Alternative Energy, Abandonment and War: The Current Affairs Driving Tourism. By Jennifer Collins ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On Recent Trends Tuesday, 24th June 2014
Exclusive Feature: When German politicians decided to phase out its nuclear power stations following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan and boost green energy, they probably didn't bank on solar panels and wind turbines becoming tourist attractions, but that is exactly what's happening.
The NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) brigade slam the towering wind turbines dotted about Germany's rolling green hills and plains as eyesores, but many German communities are cashing in on their renewable energy credentials by trying to lure sightseers with beautiful views.
For instance, the Holtreim wind farm in Lower Saxony – Europe's biggest wind farm – has an observation deck on one if its turbines. Those prepared to make the 65 metre climb up almost 300 steps are offered a spectacular view of the North Sea.
Nine communities in Bavarian district of Schleching have also joined together to form the Oekomodell Achental, a project that combines tourism, agriculture and renewable energy. Tourists cycling the 65 kilometre bike-path through the area can take a look at 30 renewable energy projects along the way.
More than 190 tourist "energy destinations", including the two named above, are detailed in journalist Martin Frey's renewable energy guidebook – Germany: Experience Renewable Energy.
So far, the publication has been a hit and is already in its second edition - not only highlighting renewable energy sites but also relics of Germany's fossil and nuclear fuel past, such as a nuclear-power-station-turned-amusement park in North-Rhine Westphalia.
Dutchman Hennie van der Most opened the power plant amusement park in 2001 after purchasing the property in 1991 and building a hotel, meeting and leisure complex on the site. The power plant never went into operation, following local protests, so is completely safe for visitors. There are a total of 40 attractions, including a 58-metre vertical swing in the cooling tower.
Renewables tourism can be seen as part of a wider trend toward what could be defined as "current affairs tourism" encompassing everything from city urban decay and renewal to adventure travel in the latest war zone.
Urban decay and gentrification are hot topics in cities like Berlin where rents are rapidly rising in the city and low income residents are being pushed to the outskirts of the city. Tour operators, such as Context Travel, are addressing current political and social events as part of their tours.
Many tourists also flock to Berlin to catch a glimpse of formerly glorious and history-laden buildings left to rot, sneaking inside to take a look. But building owners are starting to realise they can cash in on people's curiosity and are offering guided tours. The owners of Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain), a former cold-war era listening station, are doing just that after years of trying to keep curious tourists out.
Then there are the tourists who prefer Tikrit to Tenerife. Tour operators, such as Hinterland Travel, offer carefully planned trips to countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan for extreme travel and those who want to see what it's like near the frontline and immerse themselves in a culture few will get to experience.
Hoteliers should take note – current events and politics can provide ample opportunities to attract visitors.
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Jennifer Collins is a reporter based in Berlin, Germany. She previously worked as a local journalist and arts and culture editor in her home town of Dublin, Ireland and now works with journalists around the world as part of the international journalism organisation, Associated Reporters Abroad. Jennifer enjoys travelling slowly, mainly by train, sampling local street food and people-watching from cafes in far-flung lands.
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