Two reports during the past couple of weeks have buoyed the hopes of the German travel trade for the coming year. One, the regular monthly report on market trends by the Nuremberg-based marketing research firm GfK revealed a surge of more than 11 percent in sales revenues for travel agents last month; another, the annual FUR (Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen) analysis suggests that the Germans’ desire to travel is strong and that more people expect to travel this year.
First, the GfK market travel survey, as reported by the German travel trade publication, FVW:
- A sales recovery that started in November gathered pace in December with an 11.4 percent increase rise in revenues that more than compensated for a 6.4 decline in December 2015, according to analysis of bookings in 1,500 representative travel agencies.
- The 2016/17 tourism year is now showing a small sales increase of one percent on a cumulative basis.
- Winter sales rose by 11.4 percent in December, and are now only 4 percent behind last year’s level.
- Bookings for April, including the Easter holidays, are up by 32 percent which, FVW notes, more than compensates for a 13 percent decline in March.
- Even so, the remaining winter months remain below last year, however.
- Summer sales increased by 13 percent last month, leaving cumulative sales for 2016/17 showing a 10 percent increase to date. (This, too, outweighs, the 6 percent decline as of December 2015.) Two thirds—67 percent—of all revenues in December were for summer 2017 bookings.
- There is a 31 percent increase for June, as well as growth for July, August and September, with only May and October still behind previous year levels.
- Also the German IT services company TATS also registered good December business in its monthly sales review of 2,500 travel agencies, with bookings increasing by 4.8 percent last month, leaving a cumulative increase of 7.1 percent for advance bookings through to October 2017. There was a 7.6 percent rise in sales of cruises, which are showing a 17.3 percent increase for 2016/17 as a whole.
- For 2016 (January—December) the TATS travel agency survey shows an overall sales increase of 0.3 percent, including a slight 0.1 percent drop in leisure travel sales. A strong 10.7 percent increase in cruise holiday sales compensated for a slump in flight-based package holidays and other trips.
Second, the FUR Analysis: Possibly because of what one trade journal described as the Germans’ “Die Reiselust” (loosely, the desire or longing for travel) Germans will keep traveling this year after remarkably stable demand in 2016 despite terror attacks around the world, according to the annual Reiseanalyse survey by market researchers FUR (“Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen) found.
Survey results—they were based on a representative study last November of more than 2,500 adults—were presented and discussed at the annual CMT Trade Fair in Stuttgart, which concluded on Jan. 22. They indicated that Germans went on some 69 million holiday trips and spent about €66 billion ($70.6 billion) on travel last year. In addition, the number of short leisure trips increased by 4 percent.
Prof. Martin Lohmann, FUR’s academic adviser and head of the Institute for Tourism and Spa Research in Northern Europe, who presented the study, said that the results were better than expected at the start of 2016 when headlines were dominated by terror attacks in several destinations and a public debate over whether politics should influence the choice of a holiday destination. Lohmann emphasized, however, that “These trends have not reduced the overall volume of demand for holiday travel. But there were significant shifts in the tourism travel flows.”
- Looking ahead to 2017, Lohmann was optimistic about prospects and predicted another stable year:
- A stable high level of demand with a volume of about 69 million holiday trips and spending of €66 billion ($70.6 billion) is expected. “Terror, crises, political and social changes might affect this picture in the future but the impact will be limited,” Lohmann predicted.
- Nearly four of out every five Germans (79 percent) are already thinking about this year’s holidays,
- Their desire to travel has increased (to 56 percent from 51 percent last year), and a clear majority has both time and money for private travel, according to the Reiseanalyse survey.
- About 23 percent of Germans want to travel more than last year and only 13 percent plan to reduce travel. (“These figures point to stable demand,” said Lohmann.)
As for destinations:
—41 percent of Germans want to visit a new country this year compared to 42 percent last year.
—Still, the favored destinations remain the same as in recent years, led by Germany (30 percent), Spain, Italy, Austria and Turkey.
Further complicating the situation is the unusually harsh winter, which is discouraging travel of any kind. Last fall, European experts announced that the winter of 2016-2017 would be the coldest in the last 100 years as arctic air masses arrive over the European continent. And they were right. And according to German meteorologist Dominik Jung, the lowest temperatures were expected to be recorded in January and February. March will not be any warmer, and temperatures would not increase until April. His predictions were supported by AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bastardi and by Elena Volosiouk, specialist at Phobos Meteorological Centre.
(The Inbound Report take on the above: None of the data directly address the matter of overseas travel by Germans. While there might be an increase in desire to travel and that could stimulate demand for short-haul international product, as well as domestic product within Germany, there is nothing that causes us to change our mind—or to reconsider our forecast—when it comes to our prediction of a one to three percent decline in Visit USA traffic in 2017.)