Winter 2016/17

Focus on long-haul destinations as demand grows

Exotic destinations are in focus for winter 2016/17 as German tour operators try to profit from growing demand for long-haul holidays.

August 25, 2016
Photo: Dominican Republic tourist office

Most leading tour operators, including DER Touristik, TUI and Thomas Cook, have increased long-haul capacity strongly for the forthcoming winter season. TUI has expanded its programme by a third to 15,000 hotels with the aim of overtaking DER Touristik as the largest long-haul tour operator on the German market. “We are expanding our programme continually and still have the aim of becoming number one,” declared Katharina Schirmbeck, TUI’s head of ‘sun & beach’ holidays.

The German long-haul travel market has grown steadily in recent years, and accounted for 8.1% of all holidays in 2015, according to German Travel Association (DRV) figures. Demand has continued to increase this year, especially due to the drop in bookings for North Africa, according to DER Touristik managing director René Herzog. “These guests want guaranteed summertime air and water temperatures,” he said. Many of them thus switched to long-haul destinations such as Thailand, Mexico and Mauritius as a result.

Demand has been particularly strong for the Caribbean, led by the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Expert Rolf Nieländer estimates German market growth in the first quarter of this year at 25% for Cuba, 12% for the Dominican Republic and 8% for the rest of the region. He expects a total of some 900,000 German visitors to the region this year. The Caribbean will benefit this winter from new nonstop flights by Condor and Air Berlin, especially to Cuba and smaller islands.

However, the Dominican Republic remains the largest German destination in the Caribbean, with some 250,000 visitors a year, ahead of Cuba with 175,000. FTI has double-digit growth for the Dominican Republic this year, DER Touristik Cologne reports high single-digit growth and TUI has “another increase” after a strong previous year.

Tour operators have also expanded their Latin America programmes for the coming winter. TUI has its first-ever separate Latin America brochure, featuring 87 new hotels and 33 more tours, while FTI is offering more beach holidays in Brazil and Costa Rica, and has Peru as a new destination.

In Asia, tour operators have added smaller destinations, more hotels and new tours to their programmes. FTI, for example, now offers Bhutan, Nepal and northern Thailand, Thomas Cook has added Myanmar, and TUI has more ‘concept hotels’ in various destinations. The Indian Ocean is also performing well. Mauritius is seeing strong demand, with 50% growth for TUI and a 22% rise for DER. “The island has developed from a pure luxury destination into a diverse travel destination, and is becoming more popular for families,” commented TUI’s Schirmbeck.

Meanwhile, Southern Africa, primarily South Africa and Namibia, has made a strong comeback from last year’s slump. German visitor numbers to South Africa increased by 20% to 120,000 in the first four months of this year, according to the tourism board, and tour operators have reported double-digit or high single-digit increases for bookings for the year as a whole. For winter 2016/17 tour operators have increased capacity significantly while prices for South Africa are lower thanks to the cheaper rand. TUI, for example, has increased capacity by 60%, Dertour has added 12 new tours in the region, and Thomas Cook Signature and Neckermann Reisen each have 34 new hotels in South Africa. FTI has even added 15 more countries to its Africa programme, including Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Elsewhere, Australia & New Zealand are profiting this year from new flight connections, including Singapore Airlines from Düsseldorf, Qatar Airways to Adelaide and, from November, additional Emirates flights to Melbourne. TUI has a rise in bookings for Down Under after two years of stagnant sales, while FTI has a “high double-digit increase”. Several tour operators, including FTI and Dertour, are featuring more tours with Aborigines in their 2016/17 programmes.

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