Outlook for the travel year: longing for a vacation from the pandemic

Trend reversal expected for Easter | Package tours in summer with a particularly high demand | Impact of the war in Ukraine not yet foreseeable


Basically, the signs are pointing to the desire of people to take a vacation after two years of pandemic: this is currently very clearly shown by the incoming travel bookings. “A dark shadow of uncertainty is cast by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” the President of the German Travel Association (DRV), Norbert Fiebig, explains in the run-up to the international travel trade show ITB Berlin, which will take place digitally at the beginning of March. “The brutal invasion by Russia has deeply affected and shocked the world. It is inconceivable and makes me personally very sad that in the 21st century diplomatic efforts have not been successful and have not been able to prevent Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Diplomacy must now quickly gain the upper hand so that this war, which is contrary to international law, and the increasingly great suffering of the people can be stopped as quickly as possible. This must now be at the centre of all political action.”

With a view to the travel industry, Fiebig adds: “It remains to be seen at this point in time whether and to what extent the war started by Russia will lead to general uncertainty during the coming weeks and thus also have an impact on the booking and travel behaviour of the Germans.”

Vacation bookings are picking up

Vacation bookings for the peak travel season during the summer months are currently picking up significantly – since the beginning of February, the weekly booked sales volume has even exceeded the level of the comparable weeks in February 2019, ie the period before Covid-19. Against this backdrop, vacationers are relying on the protection and advantages of organised travel: three-quarters of all new bookings in high street travel agencies and on online travel portals are currently package tours – according to the latest evaluations by Travel Data + Analytics (TDA) for DRV.

Last night, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) lifted all remaining risk area classifications with effect from 3 March, midnight. “This means that there are no longer any quarantine or registration requirements when entering Germany,” the DRV President explains. “This was overdue,” Fiebig adds. “Travel barriers must disappear permanently,” he demands of policy makers. “People need more reliability – also when it comes to travel planning.”

Summer 2022: Mediterranean in the lead

For air package tours for the coming summer, the classic vacation destinations around the Mediterranean are in a particularly high demand: they alone account for two-thirds of the turnover achieved so far. However, numerous long-haul destinations are likewise already very well booked for the summer months.

Ranking of top travel destinations by turnover (up to booking status mid-February):

  1. Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands)
  2. Greece
  3. Turkey
  4. Egypt
  5. Italy
  6. Portugal
  7. Germany
  8. Maldives
  9. USA
  10. Bulgaria

The basis for the analysis of TDA is provided by the booking data from travel agencies and online travel portals which sell tour operator products.

The important long-haul destination USA also continues to chart a recovery course. During the past weeks bookings have brought the country back into the top ten list – for more than a year and a half, the USA was off limits for tourists due to Covid-19.

In addition to air package tours, new bookings for sea and river cruises are at the same time rising again. At present, the offering of sea cruises is still focusing on Europe, the Caribbean and the Gulf region. “The sentiment within the industry is good. The companies are very confident that business will pick up and that from the summer and next winter onwards, significantly more destinations will be added,” says DRV President Fiebig, commenting on the good advance bookings for long-haul and world tours in the field of ocean cruises.

Backlog demand: willingness to spend rises, protection and flexibility increasingly important

The fact that more vacations are now being planned again shows the pent-up demand following Covid-19. Many vacation trips were cancelled in the past two years due to the pandemic. Now Germans want to give themselves a treat and go on vacation again. Compared to previous years, they are spending more money on vacations and are increasingly booking higher value trips. “Appreciation for travel is on the rise and quality is in high favour with the customers,” says DRV President Fiebig. In addition, vacationers are also increasingly relying on security and include travel insurance packages and flexible rebooking and cancellation terms in their planning. Trips are booked predominantly including these so-called “flex rates”, according to reports by tour operators. These allow until shortly before departure a mostly free rebooking or cancellation without stating any reasons.

“The currently steeply rising booking curve, especially for the summer vacations, should not, however, obscure the fact that only about half of the usual turnover level has been reached – the minus compared to the pre-Covid-19 summer of 2019 adds up to 48% as of mid-February,” the DRV President stresses. Compared to the relatively weak travel summer of 2021, there is, however, a significant plus of 159%.

Families now book summer vacations

Usually, most vacations for the summer season are booked during January of a year. This year, the previous booking peak is expected to shift to February and March. Almost half of the new booking turnover of families is currently accounted for by departures in July and August. Almost one in two euros of sales revenues is spent on trips to the eastern Mediterranean.

The current winter season: long-haul travel in demand – offering remains limited

The current 2021 / 22 winter season, which ends on 30 April, remains challenging. Many travel destinations – especially on long haul routes – are not yet available or only with restrictions. As a result, long-haul travel shows a disproportionate decline versus other trips. Total winter turnover is currently down 46% compared to the pre-Covid-19 winter 2018/19. Compared to the Covid-19 winter 2020 / 2021, which was a total failure, sales increased very significantly. Due to the current increase in bookings for the Easter vacation, results for the winter-half year will improve even further. Traditionally, destinations with guaranteed sunshine are in a particularly high demand in winter, with the Canary Islands showing the highest turnover. The Maldives and the Dominican Republic are likewise well booked and back on a pre-Covid-19 level.

Trend reversal expected at Easter: high demand for Turkey and Egypt

Up to March, the travel volume remains still manageable as shown by the current booking numbers. The turnaround is heralded by the Easter vacation and Whitsun, for which business visibly picks up speed. Almost one-third of all new bookings made in February relate to departures around Easter and Whitsun. For the Easter vacations in mid-April, there are signs of increased demand for air package tours to the vacation destinations around the airports of Antalya (Turkey), Hurghada (Egypt) and Palma de Mallorca, followed by the Maldives and the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Tenerife. Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) also rank high in the favour of vacationers.

Forecast: pre-Covid-19 result expected from 2023 onwards

“This year, I anticipate a really good summer – the desire of Germans to travel is basically there. However, it remains difficult to assess the potential impact due to the situation in Ukraine at this point in time,” says DRV President Fiebig. “Looking at the tourism year as a whole, we probably will not quite match pre-Covid-19 turnover yet due to the challenging winter. From a current perspective, I am optimistic that from 2023 onwards, we can expect turnover to return to the levels of pre-Covid-19 times.”

About DRV:
The German Travel Association (DRV) represents the travel industry in Germany. As a top-level association, DRV bundles a major economic strength. Its members represent the highest share in the sales revenues in the tour operator and travel agent market. The tourism industry offers around three million jobs. Several thousand member companies, including many tourism providers, have turned DRV into a strong community which pools many different interests, driven by the motto “The travel industry. All destinations. One voice.” drv.de

About Travel Data + Analytics
Travel Data + Analytics GmbH (TDA) took over, as a specialist for data analysis and business intelligence in the tourism industry, the travel sales panel managed by GfK since 2004 in spring 2019 and continues to permanently upgrade it under the name of TDA Travel Intelligence. The basis continues to be provided by the booking data of high-street travel agents and online portals which are extrapolated in a representative manner to the German tour operator market. This allows for conclusions concerning the booking and travel behaviour of German vacationers. www.traveldataanalytics.de

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