Travel habits at times of financial crisis: in Germany, vacations are least affected by cost savings

(PresseBox) (Nürnberg, ) Irrespective of all the recessionary scenarios arising at times of financial crisis, Germans have lived up to their reputation as Europe's most optimistic consumers when it comes to vacations. Currently, they are responsible for the tourism bonanza.

Compared with the previous year, German holiday-makers have currently earned the industry 11% growth, putting Germans in pole position across the whole of Europe. The high demand in the tourism industry on the German market is in line with the positive consumer climate and the marked enthusiasm for buying evident in Germany at the moment. In other European countries, travel demand is currently much weaker. For example, in the UK, bookings are almost 5% down on the previous year. High unemployment, fears of job losses and a high rate of inflation have adversely affected the British consumer mood, and this is particularly apparent where holiday bookings are concerned. The Dutch, too, are showing more restraint, with tourism sales in the Netherlands' market 2% below those of the previous year. However, given that last year saw particularly strong growth in Europe, the significance of the current appreciable decline in sales should not be overrated.

A high value on vacations

The tourism industry tends to be rather less affected by economic crises and general consumer restraint than other sectors. This applies right across Europe, as revealed by a GfK study entitled "Savings on a day-to-day basis in Europe" carried out in crisis year 2009/10. Only 29% of the survey respondents said that they had made savings where holidays were concerned. However, 38% admitted to cutting their expenditure on food and drink, or clothing and footwear. As Matthias Hartmann, CEO of GfK, said at his keynote speech at the ITB travel show in Berlin: "People are less willing to give up something with the emotional appeal of travel. Experience from past economic crises has shown that people place a high value on vacations." Consequently, the recession exerted only a modest impact on the German travel market in 2009. Expenditure on travel bookings for trips of at least one night dropped by just 2 index points, only to rise at a disproportionately high level again the following year.

However, the individual target groups behave very differently at times of crisis. As a result of their fixed income, pensioners have generally proved to be the most crisis resistant group. The same applies to employed singles, whose income simply has to stretch to a 1-person household, and in fact, during the tourist season of the 2009/10 economic crisis, this group even recorded sales growth. Other groups were more strongly affected, and tightened their belts to greater degree. Because of insecurity relating to their incomes, these groups included the lower paid and those just starting out on their career, as well as young families with children, where the decline in sales varied between 9% and 15%. The general pattern of holiday behavior changes considerably at times of economic crisis. While main holidays are still taken, although they will be somewhat shorter, it is the short additional trips which fall by the wayside. Much in demand at times of crisis are domestic holidays and all-inclusive vacations, where the forward planning of costs is much more reliable.

Impact of crises on tourism

While holiday-makers may restrict themselves in one way or another in the type and duration of their vacations at times of crisis, in principle, they do not give them up. They react sensitively to crisis news from countries where they may be thinking of taking a vacation, as was very apparent last year in Egypt. In February 2011, the Arab spring brought more cancellations than new bookings on the German market, leading to a negative sales balance sheet. However, by the summer months, bookings for Egypt had already virtually achieved the level of the prior year, until once again, in autumn, renewed unrest flared up, causing a decline in holiday bookings. In the meantime, demand for the 2012 summer season has recovered slightly, but bookings for Egypt remain markedly below their level prior to the outbreak of civil unrest. The Canaries, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, in particular, have all benefited from the situation in Egypt. Another phenomenon which past experience has taught is that once a crisis disappears from the news, the demand from tourists recovers amazingly quickly.

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