fvw Dossier

Cruises keep German tour operators afloat

A surge in cruise bookings and higher-priced holidays helped German tour operators keep overall revenues stable this year, and hopes are high for better business in 2017, according to fvw’s annual dossier.

December 29, 2016
Cruises still popular among travelers
Photo: Thinkstock

Contrary to widespread fears, the German tour operator market just managed to remain on the growth path this year despite a heavy decline in bookings for Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. The main factors were a strong rise in sales of cruise holidays and growth for higher-priced packages.

Tour operator revenues rose by a fractional 0.9% to €21.2 billion even though customer numbers dropped by 1.9% to 31.4 million, according to the fvw survey of 52 tour operators, who account for 80% of the total market. Cruise holiday sales increased by 14.7%, according to the survey results.

These figures are much more positive than the 3-4% revenue decline predicted by the German Travel Association (DRV) at its annual conference at the end of October, which was based on travel agency surveys by GfK. Important reasons for the difference are that the GfK figures do not fully cover cruise bookings and the fvw figures also include the seat-only revenues of TUIfly and Condor.

The DRV now also expects stable revenues of about €27.3 billion for the entire German tour operator market this year even though customer numbers are likely to fall from 44.9 million to 44 million. This trend is explained by higher sales of more expensive holidays, such as cruises, long-haul and luxury trips, and weaker sales of lower-priced packages to destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia.

The market leaders saw ups and downs this year in terms of revenues and customer numbers, the fvw dossier showed. TUI Germany remained clear market leader despite a 2% fall to turnover of €4.4bn and a 5% fall in customers to 6 million. Thomas Cook had stable revenues of €3.5bn and 6.1 million customers in Germany thanks to Condor’s seat-only sales. DER Touristik’s revenues fell 4% to €2.8bn and customer numbers were down nearly 7% at 5.4 million. In contrast, FTI revenues grew by 3% to €2.2bn and customer numbers increased by 1.3% to 3.9 million.

Aida Cruises sailed into fifth place thanks to 14% revenue growth to €1.5bn and a 10% rise in passengers to just over 900,000 after launching a new ship, the Aida Prima. Alltours dropped to sixth after revenues slumped 11.5% to €1.33bn and customer numbers fell 13% to 1.6 million, while close rival Schauinsland-Reisen held revenues stable at €1.1 bn and customer numbers at 1.4 million. Three cruise firms – TUI Cruises, Phoenix Reisen and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – completed the top ten tour operator ranking.

In terms of destinations, short- and medium-haul tour operator holidays stagnated overall with 20.8 million passengers but with wide fluctuations, the fvw dossier showed. Spain, up 10.8% to 9.8 million passengers, was the main winner along with Italy (+6%), Greece (+8%), Portugal (+16%) and Bulgaria (+30%). But Turkey dropped 24% to 3.2 million German holidaymakers (by air) and Egypt was down 37% at 669,00 tourist arrivals by air.

Looking ahead to 2017, German tour operators were generally optimistic about improving sales, although market leaders did not comment on their expectations. Among the 35 firms who commented on their revenue expectations, one third predicted up to 5% growth and one third up to 10% growth.

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