In an action that reflects the reality first conveyed to Inbound four months ago by U.S.-based receptive tour operators, Munich-based Studiosus, the top study tours and cultural tour operators in Europe, has said it expects a tough year for long-haul cultural trips next year due to the weak euro but, at the same time, expects a good year for European destinations. Studiosus, reported FVW, has reduced USA capacity by one-fifth in response to a 15 percent price increase and has revised its overall program to include additional product beyond Europe—but not America. Checking out the Studiosus website, one will notice no new USA product in the inventory.
Meanwhile, other tour operators who sell non-USA product are increasing capacity to destinations where the euro is not weak. Öger Tours—a Thomas Cook Germany brand that handles Turkey tours—is expanding its program for winter 2015/16 with 40,000 additional charter seats. The Turkey specialist will offer 10,000 more seats to Antalya, a Turkish resort destination on the Mediterranean and as many as 30,000 more to Hurghada, a beach resort town along Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
Olimar, which specializes in Southern Europe, is adding more hotels on the Canary Islands and more tours for the Cape Verde islands this coming winter alongside more than 100 hotels in its core destination of Portugal.
While the operators are juggling 2015-16 product offerings, German consumers seem to be turning away from the traditional travel agency, which has been more of a staple in the country than in other European markets. Consumers have been slow to go offline.
The results of a just-released study the study by VIR† (Verband Internet Reisevertrieb, or Internet Travel Sales Association) and market researchers FUR, noted that, in 2014, about 11.6 million Germans researched their next package holiday (of five days or more) on the internet. Of these, about 37 percent (roughly 4.3 million people) then also booked the holiday online while only about 33 percent booked offline, for example, in a travel agency.
When it comes to individual components of the travel product, the shift to online is even more marked: Over half of consumers (52 percent) are researching accommodations online, while 49 percent are doing so for flight bookings.
VIR president Michael Buller commented: “The study shows a very clear trend. Ten years ago the internet was mostly a research tool for countless customers but today bookings are increasingly taking place online as well. We expect that this trend will intensify significantly in the coming years.”
This trend could actually aid or stimulate more travel to the U.S. for, as Inbound experienced in its own (admittedly not very scientific) survey of German travel agencies in Berlin through in-person visits several years ago during ITB: None of the staff at the agencies were really familiar with the U.S. or had visited the country. By going online and increasingly foregoing the in-store “assistance” of a travel agent, the German travel consumer might find his/her way to the USA more quickly.
† VIR represents eight of the largest German online travel agencies: ebookers, Expedia, HolidayCheck, HRS, L’Tur, Lastminute.de, Travelchannel.de and Weg.de.