Oktoberfest 2017 looms as another obstacle course for fun lovers. The security measures keeping Munich's annual folk and beer festival safe might be contributing to the continuing decline in visitor numbers.
While public fear underlies the drop in attendance - Bavaria has experienced multiple terror attacks in recent years, and the densely-crowded festival itself represents an attractive target - the high-security atmosphere can't be discounted as a factor: it is likely to come across as inconvenient, intrusive and inhibiting.
The festival takes place in a fenced off compound, with surveillance cameras everywhere. Some 700 police and 450 civilian security guards were assigned to protect festivalgoers in 2016, and at least that many will be on hand in 2017. German broadcaster DW reported in 2016 that large backpacks were banned from the tented area, and that festivalgoers would have to pass through a security barrier that screens for weapons and explosives before entering the venue. Visitors in 2017 can expect the same measures.
Visitor numbers continue to fall dramatically from the 2011 record of 7.5 million. Despite ramped-up security features, the 2016 festival drew only 5.6 million people, down from 5.9 million in 2015. In 2016 hoteliers reported fewer reservations and fewer tables were booked. The other marker, beer consumption, has dropped steadily from the 7.9 million liters of beer served in 2011.
If the 2017 visitor numbers hold steady or improve, the authorities can conclude that the security measures are sufficiently reassuring, and possibly that they have found the right balance between safety and fun.
Date written/update: 2017-07-07