Italian Christmas markets are highly inclined to include both Vipiteno and Bolzano in their travel itinerary.
(Distribution of digital traces – Vipiteno Christmas Markets 2022 vs the same period in the previous year)
(Distribution of digital traces – Bolzano Christmas Markets 2022 vs the same period in the previous year)
Christmas markets are the top highlights during the winter months
The trend in content volume for 2022 strongly mirrors the visitor attendance patterns with a high degree of reliability.
There’s a clear increase in reviews throughout the entire Christmas market period until it ends (Epiphany 2023). A slight drop can be observed around Christmas, showing how popular these cities are during the markets, especially among local visitors.
As mentioned previously, given the strikingly similar trend in the pattern, it’s highly likely that visitors don’t just visit one of the markets; they tend to explore both.
This means that combining the holidays with the markets is a great attraction for travellers.
(Sentiment and Digital Traces Trends – Vipiteno Christmas Markets 2022)
(Sentiment and Digital Traces Trends – Bolzano Christmas Markets 2022)
Increase in bookings and rates on online portals
The rise in visitors is noticeable when examining online booking portals (OTAs) in 2022.
The saturation level — the ratio between available and booked offerings — averaged between 40-50% in both Vipiteno and Bolzano. With a substantial portion of reservations made directly, it’s highly likely that in 2022, full capacity was reached throughout the entire Christmas market period.
Data indicates that travellers are ready to invest more in visiting Vipiteno and Bolzano during the Christmas market season: average rates observed on OTA platforms in 2022 showed a 13% increase compared to the yearly average in Vipiteno and a 29% increase in Bolzano. Importantly, this rise did not adversely affect visitor numbers.
The surges are notably prominent during weekends and the entire New Year period, indicating that the markets hold strong allure beyond the mere two weeks of the Christmas holidays.
(Average Rates and OTA Saturation – Bolzano Christmas Markets 2022)
Predictions for 2023: Anticipated rise in rates of up to 31% and increased bookings for the entire Christmas season
The growth trends observed in 2022 in Vipiteno and Bolzano are expected to replicate in 2023.
At the beginning of November, OTA rates show an increase compared to both the same period last year and the average for the current year.
In Vipiteno, the 2023 OTA rates indicate a 24% increase from 2022 and a 13% rise compared to the rest of the year.
In Bolzano, there’s a 10% increase in 2023 rates from 2022 and a significant 31% surge compared to the rest of the year.
We’re already observing booking spikes beginning from the weekend of November 24th, marking the start of the markets. These increases continue throughout all December weekends, reaching a peak during the Christmas holidays, specifically on December 8th and New Year’s Eve.
(Predicted average rates and OTA saturation – Bolzano Christmas Markets 2023)
Munich: Popular especially among European tourists
In Munich, Germany, the Christmas markets run for approximately a month, from November 27th to December 24th annually.
The Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz is the original and most renowned market, with roots tracing back to the 14th century. Nevertheless, numerous smaller markets in lesser-known districts contribute to Munich’s status as a top-notch Christmas attraction.
Contrasting the trends with the two Italian destinations we’ve examined, there are slight differences here. Specifically, there aren’t any significant rate hikes observed on online platforms.
What conclusions do our analyses reveal?
Italians, Spaniards, Swiss, and Austrians are the top European markets
The attendance of international visitors during the 2022 Christmas markets surpassed the usual yearly average. This was indicated by a decrease in content generated by domestic visitors, which declined from 47% to 38% throughout the Christmas market period.
On the other hand, there was an uptick in content from Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Swiss, and English markets.
(Distribution of digital traces – Munich Christmas Markets 2022 vs the annual average)
Increased OTA saturation, hotel rates within the normal range
Munich, too, sees a surge in visitor numbers during the Christmas markets. However, unlike Vipiteno and Bolzano, pricing remains relatively stable.
In 2022, OTA saturation indicated an increase in visitors, averaging around 29% saturation compared to the 24% observed throughout the rest of the year. Despite this rise in visitors, the average rates were lower than the overall 2022 average.
Moving into 2023, there was an observed increase in average rates compared to the previous year, although the rise was more subdued compared to the increases observed in Italian cities (+2.5%). Nonetheless, in line with 2022, the average rates remained lower compared to the rest of 2023.
It’s essential to consider that Munich’s peak season spans from spring to autumn, while winter, marked by colder temperatures, isn’t as popular. This may elucidate the more moderate rates and sluggish pace of bookings during this period.
With that in mind, the current graph illustrates a noticeable rise in OTA rates and bookings for the entire duration of the Christmas markets compared to both the preceding and subsequent periods, particularly noticeable during weekends.
(Predicted average rates and OTA saturation – Munich Christmas Markets 2023)
Greater influx of visitors during the opening week of Christmas markets
By analysing flights to Munich as of November 6, 2023, we’ve observed an uptick in arrivals during the first week of the markets starting on November 27, compared to the previous week. Also, projected arrivals for the following four weeks are higher than those of the early weeks in 2024 after the markets have ended.
This clearly shows that the markets, along with the New Year celebrations, are definitely one of the top attractions that make Munich a sought-after destination during the holiday season.
(Flights in the upcoming months – GDS source – Munich)
The impact of events and attractions on destination marketing campaigns
The insights obtained from the data of Vipiteno, Bolzano, and Monaco are incredibly beneficial for enhancing destination management during significant events.