Tourism study: German travel demand „will go back to the future“

by Paul Needham
Thursday, November 18, 2021

Professor Torsten Kirstges from the Jade University of Applied Sciences in Wilhelmshaven has been analyzing the tour operator market at regular intervals since 1995.
Germans will return to their traditional tourism behaviour and choice of destinations once the pandemic ebbs sufficiently to allow international travel to resume ‘normally’ again worldwide, according to a leading tourism researcher.

That is the key prediction from a new in-depth study of long-term German travel behaviour over the past 40 years published by Professor Torsten Kirstges from the Jade University of Applied Sciences in Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany and based partly on data from market researchers Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen (FUR).

Return to past trends

„When Germans regain all their (travel) freedoms, they will carry on seamlessly from 2019 in terms of their travel behaviour,“ he declared in an interview with fvw|TravelTalk. He explained that German travel intensity has grown constantly and strongly over the past decades despite short-term interruptions and obstacles.

Since the mid-1990s, three quarters of German citizens (over 14) have taken at least one longer main holiday per year. The travel intensity slumped from 78% in 2019 to 63% during the corona year 2020 but people still travelled when they could.

2019 level next year?

For this year, Kirstges therefore expects a travel intensity of about 70% again and then a return to the 78% level in 2022. In the longer term, the tourism researcher expects travel intensity to stagnate at a high level of almost 80%.
This is because there has always been a small proportion of people who did not want to or could not travel, and Germany’s total population has been shrinking since 2000, he explained.

Longing for distant holidays

In terms of destinations, Kirstges does not believe that the recent „rediscovery of the homeland“, with a boom in travel within Germany, will last very long. He expects that the market share of domestic travel, which has recently risen from 25% to 45%, is likely to stabilise at about one third.

When it comes to trips abroad, Kirstges assumes that the levels of 2019 will be reached again very soon. The population’s longing for distant holidays is simply too great, in his view.

Travel industry challenges

More pessimistically, however, Kirstges expects that tour operators and travel agents will continue to face challenging times despite the optimism about the market recovery. Bookings are still being made at very short notice, which is why planning is hardly possible, especially for long-distance travel providers.

The rising debt burden could mean that „one or the other market exit by travel agents and tour operators still lies ahead“, he warned. Moreover, the de facto working ban for many months has also brought the travel industry to its limits not only financially but also psychologically, he pointed out.
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