Mixed booking trends on German market

Tour operators report fluctuating trends for Germany’s top long-haul destination as the ‘Trump effect’ and stronger dollar impact business.

June 14, 2017
The ‘Trump effect’ was a hot topic at the IPW in Washington
Photo: Holger M. Jacobs

No really clear picture emerged at the recent IPW incoming trade fair in Washington of how Destination USA is performing on the German market this year. The USA is the top long-haul destination for German travellers and a record number of 2.3 million Germans visited the country in 2015.

Despite widespread forecasts that foreign visitors could be scared off the strong dollar and by President Trump’s rhetoric and policies, such as the travel ban on seven Muslim countries, it is unclear whether there is any real ‘Trump slump’ or not.

Hardly any German tour operators admitted any decline in bookings or sales revenues for the USA this year, with a mix of stable figures and moderate growth. With Canada continuing to boom, North America is proving popular this year overall.

Fabio Negro, North America product manager of the FTI Group, commented: “We’re very satisfied with USA trends and will close the year ahead of last year. Campervans and car rentals are going well, and there is only slightly reserved demand for coach tours.”

Similarly, Robin Brückner, TUI’s North America product chief, declared: “The USA has lost none of its pull. We are seeing good demand and expect the USA to close the business year positively.” Gerrit Seefeld, senior product manager for Neckermann Reisen, said: “The season has started well for the USA. The dollar exchange rate is generally influencing booking behaviour more than the political situation.”

In contrast, Per Illian, product manager of DER Touristik, admitted: “At present we are experiencing more holding back of bookings than at the start of the year. But price discounts and incentives from many destinations are driving late sales.”

The picture was similarly mixed among specialists, with varying assessments. Tilo Krause-Dünow, managing director of Canusa Touristik, said: “We’re very satisfied with the single-digit increase in US sales. Despite the fairly robust dollar, the prices are not completely off track.”

“Canada is going well and the USA is good, but not as good as we hoped for. Customers are switching more often to other destinations due to the political situation,” commented Holger Howind, product manager of Diamir Erlebnisreisen.

On the other hand, Rüdiger Berger, managing director of Explorer Fernreisen, said: “The USA is slightly down. We expect US business will close at last year’s level or with a slight decline.”

Friedrich Roth, Chief Operating Officer of CRD, commented: “Requests and bookings for the USA are slightly negative. We expect a decline for the (overall) tour operator market, but that should not be over-interpreted due to the strong previous years.”

Similarly, Timo Kohlenberg, managing director of America Unlimited, added: “I think the market is clearly heading downwards. At trade fairs and in social media we are experiencing a strong rejection of the US president. We’re responding to this with strong marketing measures.”

Dirk Büttner, owner of Argus Reisen, was more blunt. “We lost some bookings in January and February. But people seem to have got used to the clown in the White House in the meantime.”

Meanwhile, Brand USA, the tourism marketing organisation, is fighting a rearguard action to save itself. President Trump wants to scrap the organisation but it still has a majority of supporters in Congress. Its contract runs until 2020 unless Congress revises the Travel Promotion Act which it passed with a large majority in 2014.

Despite the political funding dispute, Brand USA is pressing ahead with its latest promotion campaign, ‘One Big Welcome’, in which local residents present personal tips for their cities or regions. “We want to show how hospitable people are in this country,” explained the organisation’s chief Chris Thompson. “As little has changed about that as about the attractiveness of Destination USA,” he emphasised.

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