Cologne Lights cancelled Bonn ship owners still hope for Rhine in Flames
Bonn · Until 2019, Rhine in Flames was as certain on the first weekend in May in Bonn as Christmas Eve on 24 December. Whether the 2023 tourist season will begin with the big fireworks display is currently still open. The Bonn passenger shipping industry is hoping for a quick decision.
The news of the cancellation of the Cologne Lights did not come as a surprise to captain Clemens Schmitz. "We didn't expect the event to take place. It was never really announced," reports the chairman of Bonner Personen Schiffahrt (BPS), an association of four owner families. Up to now, the Bonners had kept the date in June free and were also looking forward to fireworks in Cologne. But it would be much more important for them to have clarity about Rhine in Flames 2023 in Bonn. Discussions are currently underway about financing. The first neighbouring municipalities already want to withdraw.
So will the Rhine in Flames soon only be a small event in Bonn, instead of a light spectacle with Bengal lights and fireworks along the ship's route to Linz? Until 2019, the large convoy of ships and the stage programme in the Rheinaue on the first weekend in May marked the start of the tourism season in Bonn and the region. The highlight was the high-altitude fireworks, visible from afar, with which the Eitorfer company Weco made a different musical theme sparkle every year. The spectacle was cancelled three times due to the corona pandemic.
No information on the status of planning
On the homepage of the Tourismus und Congress GmbH Bonn Region (T&C), the next possible dates for Rhine in Flames are listed as 6 May 2023 and 4 May 2024. More detailed information on the status of the planning is not available, even when asked. "T&C is currently in talks with the Rhine municipalities about the financing of the large-scale event Rhine in Flames. The talks serve to clarify open questions. Everyone is aware of the importance of this major event for the entire region and this will be taken into account in the talks," project manager Ulrich Jünger announced on Tuesday on behalf of managing director Udo Schäfer, who had appointments.
Jünger asked for understanding that for concrete statements on the realisation of the event one had to wait for the results of the talks which, according to GA information, will take place in the coming week. The Bonn city administration has also not yet commented on the future of Rhine in Flames, referring to the ongoing talks.
As reported, Remagen, Linz and Königswinter have already signalled that they do not want to help pay for deficits incurred in the past by the main organiser T&C. Despite rising revenues from trade and bed taxes during the event, the costs were lower than the benefits, Königswinter said. In Bad Honnef, where a festival has traditionally been held on Grafenwerth Island parallel to Rhine in Flames, no decision has yet been made on cost sharing.
Advance ticket sales for one ship only
If you look for a themed ship at Bonnticket, you will only find the MS Rheinfantasie as the party ship of Radio Bonn/Rhein-Sieg on sale so far. For the Christmas business at the latest, the other themed ships would also have to be launched. "Of course we missed the sales of the past years. Now we are still waiting so that we don't have to refund tickets," says Schmitz. The various fireworks events along the Rhine are as important for shipping as carnival and the Christmas season are for gastronomy, he adds.
Schmitz cannot imagine that Rhine in Flames will fail due to financing alone. "The fireworks are secured through sponsors. In addition, our passengers pay a fireworks levy," says the captain of the Filia Rheni. The ship owners need clarity by the end of the month at the latest to be able to plan. They are still keeping the date of 6 May free, but there are already enquiries for family celebrations or corporate events, because the BPS ships can also be booked for charter trips.
Because the fireworks trips are so popular, the Bonners have long since developed their own little alternative programme. On Sunday, 23 October, the 2022 season officially ends with a small fleet parade of five ships and a fireworks display at 7.15 pm at the Kameha Hotel. A few remaining tickets are still on sale. "The summer season went quite well, but we would of course be happy if we could already sell tickets for May in autumn and winter," Schmitz summed up for the BPS.
A new event is definitely to be repeated next year: The next "Bönnsche Sommernacht" is planned for 8 July 2023, which the ship operators had launched as a small replacement for Rhein in Flammen. The BPS fleet includes the gallery saloon ship "Rheinprinzessin", the event catamaran "Filia Rheni", the event ship "Poseidon" and the ship "Moby Dick", which is modelled on a whale. "We want to expand the whole thing a bit more and bring in more ships," Schmitz announced for the next "Bönnsche Sommernacht“.
Information on scheduled tours and theme tours of the BPS is available at bonnschiff.de.
Original text: Bettina Köhl
Translation: Mareike Graepel