“Somewhat identical problems”
Carrots want to communicate better
Sophisticated coastal resorts or village structures, car-free or a destination for horsepower lovers, connected to the mainland by dam or by ship, depending on the tides. At first glance, the islands of Germany are different. But they have one thing in common.
The classic vacationer in Sylt probably will not travel to Beltrum, and those who love the North Sea will not travel to an island in the Baltic Sea. The view, the nature and the infrastructure are very different – at least if you look at the islands of Germany from the outside.
Some of them can only be reached by boat (or plane), others are connected to the mainland by a bridge, some have clubs, discos and elegant boutiques, others have small tea rooms and souvenir shops. But if you take a closer look, you will see more similarities and challenges than differences. “There are pretty much identical problems on the islands,” says Harm Olchers, mayor of the small East Frisian island of Baltrum. Catherine Vivek, Head of Sylt Landscape Bureau, sees the size of individual destinations as playing a secondary role in the overall assessment.
At the second German island conference on Rügen, Vivek, Olchers and other island representatives wish to discuss on 12 and 13 May, create a network, and thus find a hearing of common challenges at the federal level and beyond. Overview:
Tourist island versus home
A large part of the population lives on all islands and Halligen directly or indirectly from tourism. A total of more than 32 million overnight stays are counted by vacationers here annually, as announced at the island conference. But the islands are also home to about 230,000 people. This harbors conflicts. Very crowded and very noisy – islanders don’t find this only in Sylt. Tourism must become more sustainable, and slower. Appropriate concepts are not only developed on the largest island of North Frisian.
Sustainability and acceptance of tourism among the local population are also the main themes of the conference for the President of the Rügen Tourism Association, Knut Schaeffer. “We need to talk to each other and learn from each other. The overall package has to be right.” Because tourism should continue to generate added value in holiday areas in the coming decades. Then the conditions must be created. We want to build it, maintain it and pass it on to the next generation.” According to Schafer, questions about sustainability begin with the arrival of guests, which must be done by public transportation. In addition, guests should be able to do without the car on vacation. “Should it be a fun pool or is a picnic path sufficient,” Schaefer continues to spin the string.
Living space is scarce, and unlike on the mainland, you can’t simply move into the neighboring city or, as a community, define a new development area relatively easily. Current housing is expensive. Real estate prices are so high that the employee often cannot afford them. Not only on Sylt. Prices are often fanciful, says Olchers, Mayor of Beltrum. Small islanders often can’t afford it. For landlords, renting to vacation guests is often more profitable than long-term renters. And this has serious consequences: on the one hand, many apartments and houses are empty out of season, and some local residents of Sylt, for example, complain about the lack of village life on the island. On the other hand, it is becoming more and more difficult for companies in the islands to acquire and keep specialized personnel for the islands.
Schaefer von Rügen says it is clear to him that the local population is essential to the continuation of good tourism. Nowadays, employees are often brought from remote areas to holiday areas. “People migrate on the basis of money because of work does not work.” In order to attract people permanently, apartments, nurseries or schools will be required.
The accessibility of the islands is also a recurring topic. Frequent catastrophic conditions on the railway line from the mainland to Sylt are known nationwide. This is used not only by vacationers, but also by the thousands of travelers every day who keep the island running. In season, the streets of Sylt are often very crowded with cars and bicycles. But infrastructure is more than railways and roads. This also includes, for example, medical care, fire brigades, kindergartens, schools and working clubs. Vivek believes that an exchange with representatives of the other islands on questions such as how to maintain daycare centers and schools, strengthen sports clubs and how volunteer fire brigades can recruit members is crucial.
More storms, rising sea levels and flooding, sand loss: the effects of climate change are clearly visible in coastal areas – and action must be taken. The fifth update of the General Plan for Coastal Protection was presented in Schleswig-Holstein in February, describing sustainable adaptation to climate change, for example through sand replenishment and so-called climate dams. For the Baltic coast, actors in coastal protection, nature conservation and tourism must develop a joint strategy by 2024 that is sustainable and long-term adapted to the consequences of climate change.
And on the North Sea islands of Beltrum and Norderney, for example, the role that perceiving and coping with winds and storms plays in everyday life will be investigated over the next few years. The goal of the project is to learn from the daily experiences of islanders and get ideas about how island communities can better protect themselves from storms and storm surge in times of climate change.