For the second year in a row, the annual ITB trade show (March 8-10, with a digital business day scheduled for March 17)) that usually takes place in Berlin was a virtual event, due to the omnipresent fear of the global pandemic. But, by the time the program for the event began, much of the fear had diminished, as the number of new cases of the COVID-19 virus and its variants—though still a presence—had decreased over the past six months.
In addition, many of the countries that are the favorite short- and long-haul destinations of German travelers, had opened their borders. (The U.S. had lifted restrictions on visitors from the EU and other destinations last November 10.) So, in the months just prior to ITB, German tour operators and travel agencies were expanding their programs and trying to satisfy consumer demand while supervisors scrambled to hire sufficient staff.
As for the destinations that Germans wanted to visit, sunny Mediterranean countries were, as usual, the favorites, although long-haul overseas destinations have fared well. The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) reported that, in January, overseas visitors to the USA numbered 41,922, representing a year-on-year increase for the month of more than 500 percent.
Clearly, the spirit of the time and place was a favorable one. And it could not have been better for Europe’s largest tour operator, TUI, which is headquartered in Hanover, Germany. As such, the setting—even a virtual one—is an ideal one for the company’s main country unit, TIA Germany, to hold forth on the issues of the day.
The occasion also afforded Stefan Baumert the opportunity to address the ITB forum as TUI Germany’s relatively new CEO. A veteran of more than two decades at the company, he took over the top job at the flagship last October, succeeding Marek Andryszak who has left the sector and has joined the Polish outdoor specialist 8a.pl, which is regarded as the market leader for outdoor and mountaineering equipment in Poland.
There had been friction between Andryszak and German travel agents, many of whom felt that he did not work with them during the pandemic. Joining Baumert at the ITB virtual exchange was Hubert Kluske, TUI Germany’s managing director of marketing and sales.
Basically, it was good news all the way around: TUI believes:
—The booking curve is on an upward path.
—It’s likely that turnover will exceed that of 2019.
—Because of the positive number of bookings, the company is accelerating the start of the peak season, with more than 120 additional flights to be launched next month.
—Mediterranean destinations are the favorites, with Mallorca leading the list.
—But long-distance destinations are also in demand, especially the USA
—Many Germans will begin their holiday seasons by driving.
—Some travelers might find it difficult to get accommodations at beach destinations.
—For the summer season, TUI has increased the number of tour guides in its destinations by 250 compared to 2019.
Data Note—Achieving 2019 levels of retail sales is a ways off: The invoiced total turnover of the travel agencies recorded in the “ta.ts* Reisebürospiegel (travel agency mirror)” was up was up 351.2 percent in February 2022 compared to February. Compared to February 2019, however, the total invoiced turnover was minus 55.2 percent.
* ta.ts, or Travel Agency Technologies & Services is, a Frankfurt-based company that specializes in data and technology management, as well as accounting services