Ahoy, matey! Houseboats in high demand as Germans book holidays close to home

FILE PHOTO: Houseboat rental company in preparation for reopening after the lockdown in Germany
FILE PHOTO: Kormoran boats lie in icy water at the dock from the houseboat rental company Kuhnle Tours on lake Claassee near Rechlin, Germany, February 4, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/

February 16, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – As arctic temperature froze rivers and lakes in northern Germany, workers at houseboat charter companies were already gearing up for what they expect to be a busy summer season.

Cross-border travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic last summer prompted a run on domestic tourism, including on floating accommodation. Many expect that 2021 will be no different.

“I think that big trips abroad and flying will still not be the dominant type of vacation for people this summer,” Dagmar Kuhnle, spokeswoman at the Kuhnle Tour houseboat charter company in the northeastern Mecklenburg lake district, told Reuters.

Family-run Kuhnle expanded its fleet to 160 boats from 120 just before the pandemic reached Germany last spring and promptly lost two months of business due to a coronavirus lockdown in April and May.

Once travel became possible again, nearly all of its boats were booked out, and bookings are looking good for the coming season as well, Kuhnle said.

The big question for charter companies like Kuhnle remains when the season will start.

Aquare Charter, which offers bungalow boats in the eastern state of Brandenburg, said it was fully booked for this summer and would start renting out boats from March 18 if restrictions on overnight stays for tourists are lifted.

“It is of course not clear if it will work out or not,” Philipp Sommer, a manager at Aquare Charter, said.

The government last week dampened hopes that economy could reopen soon, targeting an infection rate of no more than 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, down from 50 previously. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)

On Monday, that number was 59, having fallen from a high near 200 in late December. It was last below 50 in October.

Given the government’s caution, Kuhnle Tour is cutting the hours of 10 employees starting next week.

“We don’t see the end of pandemic in sight. We have somewhat corrected our optimism,” Kuhnle added.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)