In the weeks leading up to this year’s Oktoberfest, which was tapped into life on Saturday, several hotels had reported a downtick on bookings on last year.
After Munich was stunned by a shooting spree in July, which left ten people dead and dozens injured, fears over public safety were believed to be the main deterrent to people flocking in their millions to the Bavarian capital to sink some brews.
Security precautions were upped, and for the first time in the almost 200-year history of the festival a fence was installed around the complete perimeter of the festival area. Visitors were also banned from bringing in bags with a volume larger than three litres.
And the numbers released by city authorities do indeed show a dramatic drop in visitor numbers. Whereas in 2015 a million revellers packed onto the famous Theresienwiese in the south of the city on the first weekend, this year only half a million arrived, muenchen.de reports.
But security fears are likely to have played a smaller role than the miserable weather which washed out Munich on the first weekend.
After weeks of sunshine, the heavens burst on Friday evening in the southern city and the rain didn’t stop until well into Sunday.
But Munich mayor Dieter Reiter was looking on the bright side, telling the city’s official website that the poor weather had given locals an opportunity to grab a seat at one of the beer festival tables without being squeezed out by tourists.
Munich police reported that the big event of the first weekend, the Oktoberfest parade, passed without any major disruptions.
Nonetheless, sexual assault, which has long been a blight on the beer festival, had already reared its ugly head on the opening day. On Saturday evening officers were able to prevent a rape on the festival grounds when they noticed a 32-year-old man attempting to have sex with an unconscious woman.