German Travelers “do not feel as welcome as before.”
The recently released German Travel Trade Barometer covering the end of 2017 and first quarter of 2017 revealed that top German tour operators reported no growth in 2016 compared to 2015 on average (for year-end 2016 bookings). While not necessarily positive news, a no-change-year-over-year is significantly better than double-digit declines being reported for total visits from Germany to some markets, notes the Barometer, which is conducted by Travel Market Insights Inc., pointing out that the trade only represent their bookings and their input does not account for all travel. But it does indicate that U.S. companies and travel destinations that work with the German trade might register a stronger return. (Editor’s note: Because of the format of the Barometer, there were not any questions specifically referring to U.S. President Donald Trump asked of operators.)
According to the survey, German operators also projected bookings for the 2016-2017 winter period (November 2016 – March 2017): they increased slightly (up 1-3 percent) for the winter period compared to last year. The difference between what the operators are reporting and a decline of more than 10 percent (for the first eight months of 2016) reported by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) may be reflected in potential demand to book travel via an agent or operator given an increase in uncertainty in the exchange rate and political (policy) uncertainty. It also reflects the growth in the trade developing FIT options for consumers. In either case, said the Barometer, demand for travel to the USA has retreated from the record highs in 2015.
In the Barometer, German operators were asked why bookings/demand is projected to change. The top reason bookings changed in 2016 was “a change in consumer demand,” followed closely by the currency exchange rate, and the cost of travel in the U.S.
When asked to elaborate several themes appeared on why demand shifted, operators pointed to:
- A strong U.S. Dollar and cost of lodging
- Politics in the U.S.
- Uncertainty (primarily over entrance-and-exit policy)
The German trade indicated that these concerns are resulting in some consumers “putting off” travel to the United States. The desire is still there, as some indicated, but consumers are willing to skip the USA for other destinations that are more stable at this time. Canada was clearly benefiting with 80 percent of the trade reporting Canada as the top competitive destination for the U.S. in 2016. For the winter period (November 2016 – March 2017) the Caribbean was the top competitive destination for the United States.
Respondents ranked entry-and-exit requirements as the strongest deterrent for travel to the U.S. in the next six months. Accommodation rates and the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar rounded out the top three deterrents
The German respondents were also asked “in your own words”: “What are the most important motivators to expand travel to the U.S.?” and “What are the most concerning deterrents for travel to the U.S. in 2017?”
Most of the trade indicated that tightened immigration regulations would have a negative impact. The concern on entry and exit requirements included “continuity in entry regulations,” “focusing on the need for a clear and consistent policy.” Others expressed similar concerns for continuity: “uncertainty about the president’s policies,” “stable entry regulations,” “clear objectives by the new government would be beneficial to our customers,” “stable communications,” “In general, the entry procedure is not conductive to tourism.” Others suggested that the welcome mat has been removed and that needs to be addressed: “statements that European tourists are welcome in the country would be beneficial,” “Travelers do not feel as welcome as before.”
German operators also provided insight on changes in demand for travel during the winter period (November 2016 – March 2016). Niche travel, car rentals, touring the countryside, world heritage/national park sites, and multi-destination travel ranked the strongest. In contrast, shopping trips, theme parks, and full package travel ranked the lowest overall – but were still rated as only being slightly lower in demand.
A Note on Methodology: The German Travel Trade Barometer program is conducted by Travel Market Insights Inc. The survey is administered in German on line. The program is supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce and receives input from Germany’s Visit USA Committee. The German Travel Trade Barometer is a qualitative survey of top German tour operators that sell and promote travel to the United States. This survey session was conducted from January 30 to February 22, 2017. Out of 50 potential qualified respondents 26 responded. The 26 respondent companies are estimated to represent 80 percent of the German bookings to the Unites States. For access to the full U.S. report (in English or German), U.S. destination specific results, or more details on the program please contact Scott C. Johnson, president and CEO of Travel Market Insights Inc. /[email protected] /Phone: 1+518-668-2559 (USA).