COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Put off by militant violence and political upheaval in traditional sun-and-sea holiday hotspots like Tunisia and Turkey, German tourists are flocking to nearby Denmark this summer counting on peace and quiet within secure borders.
Denmark is part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel zone, but it reinstated temporary border controls late last year in reaction to a wave of migrants sweeping across the continent from the Middle East and North Africa.
Although tightening its borders and immigrant laws risked damaging Denmark’s international image as a paragon of liberal, law-abiding tolerance, it has ironically boosted tourism in the small Nordic country of 5.7 million people.
In particular, there has been a pronounced rise in German visitors, some of whom see border controls as positive and don’t mind having to stop and pull out their passports when crossing into a country with one of the world’s lowest crime rates.
“You can say it’s a bit of a problem for us that Denmark now has border controls, but it is good for safety,” said Hans-Guenter Duenhoeft, a German visiting the capital Copenhagen for the first time.
While he said his decision to holiday in Denmark was not dictated by terrorism elsewhere, he said he would not take his family for the time being to places like Turkey and Egypt, where Islamist militants have killed scores of people including European tourists in bombings and shootings over the past year.
On top of that, Turkey experienced an abortive military coup in mid-July that has triggered a huge security crackdown, hardening perceptions of danger and instability in the region.
“Safety first,” Duenhoeft said as entered Copenhagen’s popular Tivoli Gardens amusement park with his family.
A television advert by Novasol, a holiday home rental firm, shows a German family vacationing on Denmark’s bracing North Sea coast accompanied by the caption, “In Daenemark ist die Welt noch in Ordnung” (In Denmark, the world is still in order).
Germans perceive Denmark - which has suffered none of the Islamist militant violence that has shaken other parts of Europe over the past year - as the second safest European country after Iceland, a February survey showed.
Nowadays, Germans are concerned about security even at home because of an influx of more than 1.2 million migrants since early last year, and a spate of violent attacks on civilians in Germany since July 18 by men of Middle Eastern or Asian origin that have killed 10 people and injured dozens.
Copenhagen’s official VisitDenmark travel guide says the number of holiday home rentals by Germans will rise for the fourth straight year in 2016 to the highest since the 1990s.
German tourists comprise around 85 percent of the more than 11 million nightly bookings at Danish holiday homes each year. But bookings are set to rise by 6 percent in July and peak in August with a 15 percent increase from last year, according to preliminary data by VisitDenmark.
“Safety and security are very important for Germans. It shows in many ways in German society and also in their choice of holiday destinations,” said Lars Ramme Nielsen, market director in Germany for VisitDenmark.
“While tightening the borders maybe harmed Denmark’s image a bit, I think it’s having a positive effect on tourism,” he said.
However, he noted that the spike in German visitors has come against “a somewhat sad background with the refugee crisis, terrorism and those sorts of things”.
In a GfK market research survey in December last year, one out of five German respondents said terrorism in a given holiday destination would make them change their travel plans.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; editing by Mark Heinrich