Tourism results for the past year: Summer 2021 shows the desire of Germans to travel

Strong summer with surge in package tour bookings | Poor winter with an impact on the overall result


The good news for the German travel industry with its more than 2,300 tour operators, around 10,000 travel agencies and numerous online travel portals: consumers are planning to spend significantly more money on vacations and travel this year than they did in 2021 – according to recent surveys by GfK. Consequently, the desire to travel ranks first, even ahead of visits to restaurants or the purchase of furniture. “The need to travel and the desire for relaxation are definitely back among Germans,” Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV), comments optimistically looking at the coming vacation season. The fact that the desire to travel is picking up considerably is resulting in a positive sentiment for the industry after two economically very challenging years. “At this stage, however, it remains to be seen to what extent the war in Ukraine will have an impact on travel behaviour,” says Fiebig.

A look at the now completed results for the 2020 / 21 tourism year (1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021) shows how difficult the economic situation of the German travel industry was last year: the number of travellers and trips as well as travel spending dropped again in 2020 after a historic decline, according to DRV ahead of the ITB Berlin international travel trade show, which will be held virtually at the beginning of March:

  • Germans spent a total of EUR 28.8 billion on travel in 2021 (services booked in advance) – this corresponds to a 10% decline versus prior year. In the pre-Covid-19 year 2019, travel spending still amounted to almost EUR 70 billion.
  • The number of trips likewise dropped by 10% versus prior year to 136 million in 2021.
  • 5% less travellers (44 million) were counted in 2021.
  • In the summer of 2021 the package tours celebrated their comeback – spending rose by 134% compared to the prior year summer. Nonetheless, spending on package tours fell by 16% for the full year 2020 / 2021 due to a lack of winter bookings.
  • The holiday destinations most in demand for all trips (package and individually organised) were Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey – i. e. no major changes from previous years.

This is confirmed by analyses carried out by the market research company GfK for DRV; the data cover vacation and private trips of at least one overnight stay booked before the start of the trip.

Strong summer cannot compensate for lack of winter due to Covid-19

The renewed decline during the past year resulted above all from the almost total absence of the 2020 / 2021 winter season. “Due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and many other restrictions, hardly any travel was possible,” DRV President Norbert Fiebig concludes. The result: travel spending (package tours and self-organised combined) collapsed by almost 90% compared to winter 2019 / 2020. “In the summer of 2021 we then experienced a turnaround: there was more travelling again, and travel spending climbed by 64% to almost EUR 27 billion,” Fiebig reports. However, this strong rise in package and individual travel during the summer vacation months was not enough to compensate for the massive plunges during the winter, so that at the end of the day, a minus of 10% in travel spending was recorded for the overall tourism year.

The fact that despite this economic development only isolated insolvencies and business closures have been recorded in the industry is owed to politics: “The support measures of the German Government have prevented a collapse of the infrastructure of the German travel industry during the past two years,” DRV President Norbert Fiebig emphasises the importance of government aid. “Without this support, which we as an association fought for, the situation in the travel industry would look quite different.”

Organised travel: 36% of the entire travel spending is on packages and modular offers of tour operators

Of the EUR 28.8 billion travel spending, EUR 10.4 billion were accounted for by organised travel – ie package and modular offers by tour operators. This is a decrease of 16% or EUR 2 billion versus prior year (EUR 12.5 billion). Compared to the pre-Covid-19 turnover level of more than EUR 35 billion for organised travel, the extent of the slump during the past two tourism years due to the Covid-19 pandemic is obvious: “Travel spending on package tours was 71% down in 2021 versus the record period of 2019,” DRV President Fiebig stressed.

During the entire last year, 36% of personal and leisure travel were booked as package and modular tours – before Covid-19 the share of organised travel was constantly above 50%. The reason for the dropped share: in 2021, there were significantly less or virtually no long-haul trips, cruises, group or city trips. By contrast, there were more trips within Germany and to neighbouring countries such as Austria. Vacationers traditionally organise these trips individually. Tour operators have identified the trend towards so-called earth-bound trips involving travel by car, bus or train, and are continuously expanding their offering.

Package tours in summer: a rise by 134%

In summer the desire of Germans to travel returned and the share of package tours in the total travel spending volume soared in 2021 compared to the summer of 2020: spending rose by 134% from EUR 4.1 billion to EUR 9.6 billion and was hence more than doubling. “This significant increase shows that we are on a good catch-up course. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, travellers are increasingly relying on the safety of package tours,” explains Norbert Fiebig. Customers are trusting in the benefits with an attractive price performance ratio, reliable security management and support from the tour operator in the event of an emergency. As an all-round carefree package, the organised trips also offer significantly better legal protection than individually booked travel modules. The increasingly flexible rebooking and cancellation options of package tours likewise contribute to the high appreciation of the package tour. “At present, the package tour is more individual and more flexible than ever,” says Fiebig.

Cruise market loses nearly EUR 5 billion in sales revenues since the start of the pandemic

The cruise market has been particularly hard hit by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: in 2019, the sales volume of sea and river cruises amounted to around EUR 6 billion. According to GfK calculations, turnover still amounted in 2021, to EUR 1.1 billion, down 52% on prior year. At 56%, turnover in the sea cruise segment dropped more sharply than the river cruise market with 20% due to global travel restrictions. Around one-third fewer voyages have been recorded overall on rivers and the world’s oceans in 2021. Compared to the pre-Covid-19 era, turnover fell by more than 80% in two years. Nevertheless, the cruise industry is likewise positive about the future and is confident that ships will be very busy again in the summer. “The many cruise fans want to get back on the water,” the DRV President explains.

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.”

About the sources:
GfK stands for reliable and relevant market and consumer information. The GfK consumer panel (Mobility Monitor) surveys approximately 19,000 representatively selected households in Germany (approximately 38,000 persons) on their travel, booking and information behaviour on a monthly basis. Apart from vacation trips, business trips, day excursions and other private trips, such as visits to relatives / friends, are surveyed.

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