Oktoberfest München. The world's largest public event

Term Paper, 2005

29 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

Index of figures

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

2. Historic Development
2.1 Unique Oktoberfest traditions
2.2 German Beer

3. The Munich Tourist Office as the event organising body

4. Event planning and resources
4.1 Stakeholders
4.1.1 The host organisation
4.1.2 The host community
4.1.3 Traders and brewers
4.1.4 Sponsors
4.1.5 Media
4.1.6 Participants
4.2 Marketing and advertising
4.3 Security issues

5. The various impacts of the event
5.1 Economical and tourist impacts
5.2 Political impacts
5.3 Social and cultural impacts
5.4 Environmental impacts
5.5 Oktoberfest as an international icon
5.5.1 Oktoberfest in Australia
5.5.2 German style restaurants: Sydney’s Löwenbräu Keller

6. Recommendations

7. Conclusion

8. References

Index of figures

Figure 1: Oktoberfest München (Munich) – Overview

Figure 2: View from above the Wies'n

Figure 3: Prince Ludwig

Figure 4: Princess Therese

Figure 5: Oktoberfest parade through Munich

Figure 6: Munich's mayor Ude tapping the keg

Figure 7: Annual world beer consumption in litres per capita

Figure 8: Stakeholder Chart Oktoberfest

Figure 9: One of the 12 official Oktoberfest websites

Figure 10: Oktoberfest participants' origin

Figure 11: Annual amount of visitors to the Oktoberfest

Figure 12: Consumption table - a clear upward trend since 2001

Figure 13: Bavarian president Stoiber and Munich's lord mayor Ude

Figure 14: Ude and Stoiber in their Bavarian costumes

Figure 15: Interaction of positive relations

Figure 16: Annual amount of beer sold at the Oktoberfest

Figure 17: Rememberance Column

Figure 18: Newspapers after the terrorist attack

Figure 19: Public transport during the Oktoberfest

Figure 20: St. Raphael's German Folkloric Dancing Group

Figure 21: Sydney's German restaurant

Figure 22: German size beer steins

Executive Summary

Considered the largest public event in the world, the Munich Oktoberfest has developed from an agricultural festival to an entertainment and activity based large scale event over the last 195 years. On the one hand, the historical elements of Bavarian culture are still present and nowadays celebrated as rituals and traditional experiences; on the other hand the expansion of cultural perspectives has led to the introduction of innovative and challenging ideas at the annual hallmark event.

Every year approximately six million people gather at the Theresienwies’n (Theresa’s fields) to clink beer steins together, enjoy traditional German food and yodel to Oom-pa-pa music all day long. 700 small beer tents and trade booths are found on the Oktoberfest grounds and 14 specialised large tents are designed according to certain themes. The “flirt shed” or “oxen arena” are two examples of these large tents, which can accommodate up to 10,000 people each. Apart from German (meaning only German) beer, beer and more beer, various carousels and roller coasters offer exciting fun and enjoyment for visitors of all ages throughout the 16 Oktoberfest days.

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This case study examines the current management practices of the Oktoberfest and focuses on the co-operation between its organisational body, the Munich Tourist Office, and the most influential stakeholders. By analysing the internal and external resources and competences of all participating bodies, the puzzle that is the event environment can be solved and transferred into a finished event picture. Literature reviews, secondary data from Oktoberfest surveys and in-depth expert interviews support the arguments presented in the report.

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the Oktoberfest is that despite no marketing or sponsorship activities, this mega event has always been successful and economically stable. This paper discusses the overall financial benefits that are achieved through the close link of the festival with the tourism sector, which results in increased income for the host community.

In order to evaluate the success of the beer festival in more detail, special attention is given to the various economical, political, social, physical and environmental aspects which are impacted by the Oktoberfest. Shared experiences between national and international visitors and the building of community pride are examples of social impacts; improved transportation and environmental awareness impact the physical side; international prestige and profile impact at the political level whereas increased tourist visits and job creation impact at an economical level. All the above are important examples illustrating the positive impacts of Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Apart from the positive aspects, some negative consequences associated with the staging of beer festivals are outlined in this case study. Special attention is given to the most devastating incident which happened at the Oktoberfest in 1980, a suicide bomber launched a terrorist attack in the very heart of the Wies’n. This incident and the adhoc crisis management is considered and discussed in more detail.

Until today, the overall social, cultural and economical benefits have outweighed the negative aspects and this trend is expected to continue in 2005. Due to the enormous popularity of the Oktoberfest and its overall positive perception as an enjoyable high profile event, many cities all over the world have adopted the Oktoberfest image to stage a typical German beer festival in similar form and fashion. Therefore, this paper not only refers to the actual Munich Oktoberfest, but also applies event management theory and statistical evidence to events in contemporary Sydney.

1. Introduction

Special events describe specific rituals, presentations, performances or celebrations which are created to mark special occasions or achieve social and cultural goals. To the customer or guest, they are an opportunity for a leisure, social or cultural experience outside the normal range of choices or beyond everyday experience[1].

If there is one event that fulfils all these requirements, it is the Munich Oktoberfest! The biggest public festival in the world will be held for the 172nd time in 2005. Each year, the Oktoberfest is attended by more than 6 million visitors, who drink more than 6 million litres of beer and consume over 200,000 pairs of pork sausages - mostly in the "beer tents" set up by the traditional Munich breweries[2]. The festivities are accompanied by a program of events, including the “Grand Entry of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries”, the “Costume and Riflemen's Procession”, and a concert involving all the brass bands represented at the Wies'n. Located at the foot of the Bavaria statue, the huge Oktoberfest grounds also provide carousels, roller coasters and all the exciting fun of the fair for the enjoyment of visitors of all ages[3].

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Figure 1: Oktoberfest München (Munich) – Overview

The Munich Oktoberfest consists of 16 small and medium size tents holding up to 500 people as well as 14 specialised large tents. Each of them is designed according to a special theme, for example “traditional tent” or “flirt shed”. Up to 10,000 people fit into every large tent, and different kinds of German beer and food is served all day by 8,000 permanent and 4,000 temporary staff members.

Some argue that the world’s largest beer festival has lost its original charm and has turned into a huge “commercial orgy”. However, the cultural roots of the event and the traditional German festival style can still be found in Munich each year: locals in Bavarian costumes and millions of international visitors from all over the globe clink beer steins together and yodel to Oom-pa-pa music all day long[4].

Figure 2: View from above the Wies'n

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This case study will highlight the unique characteristics of the Oktoberfest and its organisational practices. In section two, an overview of the beer festival’s origins and special traditions is provided. The Munich Tourist Office as the organisational body is presented in section three, whereas the most influential stakeholders of the Oktoberfest are analysed in section four. Special emphasis is put on the various social, cultural, political and economical impacts of the hallmark event. These are critically discussed in section five and are further supported by examples of the ‘internationalisation’ of the German beer festival. Recommendations for the improved management of the event are given in section six. Having evaluated the event management and operational practices as well as the overall image, perception and impacts of the Oktoberfest, a conclusion based on theoretical and practical evidence is reached in the final section.

2. Historic Development

The first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honour of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on 12th October 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race[5].

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Figure 3: Prince Ludwig

All this happened four years after Bavaria became a kingdom. The folk festival was used by the Wittelsbacher dynasty to create an identity of the new Bavaria and to promote the capital Munich. In 1811 an added feature to the horse races was the Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture. In the

Figure 4: Princess Therese

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following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was extended and moved forward into September. This allowed for better weather conditions as September nights were warmer and the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens around the tents and the stroll over the Wies’n much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times[6]. The horse races, which were the oldest and - at one time - the most popular event of the festival are no longer held today. But the Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds.

The locals in Munich fondly refer to Oktoberfest as „die Wies’n“ because of its location, Theresienwiese (Theresa’s fields) – an area of 42 hectares which was named after the former princess[7].

2.1 Unique Oktoberfest traditions

The 2005 Oktoberfest will be held from September 16th until October 3rd. An important must-see and main highlight of the Wies’n events is the “Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade”[8].

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Figure 5: Oktoberfest parade through Munich

The parade happens every year on the first Wies’n Sunday which will fall on September 18th this year. Since 1950 individuals, marching groups, dance and music clubs all dressed in traditional costumes march through Munich’s city centre towards the Theresienwiese. A total number of 8,000 people from Germany and from neighbouring countries contribute to this traditional highlight[9].

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Figure 6: Munich's mayor Ude tapping the keg

Another important event is the “Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries”. Decorated horses pull colourful “Bierwagen” (beer wagons) through Munich, which represent the local breweries. The official tapping of the keg, the Oktoberfest Mass and “Böllerschießen“ (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue are further annual rituals[10].

2.2 German Beer

Considered the biggest, most regionally fragmented market in the world, the German beer market consists of over 1,200 breweries, producing more than 5,000 different brands of beer. Germany does not have big national brewing groups but is dominated by mainly small, family-owned businesses[11]. On average Germans drink about 121 litres of beer each year[12]. Together with the Irish, who have only 7 main breweries in their home market, Germany is the leader in beer consumption[13].

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 7: Annual world beer consumption in litres per capita

Beer drinkers in Germany are extremely loyal to their favourite brand and often it is consumed only within the region it is brewed, which makes it difficult for foreign companies to enter the market[14]. In addition to this the beer purity law (Reinheitsgebot) specifies exactly which ingredients can be used for brewing beer in Germany – beer has to contain nothing else but water, barley, hops and yeast[15]. Germans – especially Bavarians – trust the national beer quality and drink German beer as against imports. For these reasons no foreign brands are sold at the Oktoberfest.

3. The Munich Tourist Office as the event organising body

For more than 180 years the Oktoberfest was organised by the City of Munich. Since 1975 the organisation is in the hands of the events department of the Munich Tourist Office. Seven permanent staff members manage and co-ordinate the beer festival all year around. An additional operations team of eight people support the organisers during the preparation and implementation phases from July onwards[16]. They are in charge of measuring the individual trade spaces and the construction of the organiser’s information booths and toilet facilities.

In 2004, the brand new Service Centre Theresienwiese (SCT) replaced the 108 containers, which had been used as the “Oktoberfest headquarters” since 1975. In the very heart of the Wies’n, the SCT accommodates the event management department of the tourist office, the public relations department, the department for security and consumer protection, a lost property office and an emergency ward of the Bavarian Red Cross. Further, subsidiaries of the departments for Youth Affairs and Health and Safety have their offices in the 84 metre long building[17]. The local fire brigade and police set up “Wies’n stations” and support the “Security Point”, which serves as a contact point mainly for scared women (cf. section 4.3).

The overall goals of the Oktoberfest are ‘providing an outstanding amusement and leisure atmosphere for Munich’s inhabitants and guests from all over the world’, ‘fostering the traditions and quality of the Oktoberfest as Munich’s most important image-factor for tourism’ and ‘promotion of Munich’s business economy’[18].

The following section will focus on the relationships between the Munich Tourist Office and the various stakeholders, which are supposed to help achieve the set goals. A stakeholder chart (cf. section 4.1) will further illustrate the organisational form of the event.

4. Event planning and resources

Understanding the event environment is crucial for the success of the Oktoberfest. Major key players and stakeholders have to be identified and included in the strategic event planning process. Marshalling and integrating the sometimes conflicting individual needs of all parties is of central importance to the event managers[19].

4.1 Stakeholders

Many individuals, groups and associations contribute to the Oktoberfest every year. This section of the paper focuses on the most influential organisational bodies and explains their role in making the Oktoberfest a successful special event.

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Figure 8: Stakeholder Chart Oktoberfest (created by author)

4.1.1 The host organisation

As pointed out in section three, the Munich Tourist Office, headed by its General Manager Dr. Gabriele Weishäupl, is in charge of organising the Oktoberfest.The event management department organises, coordinates and implements the hallmark event and is supported by the marketing and public relations offices[20]. The responsible advisor is Dr. Reinhard Wieczorek from the Office for Employment and Economics (cf. Section 3). The business committee of the Munich city council is in charge of all economic issues and selects approximately 700 traders out of the annual 1,500 applicants for the event[21].

4.1.2 The host community

Munich is highly ranked among German cities in terms of culture, quality of life and atmosphere. It has internationally effective image carriers (Oktoberfest, soccer, castles) and is a top-ranking European tourist city. Munich is also a leading European city of culture with world-class museums and orchestras[22]. Further, the city possesses many attractive leisure opportunities and diverse natural assets. There is still a balanced structure of settlements and open spaces which all contribute to the cost of living in Munich being the highest in Germany. Apart from having the second most important airport in Germany, Munich is the central junction of railways and major interstate roads in southern Germany and has a highly efficient public transport system[23].

It can be concluded that Munich with its various highlights is a high profile city attracting visitors from all over the world – especially during the Oktoberfest months. Therefore, an integrative approach involving the geographical community and the community of interest should be implemented[24]. An excellent example for such integration is the close co-operation with the local restaurants, bars and pubs. During the Oktoberfest, these venues are allowed to stay open until 6am the following day, which guarantees extra income from Oktoberfest visitors after the Wies’n closes at midnight. The organisers and the city council implemented this policy following the complaints from Munich’s gastronomes, who feared huge economic losses during the Oktoberfest weeks[25].

4.1.3 Traders and brewers

All of the 700 traders and especially the 14 large brewers with their enormous beer tents have sole responsibility for their businesses. This means that – strictly speaking – many individual events make up the Oktoberfest. In accordance with the official operating regulations set by the Department of Employment and Economics certain conditions such as safety regulations and service standards have to be fulfilled, and additional requirements including opening hours and human resource obligations have to be met. A sufficient number of security personnel and toilet facilities have to be available in every beer tent. Furthermore, any form of advertising other than the name of the business and its logo are strictly prohibited on the Oktoberfest Wies’n[26].

4.1.4 Sponsors

The Oktoberfest operates independent of any sponsorship money. The event is financed exclusively via stall money from the various fair operators[27]. All financial hedging and potential settlement of payment balances is included in Munich’s financial budget. The Oktoberfest does not have explicit financial aims and therefore sponsorship arrangements are purposely avoided. This is meant to keep the original folk festival character alive and avoid “over-commercialisation”.

4.1.5 Media

The most popular private television channel ARD broadcasts several highlights such as the official opening or the parade of costumes live on TV. Every night the Oktoberfest highlights are shown in a 30 minute segment. The local station TV Munich has been providing four hourly broadcasts daily from the Oktoberfest for the last 10 years. Since 2002 several Web Cams have been placed at the Oktoberfest and the radio station Radio Gong – supported by different “Wies’n celebrities” – reports daily from the event[28].

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Figure 9: One of the 12 official Oktoberfest websites

12 official web sites[29] and hundreds of linked homepages are online to inform the public about the latest news. All kinds of tourist information, hotel and tent bookings, photo as well as video galleries are available on the net. The internet search engine Google shows more than 550,000 hits for the term “Oktoberfest”, which supports the view that the Internet has become the most important medium and source of information[30].


[1] Allen, J. et al.: Festival and Special Event Management. 3rd edition. John Wiley and Sons Australia, Ltd. Milton. 2005. p. 11

[2] Landeshauptstadt München


[3] ibid.

[4] Global Destinations. Germany. Introduction: Oktoberfest. http://www.globalgourmet.com/destinations/germany/octintro.html

[5] Stadt München – History: http://www.muenchen.de/vip8/prod2/mde/resources/mtour/englisch/oktoberfest/muenchen-oktoberfest-geschichte_e_m.jsp

[6] ibid.

[7] Oktoberfest TV: http://www.oktoberfest-tv.de/Wiesn2002/default.asp?PkId=28&LCID=1033

[8] Oktoberfestplaner.de. Oktoberfest München 2004 – Das Oktoberfest Special. http://www.oktoberfestplaner.de/

[9] ibid.

[10] Reichmann, R.: General introduction to Oktoberfest. http://www.serve.com/shea/germusa/oktstory.htm

[11] Retrieved on 5th October 2004 online in the Internet http://www.tastings.com/beer/germany.html

[12] Johnson, G. et al.: Exploring Corporate Strategy. Text and Cases. 7th edition. Prentice Hall. Essex. 2005. p. 109

[13] Deutscher Brauerbund. http://www.brauer-bund.de/brauereien/statistik/einwohn.htm

[14] Retrieved on 5th October 2004 online in the Internet http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/diamond_rich/rich_p9.html

[15] ibid.

[16] Department of Employment and Economics. State Capital Munich. Press information. Wies’n Wirtschaft. Das Oktoberfest als Wirtschaftsfaktor. Munich. 24.06.2004.

[17] ibid.

[18] Bauer, C.: in-depth interview. 21.04.2005. Sydney – Munich.

[19] Allen, J. et al.: loc. cit. p. 86

[20] Fremdenverkehrsamt München. Ansprechpartner Englisch. http://www.muenchen-tourist.de/englisch/stadtinformationen/muenchen-stadtinformationen-ansprechpartner_e_m.htm

[21] Department for Employment and Economics. loc. cit.

[22] Breu, C. and Wreden, B.: Munich – Stockholm, Comparison of the two regions’ planning system and contents. Promemoria. 3rd Version. Stockholm and Munich. 2003

[23] ibid.

[24] Allen, J. et al.: loc. cit. pp. 89 et seq.

[25] Lehner, C.: Oktoberfest FAQ. www.theresienwiese.de

[26] Oktoberfest operating regulations. Department of Employment and Economics. Munich. 2004

[27] Dr. Papke, G.: in-depth interview. Sydney – Munich. 18.04.2005

[28] Ganz-München-de. Oktoberfest: TV und Radiosender auf der Wiesn. http://www.ganz-muenchen.de/oktoberfest/2003/presse/medien/tv_radio.html

[29] The 12 sites are: www.muenchen-tourist.de, www.oktoberfest.de, www.oktoberfestplaner.de, www.theresienwiese.de, www.oktoberfest-tv.com, www.wiesn.de, www.wiesn24.de, www.wiesnzelte.de, www.oktoberfestportal.de, www.wiesnjobs.de, www.wiesnbilder.de and www.wiesnfotos.de

[30] Dr. Papke, G.: loc. cit.

Excerpt out of 29 pages


Oktoberfest München. The world's largest public event
University of Technology, Sydney  (School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism)
Event Management
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Oktoberfest, München, Event, Management, Impacts, Event Auswirkungen, Event Marketing, Marketing
Quote paper
Master of Sports Management (MM Sportmgt) Nico Schulenkorf (Author), 2005, Oktoberfest München. The world's largest public event, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/88712


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