Sales losses feared: retailers worried about veil ban

Affordable vacationers from the Gulf States are popular in Munich – despite face veils. The proposal to ban it is causing criticism.

Potential consumer: A woman wearing a niqab crosses Odeonsplatz in Munich. Photo: dpa

Munich, the self-proclaimed "cosmopolitan city with a heart," is becoming increasingly popular with Arab tourists. Now the trade fears that vacationers from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates or Bahrain will stay away – because they feel blindsided by the ban on the Muslim face veil (niqab) demanded by the CSU.

"That would be a bitter loss," complains Bernd Ohlmann, managing director of the Bavarian Trade Association. He also dislikes the fact that this initiative comes from Bavaria’s Economics Minister Ilse Aigner (CSU), of all people.

The wearers of the Muslim full-body veil, which leaves only slits for the eyes, and their followers cannot be overlooked in the cityscape of the Isar metropolis. They shop by the pile in inexpensive fashion stores as well as in noble traditional houses.

On the super noble Maximilianstrasse, they stroll past the shop windows and look at watches for five- or six-figure prices. Cars with Qatari license plates are parked in front of the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten or the Bayerischer Hof.

370 euros a day

The hotel industry appreciates the vacationers from the oil countries: With an average of 12.5 days, they stay in Munich for an extraordinarily long time; moreover, they usually rent several rooms or even entire floors for their families.

Tourists from Arab countries spend an average of 370 euros a day in the Bavarian capital. From January to August 2015, for example, 152,000 vacationers from the Gulf came to Munich, 18 percent more than in the same period last year.

For rich Arabs, Munich is the new Paris, tourism experts are certain. The shift in visitor flows coincided with the ban on face veils introduced in France in 2011. Those who wear the full-body veil there must pay a fine of up to 150 euros.

This article originally talked about a burqa ban. The face veil shown in the picture is called a niqab.