The spirit of bonhomie that generally prevails at tour and travel industry trade shows, as it did the week before last at ITB in Berlin, could not mask the uncomfortable reality created by some of the data released at the same time as the world’s largest travel got under way at the Messe Berlin exhibit halls.
The latest monthly figures released by the Nuremberg-based research firm GfK showed that, for both tour operators and travel agents in Germany, summer holiday bookings in February did not show any growth for the second consecutive month. And January and February are normally the two strongest booking months for summer holidays.
The GfK release came just after the issuance of the German Travel Trade Barometer—its results are based on a survey of tour operators responsible for 80 percent of wholesale USA holiday sales in Germany—which suggested an outlook for travel sales for U.S. product that is, at best, tepid, and predicting a year of no growth.
GfK’s regular monthly report is based on an analysis of sales covering 1,500 German travel agencies. Some of the specifics from its latest report include the following:
- Following disappointing figures for January, bookings remained beneath expectations in February, as travel agents increased sales by just one percent for the month.
- Even this increase was purely generated by late winter bookings that generated a sales increase of 7 percent last month. However, overall sales to date for winter 2016/17 are now 3 percent behind last year.
- The cumulated growth for summer 2017 has now dropped back to 4.5 percent as of the end of February from 5.6 percent as of the end of January, driven by strong early bookings in November and December.
- However, since summer bookings were down by 8 percent at the same time last year, overall summer sales are still running about 3 percent below the high levels of 2015.
- In terms of bookings for individual months in the summer 2017 season, June has a robust 23 percent increase in bookings—due primarily to later spring holidays this year, with May down 9 percent as a result of the same effect.
- For July and September bookings are up by 9 percent, while sales for August, the peak travel month, are flat at last year’s level.