Posted by Real-Time News.

The German-themed holiday marketplace drew almost 70,000 people to the Christmas City this year.

Christkindlmarkt’s expansion paid off for Bethlehem this year. 

The German-themed holiday marketplace drew almost 70,000 people to the Christmas City this season, according to a news release.

The shopping festival doubled in size this year, adding two more tents with distinct holiday themes, including a new home for St. Nicholas. This is the first major change for the holiday marketplace since it moved to the SteelStacks campus in 2011.

This year’s 69,439 shoppers set an overall attendance record for Christkindlmarkt, beating the record-setting 2015 season by 7.5 percent. And the weekend of Dec. 8-11, saw more than 19,000 shoppers, the most ever for a single weekend in the event’s history.

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From 2010 to 2014, the market averaged about 59,000 annual visitors, but ArtsQuest identified it as an event with room for growth, leading to the expansion.

The larger festival was able to include 190 different artisans and vendors, 60 percent of whom came from the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas.

ArtsQuest President and CEO Kassie Hilgert said ArtsQuest, which puts on the market, has long been committed to using its programs and events as tools for urban revitalization as well as supporting tourism and economic development in the Lehigh Valley.

“Over the past two years, we have made Christkindlmarkt one of our top priorities, dedicating additional resources to expanding and promoting the event with the goal of attracting even more people to Bethlehem at Christmastime,” Hilgert said.

Hotel Bethlehem general manager Dennis Costello says the effort has paid off. The hotel saw an uptick in visitors this year with occupancy up over 5 percent and room revenue up 20 percent, he said in a news release. There’s also been an increase in foot traffic into the hotel .

“This has been the best Christmas season in our 94-year history,” Costello says. “…The trolley between the north and South sides is a real hit with guests. They love how easy it is to go from one side of the city to the other.”

In 2017, Christkindlmarkt will run Nov. 17-19 and 24-26; Nov. 30-Dec. 3; and Dec. 7-10, 14-17 and 21-23.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo and Facebook. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.