Travel year 2016: Trend towards high-end holidays

Now is the time for German tourists to plan their holidays: This year, the Germans want to travel more often und spend more money on travelling than in the previous year. This is suggested by surveys carried out over the last weeks. Compared with the previous year's period, less Germans have as yet booked their summer vacation. "But restraints regarding bookings that were noticeable in particular in December 2015 and January 2016, are now turning into the opposite. Since the beginning of February travel sales have stabilized. Bookings are gaining momentum. This goes to show: Also in 2016, the Germans don't want to do without holidays," says the President of the German Travel Association (DRV), Norbert Fiebig in the run-up to the world' biggest travel fair ITB Berlin 2016, which is going to be held from March 9 to 13 at the Berlin exhibition grounds.

"The Germans are far from being tired of travelling - on the contrary: they are ready to set off. Undecided holidaymakers, in particular families, who have delayed their choice for a holiday destination up to now want to be inspired about the numerous travel offers in the summer of 2016", says Fiebig. Currently, many early bird offers at discounted prices are still available. And travel offerings are manifold - there is something for every taste, from beach holidays at the Mediterranean sea to study trips that are in growing demand, to new and alternative destinations.

As regards the tourists' favourite destinations   several trends of the last year will continue. Also in 2016, the Mediterranean countries - such as Spain, Italy and Greece - will be among the most popular destinations of German holidaymakers. Particularly in demand are also sea cruises and numerous long-distance destinations currently achieving two-digit growth rates. In the following a snapshot of the booking trends in agency-based distribution is given based on analyses by the German market research company GfK.  

  • 2016 will be the year of the Caribbean: Again significantly more tourists are attracted by the dream destinations Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. So far, Cuba has recorded a growth in sales of 46 percent in 2016.
  • Holiday destinations in Middle and South America are posting double-digit growth rates. 
  • As regards the short-haul flight destinations, it is in particular Portugal with a plus of 20 percent and Spain - in particular the Canary Islands with 21 percent, but also the Balearic Islands and the mainland with a plus of 4 percent each - that are recording noticeable gains. Italy (with a plus of 6 percent) and Bulgaria (plus 9 percent) are on the rise as well.
  • The African countries South Africa and Namibia are recovering from the declines over the last two years caused, among others, by the Ebola epidemic, and are posting a double-digit growth.
  • Currently in great demand, Germany remains the most popular destination of Germans, with tours by tour operators booked via travel agencies growing by 15 percent. In particular families like to spend their summer holidays along the coasts of the North and Baltic seas. 
  • With a sales growth of about nine percent in 2016, the cruise segment remains one of the most important drivers of growth. As early as 2014, the German cruise market had overtaken Great Britain and has meanwhile become the second largest market for sea cruises after the USA.
  • Very small markets such as Iceland, Norway and Denmark register high growth rates.

Bookings for Turkey are still clearly below last year's very good figure. In 2015, the country ranking third among Germany's most popular holiday destinations, posted a plus of four percent. Egypt and Tunesia are also recording much less bookings than in the previous year.  Hesitations as regards bookings for the most important volume markets Turkey, Egypt and Tunesia are depressing the development of the entire travel market. "However, we are still in the middle of the early booking period.  While we see destinations in Western Europe more in demand right now, I am confident that the traditional family destinations in Turkey and Egypt will again record more bookings. Take for instance Greece: Following restrained bookings early this year, we now see increasing figures," says DRV President Fiebig.  German holidaymakers mainly head for the islands of Rhodes, Crete and Corfu.

"Holiday decisions have been postponed, but not cancelled," says President Fiebig. According to the GfK consumer climate report a still high consumer sentiment is a good basis. The report says that income expectations of Germans have clearly risen and that the stable labour market with low unemployment rates triggers consumer spending. Low inflation and fallen energy costs provide additional disposable income. "This is a good basis for a successful travel year," says Fiebig. The GfK report suggests that the Germans in general don't want to do without travels.

The GfK market research report reveals: Although the number of bookings have not yet reached the figures of the previous year's period, the sales generated so far already exceeded those of the summer of 2014.

A major trend of the previous years is clearly confirmed for the summer of 2016: The Germans don't save money when it comes to holidays - on the contrary, they spend even more on the best weeks of the whole year. Analyses made by GfK suggest that travels costing more than 3,000 euros per person are becoming much more important. Particular gains of more than 13 percent are recorded by travels costing 5,000 and more euros.

A look back on the 2015 travel year: Over 45 million tours organized by tour operators
"The German travel industry is looking back on a highly satisfactory year 2015, even if political situations in some destinations were difficult and the high US Dollar exchange rate posed major challenges to the industry", concludes DRV President Fiebig. According to analyses by the DRV Committee Statistics and Market Research, tour operators closed the tourism year 2014/15 (ending on 31 October 2015) with a sales increase of almost four percent to 27.3 billion euros. With more than 45 million organized tours, the number of travellers opting for an organized tour has again slightly risen -  by almost one percent.  The travel frequency has been stable for years: In 2015, 77.1 percent of Germans made a holiday journey of at least five days.

"This shows again that the Germans attach great importance to travelling. Most Germans are fascinated by relaxing holidays and discovering cultures and landscapes that are foreign to them. This is so even before the backdrop of all sorts of crises in several parts of the world", says DRV President Fiebig when presenting the economic figures of the year 2015. Normally crises affect the business only in the short term leading to a temporary shift in travel patterns. As the past has shown, assaults or political unrest had no lasting adverse effect on the Germans' enthusiasm for travel, but only diverted it. However, the Germans don't do in general without travelling - as evidenced by the figures of the last years. Also in 2015, finding relaxation on the beach remains the most common motivation for going on holidays. Thus, beach holidays are the most important type of holiday, followed by round trips and study visits.

The development of selected holiday countries of German tourists in 2015:

  • Gains in bookings: Turkey, Spain (mainly Balearic Islands and mainland), Italy and Egypt as well as Greece.
  • Declines: Canary Islands, France, Tunisia.

Another trend becomes apparent when looking back on the 2015 travel year:  High-street travel agencies in Germany remain on the growth path: With sales amounting to almost 23.7 billion euros (three percent plus), the record figure of 2014 was again significantly exceeded. Growth was driven by bookings of cruises and package tours organized by tour operators.

For the second year in a row, the number of travel agencies increased to now 9,880. Thus, the market shakeout that began in 2005 seems to be over since 2014.. "This goes to show that consumers attach great importance to qualified and individual advice", says DRV President Fiebig. The average density of high-street travel agencies - i.e. the number of travel agencies per 100,000 inhabitants - in Germany is 11.2. The highest density shows again Saxony while the lowest is recorded in Schleswig-Holstein. Most travel agencies were opened in the new federal states of Brandenburg, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.  It comes as no surprise that the following cities rank first as regards the number of travel agencies: Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, followed by Cologne.

In addition to these high-street travel agencies there are 400 agencies that sell their travel offerings exclusively on the internet and via call centres; this is a marked increase by more than 100 compared with 2014. Affiliation of high-street travel agencies to a chain, a franchise system or a cooperation is, seen in the long term, becoming more and more important. Only 620 agencies do not belong to any chain, cooperation or other association. Meanwhile the proportion of so-called system-bound sales is more than 93 percent. In 2004, this rate was only 78 percent.  This is the result of DRV's comprehensive analysis of its distribution database with a view to general trends and major structural features of high-street travel agencies.

Continuously rising sales volumes have led travel agencies and tour operators in 2015 to increase the number of its employees by more than two percent to over 68,900. Positive is in particular that also the number of tourism agent trainees has risen to more than 1,900.