About the only sure bet on the inbound market from Germany for the rest of 2017 and on into 2018 is that it will perform in a range that will, at best, be flat—i.e., it probably will not increase vs. 2016. Indeed, “flat” seems to have been the consensus opinion among the operators and other travel professionals we spoke to during the recent IPW 2017 in Washington, DC. Such, too, is what one gleans from a review of German operators at IPW by the respected German travel trade publication, FVW.
Early on at IPW, a Brand USA presentation on key markets suggested that “intent to travel” to the USA by Germans in 2017 was hurting, but not that much—it was off vs 2016 in the range of two to three percent, according to Carroll Rheem, BUSA’s senior vice president for analytics in research.
One operator we spoke with speculated that distaste for the USA because of the rhetoric and policies of President Donald Trump might be offset by a slightly stronger euro that fell from $1.39 vs. the U.S. dollar in May 2014 to $1.05 in March 2015 and, lately, has hovered around the $1.10 mark. Last week, it crept up as far as $1.13, with some economists expecting it to edge up even more.
Another far-out guess we heard was that bargain prices for Turkey—a once popular destination that suffered from acts of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of German tourists—are now so attractive that some Germans might forego a long-haul visit to the USA for a short-haul trip to Turkey. But this was a minority opinion. The FVW report on its survey of operators at IPW looked like this:
- Despite widespread forecasts that foreign visitors could be scared off the strong dollar and by President Trump’s rhetoric and policies, such as the travel ban on seven Muslim countries, it is unclear whether there is any real ‘Trump slump’ or not.
- Hardly any German tour operators admitted any decline in bookings or sales revenues for the USA this year, with a mix of stable figures and moderate growth. With Canada continuing to boom, North America is proving popular this year overall.
- Fabio Negro, North America product manager of theFTI Group, told FVW, “We’re very satisfied with USA trends and will close the year ahead of last year. Campervans and car rentals are going well, and there is only slightly reserved demand for coach tours.”
- Robin Brückner,TUI’sNorth America product chief, declared: “The USA has lost none of its pull. We are seeing good demand and expect the USA to close the business year positively.”
- Gerrit Seefeld, senior product manager forNeckermann Reisen, said: “The season has started well for the USA. The dollar exchange rate is generally influencing booking behaviour more than the political situation.”
- On the other hand, Per Illian, product manager ofDER Touristik, acknowledged, “At present we are experiencing more holding back of bookings than at the start of the year. But price discounts and incentives from many destinations are driving late sales.”
- Tilo Krause-Dünow, managing director ofCanusa Touristik, said: “We’re very satisfied with the single-digit increase in US sales. Despite the fairly robust dollar, the prices are not completely off track.”
- Holger Howind, product manager ofDiamir Erlebnisreisen indicated that “Canada is going well and the USA is good, but not as good as we hoped for. Customers are switching more often to other destinations due to the political situation.”
- Rüdiger Berger, managing director ofExplorer Fernreisen, was hardly optimistic, telling FVW, “The USA is slightly down. We expect US business will close at last year’s level or with a slight decline.”
- Friedrich Roth, chief operating officer ofCRD, observed that “Requests and bookings for the USA are slightly negative. We expect a decline for the (overall) tour operator market, but that should not be over-interpreted due to the strong previous years.”
- Said Timo Kohlenberg, president ofAmerica Unlimited, “I think the market is clearly heading downwards. At trade fairs and in social media we are experiencing a strong rejection of the US president. We’re responding to this with strong marketing measures.”
- Dirk Büttner, owner of Argus Reisen, was blunt about the outlook: “We lost some bookings in January and February. But people seem to have got used to the clown in the White House in the meantime.”