katrin hissel from aachen tourist service: the impending ban on diesel cars is sufficient motivation to switch to the environmentally friendly alternative: rail

The direct rail service from Aachen to Maastricht and vice versa will be in operation in time for the Christmas events in Aachen and Maastricht, namely from 9 December 2018. Already well connected to the rail network in Germany and internationally, Aachen will become even more attractive to its direct neighbours thanks to its direct link to Maastricht. Katrin Hissel, managing director of Aachen Tourist Service since early 2017, regularly travels to Maastricht herself and welcomes the new rail link.

Aachen recorded one million overnight stays in 2017. The figures for arrivals and overnight stays have remained constant in 2018. A total of 646,539 overnight stays were registered from January to August. In particular, arrivals of foreign visitors in Aachen are showing positive growth. In total, 112,208 visitors from outside Germany visited Aachen from January to August this year. “In addition to Belgium and the UK, the Netherlands is one of our main source markets,” Katrin Hissel acknowledges. Last year about 11.7 percent more Dutch people came to Aachen than in the same period the previous year. Appropriate measures are being taken to attract these visitors. “We regularly take part in various workshops in the Netherlands where we present Aachen as a tourist destination and discuss various tourism-related topics,” explains Hissel.

The environmentally friendly way: train and bike

It is not known how many tourists arrive by train, but Hissel sees the impending bans on diesel cars as sufficient motivation to switch to the environmentally friendly alternative of rail travel. Cycle tourism has also grown and, as is well known, the Dutch have a real affinity with bikes. They can even take their own bikes on the train. “Cycle tourists are loyal visitors who obtain comprehensive information in advance,” says Hissel. “Aachen and the surrounding area are an attractive destination for cycle tourists. The Euregio is connected to an extensive 850 kilometre network of excellent cycle paths, one example being the Vennbahn route. There are also many urban projects in Aachen itself that promote cycling. Since 2014 it has also been possible to hire e-bikes at various stations in the city and thus explore Aachen and the region.” Dutch people are not only enthusiastic cyclists, they are interested in culture as well. Cultural institutions and museums not located in the centre of Aachen can be reached by bike and therefore benefit from this phenomenon.

Bicyclist at the Aachen train station Foto: Wouter Roosenboom

Movement also apparent in the hotel market

The hotel situation in Aachen has been hotly debated. At very popular events such as the CHIO equestrian tournament, visitors sometimes have to move out into the surrounding area. A number of new hotels have been built in recent years, including on Krefelder Strasse and Sandkaulbach. The hotel planned for opposite the theatre is under construction. “Overall, the capacity utilisation of the hotels is currently still at a good level at around 46 per cent”, the managing director notes. “We have to wait and see how further development pans out.” Young visitors often take advantage of airbnb’s services. “According to airbnb, 47,000 overnight stays were registered in Aachen last year, but these are not included in the official statistics. Together with the City of Aachen, we will continue to closely monitor this trend and the legal framework surrounding it.”

Rail is important for Aachen as a conference venue

One focus of the ATS next year will be the expansion of our “Aachen Convention” business unit. Around 70 percent of overnight stays in Aachen are attributable to business tourism, as Aachen is and will remain an attractive venue for conferences and conventions. “It’s particularly interesting that the proportion of foreign participants in events in Aachen is 17%, which is well above the figure for Germany,” Hissel emphasises. “Aachen’s geographical location in the border triangle clearly has an effect in this respect. Of course, we want to continue to position ourselves well in order to provide potential customers with the best possible service. A fast and above all change-free rail connection is helpful here.”