Delegates to NAJ’s recent RTO Summit in Orlando sat in rapt attention when the speaker, Stefan Merkl, CEO of Explore Marketing, gave a review of conditions, market-by-market, in Europe, based on his visits this year to more than 50 European tour operators. He saved the last part of his remarks to focus on Germany, which is the largest country market for U.S. inbound travel and tourism in continental Europe and the Number 4 overseas source market worldwide.
Merkl, himself a native of Germany, highlighted a summary of his exchanges with two key German operators: FTI and America Unlimited.
Here is what he heard from the team at FTI:
—Traditionally, the market for Visit USA product is very strong in Germany.
—Overall, 2018 will end up “about flat” with maybe a little increase in business compared to 2017.
—It is still a difficult market this year for coach business.
—The First Quarter booking period was not so strong as it was compared to other years. The three months of May, June and July were strong this year.
—There was more last-minute business than in other years.
—Hawaii, California, Alaska and Nevada were “definitely the winners” of 2018.
—Florida was struggling—especially in the winter, due to the bankruptcy of AirBerlin and the challenge of hurricanes.
And here is the picture presented at America Unlimited, which is headed up by Timo Kolenberg, one of the younger tour operators in the business who’s studied and/or worked at marketing in both the UK and the U.S.
—Business to North America has been ambivalent. On one hand, the USA was down until around July, when it started to pick up again. So, our overall numbers to the U.S. are almost flat compared to 2017. This is way against the general trend from German, though, where most of the other tour operators were down.
—America Unlimited had a very strong Canada year. Our increase here was about 40 percent in 2018. This is also way ahead of trend, although Canada was a strong year for many tour operators.
—2019 paces around 10 percent ahead of 2018, so it looks very promising so far. The competition with OTAs has never really been a challenge for us. It’s a different clientele that is very price sensitive and doesn’t spend a lot of money in the country. Our clients are above standard income and spend a lot more money in the states and are, for that reason, a much higher value in overall revenue.