Paula Hernández 

Christmas lights in cities and their relation to tourism

Another article by the author: China: the future renewable superpower

Should Christmas lights be put up this year because of the energy crisis?

Christmas lights create debate in Europe and the rest of the world

Many major cities are starting to finalise preparations to switch on the now traditional Christmas lights on many of their streets. Citizens see these lights as an unmistakable symbol of the onset of winter. However, this year the Christmas lights are likely to cause a lot of fights between politicians, environmentalists, citizens and even entire countries. This is due to the current energy crisis in Europe and worldwide caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Environmentalists have a very strong opinion on the matter: They advocate the removal of all Christmas lights. A member of Ecologistas en Acción claims that Christmas lights will cause a peak in electricity production. He explains that this peak would occur in the winter months, when solar energy is scarcer and would lead to a greater dependence on gas to meet demand. It details that removing them from the streets would allow considerable savings in electricity prices during the winter months. 

Measures to save electricity in capital cities with Christmas lights

In order to save on electricity consumption over the coming months and not stifle citizens with the prices imposed by the electricity companies, several cities have proposed a multitude of ideas. The most popular, and one that is gaining momentum over time, is the proposal to reduce the hours of Christmas lighting. This measure would be based on reducing the hours of daily electricity consumption by one hour, without completely losing the essence of Christmas. 

Spain takes a stand on Christmas lights

In Spain we have examples of several provincial capitals that have already pronounced themselves on the matter. They all have one opinion in common: they have all maintained or increased their investment in Christmas lights for 2022. Sectors such as commerce and the hotel and catering industry reject any measure related to turning off their lights earlier this winter. They insist that the savings from this measure would be very insignificant and are committed to maintaining the lighting in order to encourage shopping in their establishments.

In cities such as Vigo, they explain that the removal of the Christmas lights would mean an acceptance of Putin's victory. Other cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are already talking to the main sectors involved. The discourse followed by the vast majority of cities to explain this expenditure on Christmas lights is very similar. They say that more than an expense, it is an investment, as the lights attract more customers to shop in all the shops and thus save a sector that has had a very hard time since the beginning of the pandemic. In short, local councils hope that Christmas tourism will cover the costs and benefits of the coming winter.

Tourism is seen as the great salvation this Christmas.

Many businesses are reluctant to recognise and accept the government's proposed measures to reduce the hours of light in their establishments and to reduce or even eliminate Christmas lights. Tourism is the shield behind which businesses hide: More than 9 million people in Spain travel for Christmas. Many of them are part of a new tourism trend called "light tourism". This is tourism where people seek out the cities with the most ostentatious Christmas decorations. This leads to a considerable increase in hotel bookings and shopping in nearby shops.

This year especially, businesses are trying to attract all tourists to visit their cities so that they can prove that the position they have been defending during these months is really viable: Tourism can be our salvation this winter to make enough profit to cover the electricity costs due to the energy crisis.

Europe is reluctant to do without Christmas because of Putin.

In Europe the situation is more critical: the Baltic and Central European countries are being hit hardest by the energy crisis. They are reflecting on whether or not to implement stricter measures. In countries such as Germany and Switzerland, environmental groups are calling for a total withdrawal of Christmas lights. They explain that this proposal has been suggested for years because of climate change and that it is now more vital than ever to implement it. 

In Austria, for example, there are quite different opinions on the subject: shopkeepers also advocate keeping the lights and thus "fighting" Putin and cheering people up in this difficult winter. But the Austrian government is following the line of its neighbouring countries and is opting for a reduction of the daily hours of use and the amount of Christmas decorations.

The fear of a major blackout this winter is real.

In some countries, panic is beginning to be seen in the fear of a global blackout this winter in Europe. Countries such as the UK, France and Germany have started to propose measures to combat a power shortage. These measures are based on suggesting that people buy blankets, candles or torches in case of an emergency. This hysteria has also caused the demand for wood and winter clothing to rise sharply.

Paula Hernandez

SEO writer for the Electricity Companies Blog 

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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