Also: Industry rallies, gets financial break to help stay alive. Were the stark economic realities of the COVID-19-infected year of 2020 put into climatological teams, it might be described thus: “it is a dark, cold day.” Even so, the German travel market will restart and recover. The German tour and travel industry is the most closely watched and measured among all the travel economies of continental Europe, and those who study and analyze it—while certainly not sugar-coating their assessment of the situation—seem to suggest that it might reach pre-COVID-19 levels of activity by 2022.
While 2022 may seem like a distant speck on the horizon—and, by the way, what happened to 2021?—it is less than 18 months off, and much can happen, and should happen to get back to a level of business that was generally expected to be flat anyway. At least, this is the essence of Phocuswright’s latest Germany Travel Market Update.
Looking first at what is left of 2020, the study had this to say: “For the summer season, Phocuswright expects that many of the main destinations will open their borders to receive German tourists. But the downside for tour operators will be limited supply (beds and air tickets) and risk-averse travelers, which will suppress revenue. As a result, domestic travel is expected to see an upswing that might prevent the worst for German hospitality … However, it is primarily leisure hotels and hotels in urban tourist destinations that will reap the benefits. The major transportation mode will be by car, possibly providing the car rental segment some unexpected business.”
Adds the report: “The overall effects of the pandemic are projected to produce a 52 percent decline in total year-over-year gross bookings in 2020 … Many travelers are likely to feel that booking via third parties (OTAs and tour operators) does not provide the security it once did (e.g., problems with cancelations and refunds). As a result, more people will book direct, especially because more detailed information on COVID-19 precautions is available on supplier websites (versus OTAs). This increased reliance on supplier websites will contribute to online penetration, while online supplier-direct bookings grow faster than OTAs. The recovery in gross bookings will be slow and see a slight upward tick in July during the summer holidays. However, 2019 levels will not be reached before 2022.”
Confirming the above was the lead article in the international edition of the authoritative German travel trade public, fvw, which said that “only about half of the German population plans to take a holiday trip this year while 19 percent do not have any plans yet,” according to a representative survey of 2,500 people (aged 14-75) conducted by the Kiel-based market research organization FUR (Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen/Research Association for Vacation and Travel) for the online travel association VIR (Verband Internet Reisevertrieb.)
The 19 percent compares to January 2020, when another FUR survey found that 72 percent of German consumers “definitely or probably” planned to go on holiday this year. In 2019, 78 percent of the German population took a holiday trip of at least five days, according to FUR’s data.
Reflecting the new concern about hygiene and cleanliness among travelers, two thirds of survey respondents said that the destination and the accommodation must have top hygiene conditions, while 50 percent said the possibility of a rapid return if necessary is also important.
In Sum—It’s a Good Time to Stay Home: An earlier YouGov survey for Deutsche Presse-Agentur found that more than one-third (35 percent) of Germans are “not at all in a holiday mood this year” and 22 percent have “mixed feelings” about going on holiday. One in three expects their holiday to be affected by restrictions of some kind (including 54 percent of those who plan to go on holiday).
More than half (51 percent) of those surveyed do not yet have any plans to go on holiday this year. Of those who definitely plan a holiday, more than one-third (36 percent) want to travel within Germany while 30 percent plan to go abroad. And a third will either stay within their local region or even holiday at home.
It’s Timo Time: Finally, while the matter did not receive that much attention in the news media outside of Germany, the matter of the survival of the travel trade in Germany has been an intensely followed issue in the travel trade media. In Germany, for instance, it was a page one story in the print press and a lead item on broadcast news outlets. Everyone in Germany, for instance, was affected by a national demonstration on May 26 as travel agents and tour operators pressed for government action to help them in their plight.
Many in the United States followed the matter because of Timo Kohlenberg, president of America Unlimited, a tour operator based in Hannover, Germany. Kohlenberg, a well-known figure at major trade shows—his last U.S. event was the Connect Travel Marketplace in late February, a little more than a week before international travel essentially shut down—who cultivates an almost daily social media presence in the USA through thousands of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections.
Last week, he provided what should be the final news update (in both English and German) on the tour and travel industry’s quest for government action: “I have been fighting for help from the government for specialist smaller tour operators and it finally happened and signed off for yesterday. There is a big economy program which was launched to help the economy get back to normal. As part of this package I had the government integrate a point that allows a German tour operators who suffers of a loss of at least 70 percent for the month of April and May to get a funding of 50K EUR ($56,200) per month for the month of June to August—so 150K ($168,600) in total). It’s not huge but it will help a lot of tour operators to cover the remaining costs for rent, salaries etc.”