In the article ‘Hvad København lægger havn til’ (‘What Copenhagen harbours’) published in Weekend Avisen newspaper on July 26, journalist Mads Staghøj grills Claus Bødker from Cruise Copenhagen Network with a number of inquisitorial questions that all take root in two conditions: That there are too many tourists in Copenhagen, and that the cruise ships are to blame.
And it builds on some thoughts brought to light by Copenhagen’s deputy mayor for culture, Alternativet party’s Franciska Rosenkilde. She’s not known for having much insight into tourism, but the tourism industry is unfortunately a sector that many – journalists and mayors alike – have an opinion on, despite not possessing the required knowledge.
So, here are some opposite viewpoints from someone who has several decades of practical experience with tourism and thus knows something about the subject – for a change.
CPH ain’t no Venice
Are there too many tourists in Copenhagen? Let’s look at the reality. On certain days at certain times, tourist buses can mount up at the Little Mermaid, Amaliehaven Garden, Kongens Nytorv and along Tivoli. But that occurs mostly in the peak season from mid-June to mid-August, during which time it doesn’t bother too many Copenhageners as most of them are contributing to the chaos elsewhere in the world while on vacation themselves. Usually, it also only happens for a few hours around noon and not every day – even during peak season.
It is true that you can see many tourists walk back and forth along the beaten path from Langelinie along the waterfront to Nyhavn and on along the Strøget walking street to Christiansborg or City Hall Square and Tivoli. And from this route, there are some who escape via Købmagergade to Rosenborg and Torvehallerne and over Inderhavnsbroen Bridge to Christianshavn.
On these stretches there are lots of tourists, but the situation in Copenhagen is not at a point where there aren’t any peaceful areas in the city centre – a reality that becomes even more obvious when you move slightly away from the city centre.
So to compare Copenhagen with really overrun cities like Venice, Amsterdam or Barcelona is quite arbitrary.
Oslo ferry gets a pass
Are there too many cruise ships? The numbers are increasing, but to vent about them, in the vein of Rosenkilde and her spokesperson Staghøj, is illogical as there are so many others who contribute to the spike in tourism. Here are some examples.
Last year, cruise ships docked 343 times in Copenhagen, but the Oslo Ferry, which docks every day all year long, had 363 calls to port, from which thousands of tourists (mostly Norwegian) disembarked. And just like the cruise ship guests, they have the audacity to only stay for one day. The vessel is a polluter as well, so why is no-one speaking up about the Oslo ferry?
And every day during peak season, loads of buses arrive from our southern neighbours: Germany, the Benelux countries and Poland on the way to or from Scandinavia. They embark on a city trip and are gone a couple of hours later.
There are also plenty of Swedish buses going through the city and all those one-day tourists from Scania who arrive by train to hang out for a day. Shouldn’t we limit the traffic, which also pollutes, from our neighbour countries?
CPH Airport a big sinner
And while we’re on the topic of pollution, Copenhagen Airport is a big contributor. Some 30 million passengers pass through annually, with some going to the cruise ships, but many are just tourists on a city break, or perhaps participating in one of the many summits that have made Copenhagen a leading conference city. Do we limit conferences? And what about reducing air traffic at the airport? They pollute more than the ships.
And let’s not forget the many eastern European buses in the city centre brimming with especially Chinese tourists and driven by underpaid Baltic and Polish drivers who live in the buses. They take up a lot of bus parking spaces, take work from Danish drivers and break a lot of driving rules, without consequence.
All the traffic mentioned above has nothing to do with the cruise ships.
Leave it to the experts
About 900,000 cruise ship tourists come to the city every year, but how many other tourists stay is more difficult to ascertain. The number of overnight stays in Copenhagen is about 10 million annually – and that’s not including Airbnb or the bus tourists who only pass through. In short, there are millions of tourists in Copenhagen who DON’T arrive with the cruise ships. So why only harp on about cruise ships?
Rosenkilde’s contention that there are too many tourists can be discussed, but her assertion that cruise ship guests are to blame is just wrong.
It would be useful if mayors and journalists focused on the more dubious visitors, namely those on the eastern European buses and the many Airbnb tenants who disrupt local areas, hotels and fly under the radar of the tax authority.
This opinion piece was originally published in Danish in Weekend Avisen on August 16.