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Oktoberfest in numbers: An inside look at Germany's multi-billion business

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Oktoberfest in numbers: An inside look at Germany's multi-billion business
Expect to drink lots of beer if you attend Oktoberfest. Photo: DPA

The 186th Oktoberfest started on Saturday. We looked at how much money it generates, who benefits – and how much beer is poured.


Oktoberfest, also known as Wiesn, attracts millions of people from all over the world (even Barack Obama has said he would love to go) who come to drink beer and celebrate the good times in Munich, the capital of Bavaria.

So it's not surprising that the attraction, which first took place more than 200 years ago, has grown into a billion-euro enterprise.

Here are some facts behind the history and economics of Oktoberfest.

October 12th, 1810

How did Oktoberfest start? It dates back to 1810. Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12th, 1810.

The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese ("Theresa's fields") in honour of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the "Wiesn".

Horse races in the presence of the Royal family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year led to the tradition of Oktoberfest.

READ ALSO: 'You can't feel tired': Behind the scenes of an Oktoberfest

€1.2 billion in profit

Munich's economy generated more than €1.2 billion thanks to Oktoberfest last year, according to the economic department of the Bavarian state capital.

The fest welcomes more than six million visitors every year.

Photo shows Oktoberfest in full swing last year. Photo: DPA

450 hotels

The city of Munich offers around 450 hotels with 80,000 beds. At the weekends during the fest, they are almost completely booked out.

As room prices are based on supply and demand, the Wiesn also becomes a celebration for hoteliers: prices can double, said Frank-Ulrich John, managing director of the Bavarian Hotel and Restaurant Association

In fact, hotels are the biggest profiteers. In the festival tents and rides at the Wiesn, visitors spent a – not too shabby – €442 million, but "for overnight stays alone, the guests from outside the festival spent a further €505 million,” the city said. 

READ ALSO: Why the German beer renaissance is in full swing

More than a million visitors stay overnight in hotels and guesthouses. "The guests usually stay for two or three days," said John.

When it comes to restaurants and bars, it depends on their location. If they are in the vicinity of the festival they are bound to be visited by a lot of people. However, some venues outside the festival miss out as Munich residents head to the beer gardens of the Wiesn instead of their neighbourhood bars.

13,000 jobs

According to the economic department, there are around 13,000 jobs at Oktoberfest. The most important things you need for working there is stamina, according to festival organizers.

The celebration lasts just over two weeks, and involves a lot of socializing. If you want to work as a waiter or waitress, you have to have strong upper arms and legs.

The filled beer mugs weigh up to 30 kg per load and a Wiesn waiter or waitress will walk up to 20 km a day.

WATCH: Seven jobs you can only do in Germany

€300 million in tents

The festival tents are expected to generate almost €300 million, estimates Ralf Zednik, market researcher at the Munich tourist board. 

Why? Well, it’s down to the sheer volume of people visiting Oktoberfest – and the prices. 

€11.80 per jug

A Maß (those are the huge 1 litre jugs) of beer costs a whopping €11.80 this year. The cost of beer has steadily risen over the years, as the graph below shows. A Maß cost just €6.80 in 2002.

Graph translated by Statista for The Local.

Last year 7.9 million litres of beer was poured for thirsty customers. When it comes to food, visitors chow down on countless sausages and pretzels, amongst other things.

It's good for profits, even though the construction and dismantling of a large beer tent costs one to two million euros, bands cost about €200,000 and the security stewards in the tent cost more than €400,000.

And the city, as organizer of the Oktoberfest and owner of the Theresienwiese, collects 7.8 percent of the "turnover rent".

READ ALSO: The dos and don'ts to keep in mind at Oktoberfest

€140 million in income

Zednik estimates that restaurants, bars and sales stands at Oktoberfest share an income of almost €140 million. Every year about 1,100 carnival and market traders apply for a stand – but only half of them are admitted.

For taxi drivers, on the other hand, Oktoberfest is "a double-edged sword," said Jürgen Dinter, account manager at the Isarfunk taxi centre.

Orders and turnovers are high. But large trade fairs are actually better, said Dinter. He says taxi drivers often have to deal with drunken visitors during Wiesn time.

When thousands of people pour out of the tents at night, "the taxi driver has to work out: is he going to be sick in my car?" explained Dinter. The cleaning effort would be enormous.

Food being served at Oktoberfest. Photo: DPA

"if you don't let someone in because the taxi is already occupied, it's possible he could kick the door," said Dinter.

It's no wonder then that there are some drivers who prefer to take a break during Wiesn.

Six breweries

Six traditional Munich breweries have the privilege of serving their beer at the Wiesn. They are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten.

€160 million in trade

Market researcher Zednik said Oktoberfest should generate around €160 million in individual trade as people flock to take home a little bit of Munich.

Visitors buy Lederhosen, Dirndls, Bavarian souvenirs as well as FC Bavarian jerseys, which are also popular with foreign guests, says Bernd Ohlmann, Managing Director of the Handelsverband Bayern (HBE).

"Oktoberfest has a huge image and it's a marketing factor for Munich's retail trade, positioning Munich as a shopping city," he added.

Wiesn is an invaluable advertising opportunity for Munich.

"Due to its worldwide reputation, Oktoberfest is a tourist magnet," said John of the Bavarian Hotel and Restaurant Association.

With reporting by Rachel Loxton. Oktoberfest runs from Saturday, September 21st until Sunday, October 6th.


Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2019/09/18 20:37
I was privileged to visit Oktoberfest around 1990 while participating in one of the last Reforger exercises held by the US Army in Germany. I was with a group of linguists from the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah Army National Guard. Oktoberfest was very interesting. I was especially amused at the extremely long lines going to the latrines. We also witnessed the parade on Sunday with all of the beautiful entries. I would love to return for Oktoberfest again but do not see the possibility any time soon. Munich is also a beautiful city and I enjoyed being there very much.

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