At the beginning of the 67th Annual Meeting of the German Travel Association (DRV) in Ras Al Khaimah, DRV President Norbert Fiebig commented on the political demands of DRV. With his statement “We do not want subventions or special regulations! But what we want is fair competition,” Fiebig reduced the expectations of the travel industry in respect of a new German government to a common denominator.
Six demands on politics
The nonsense of corporation tax addition to hotel services must be stopped at last: “Get rid of this vacation tax! It renders vacation more expensive, drives tour operators into bankruptcy or outside Germany and costs jobs,” Fiebig stressed. With the recently launched campaign “No vacation tax!” DRV draws attention together with the associations RDA, BTW, DTV and asr to this massive tax unfairness and demands its removal.
As far as the Package Tours Directive is concerned, he urged to keep an eye on the practicability also after the entry into force on 1 July 2018 and called on the government: “Help the small and medium-sized travel agencies and tour operators in the event of extreme hardship.”
As far as the class action issue is concerned, Fiebig also advised a sense of proportion since this type of action was under certain circumstances producing strange effects.
Fiebig was very outspoken on Sunday work in call centres: “Customers used to 24/7 service on the internet want also to talk about their trips during the weekend. And business travellers must be able to change their reservation if their trip changes at short notice. If they cannot do this with a call centre in Germany, it is not the customers who will disappear but the call centres! And hence also the jobs.”
He urged politicians to attach more relevance to the entire travel industry. Fiebig was pleading in favour of the appointment of a commissioner of the German government who would deal exclusively – with the corresponding staff – with the interests of the tourism industry with its 2.9 million employees.
Last, but not least, he asked politicians to be bold enough to correct errors: “The air transport tax must eventually go! We need fair competition.”
In connection with the bankruptcy of Air Berlin, the DRV President demanded insolvency hedging for airlines: “Such a hedging to protect customer monies collected makes sense and is desirable. However,” Fiebig stressed: “It must not be at the expense of the competitiveness of German travel agencies and tour operators as well as German airlines.” DRV therefore pleads in favour of a worldwide solution with a neutral impact in terms of competition.
Digitalisation: the industry must accept the challenge
With the statement “What smart startups do perfectly well, will hurt us and cost business,” the DRV President boiled the challenge of digitalisation down to an essence. The structures in the market are changing at high speed and the industry must face this. When considering the value chain, it is clear that every single stage can only survive if it offers a perceivable added value. “Because everything between the service provider and the person who has the contact to the customer is potentially at stake following digitalisation,” Fiebig continued. He emphasised that a special risk for the industry was companies who do business primarily with the collection and processing of data – and do not have their roots in the business of tourism. “The Alexas and Siris of this world have already today become virtual information counters. Consequently, we must exploit their “knowledge”; we must use the new technologies and opportunities in our business.” This is a special challenge for travel agents in view of the combination of the algorithms of the machines with the human knowhow and the professionalism of the employees.
Digitalisation also concerns tour operators – in particular the packaging of a package trip according to individual customer wishes is comparatively easy to achieve with the support of a machine. “Exclusiveness is the magic word in this case,” the DRV President stated. “The tour operators will act even stronger as providers of exclusive services, for instance with own hotel brands and we will most certainly also see more flight full charters on the market.” One can only avoid price pressure, which will continue to increase through the transparency of digitalisation, by getting out of exchangeability.
Climate protection and sustainability – joint working on solutions
Egypt, Tunisia and also Morocco see at last a significant recovery after dips in the number of visitors during the previous years. According to Fiebig, this is a very good sign because in particular northern African countries have a special significance in terms of security and development policy. DRV commits itself together with politicians in this respect and has had for a very short period a development cooperation scout on its payroll – promoted by the Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development and the German Corporation for Development Do-operation (GIZ). This project deals in a targeted manner with Tunisia as a focal point in order to screen the possibilities for development co-operation and drive sustainable tourism development – with the goal of providing people on site within the emerging democratic structures with a positive economic perspective.
The travel industry must not ignore the issue of overtourism which has emerged stronger than ever before during this year. Not only in Majorca have there been demonstrations and roadblocks of the residential population in order to draw attention to the overcrowding with tourism. Other destinations see problems, here, too – including those caused by the letting of residential space to sharing economy providers. “We must assume our responsibility as an industry,” said Fiebig. “The attractiveness of a destination is to a large extent determined by its hospitality.” For that reason the goodwill of the residential population must not be lost by overtourism. Organised trips can take over a steering function and ensure a distortion correction through new routes, excursion programmes or extended seasons. This is primarily a demand on destinations to create a compensation between economic interests on the one hand and the loss of activity through too many guests on the other hand. “We must all work together on solutions,” the DRV President declared.
Another challenge for tourism is the climate change. “An intact environment and nature is the basic prerequisite to our business,” Fiebig emphasised. “As an industry we must take counter-measures and assume responsibility.”