Next to the UK, no country market has felt the impact of the recent collapse of Thomas Cook as much as has Germany, which happens to be the number two country market in Europe for Visit USA travel. At the time of its closure, Thomas Cook Germany had 660,000 advance bookings through to the summer of next year, reported the German travel trade publication FVW, which indicated that TUI Germany’s CEO, Marek Andryszak, was now aiming for 500,000 more customers in 2020. (TUI is the number one market leader in Germany.) Thomas Cook Germany had about 2 million annual customers.
Other leading German tour operators have moved quickly to fill the void left by the departure of Thomas Cook Germany, adding capacity where the can by finding hotel rooms that the defunct operator can no longer fill, and by offering specials.
It was unclear, as INBOUND was prepared for delivery, just what parts of Thomas Cook assets in Germany would be acquired by other operators.
Since most of the focus of the travel trade media in Germany and Europe is understandably focused on the UK and the continent, INBOUND, in an effort to get some insight on what kind of impact the Thomas Cook collapse might be having on travel to the United States is having, decided to get a reliable reflection on the situation from Timo Kohlenberg, president and CEO of Hanover-based America Unlimited which, as its name implies, sells USA and North American product. Following is a quick Q&A exchange we conducted with Kohlenberg.
INBOUND: What impact(s), if any, might the collapse of Thomas Cook and Thomas Cook Germany have on the overall travel trade in Germany for the remainder of the year, on winter 2019/2020 product, and on Visit USA product in the coming year?
Kohlenberg: I think the impact overall will be significant. Some hotels in Europe already closed to the loss of business and lots of jobs are still on risk. As well as lots of travel agencies that will be affected. For the USA, the impact will be fairly small as other players are bigger and this won’t move the needle.
INBOUND: Are you receiving any more inquiries from clients who are interested in your products? And do you see any wholesaler or wholesalers, in particular, who might benefit from the demise of Thomas Cook Germany, which was the Number 2 market leader among German-based tourism companies?
Kohlenberg: The bankruptcy will generate more business among all the leftover tour operators which will spread along the receptive as well.
INBOUND: The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) recently released its long-term outlook (through the year 2024) forecast for inbound travel from the top international source markets (click here), in which it forecasts that there will be zero change, this year, in the number of German visits to the U.S. versus 2018. Does this forecast seem accurate to you?
Kohlenberg: That sounds about right although I have to mention that we are 10 percent up to the U.S. Still the political situation is a big issue and people are still hesitant to go.
INBOUND: What about the long-term forecast of one percent in 2020 and two percent each year through 2023? Does this seem accurate?
Kohlenberg: Yes. I would imagine this to be even higher increase over the next few years. It all depends on so many factors like political, climate, economy or exchange rate. It is really hard to tell these days.