Those who can, travel further

April 2009

It is supposed to be the best time of the year – a relaxing change of scene, and depending on your preference, gloriously sunny or blessed with excellent snow conditions – wonderful, in any case. We look forward to our vacations weeks ahead, dreaming of palm trees or freshly bashed pistes. But this year we are in a crisis, are things any different?

We are certainly more tempted to get away from it all with the current doom and gloom, to chill out in the Caribbean rather than worry about struggling banks, falling salaries, endangered jobs and future income. But of course, it is not that simple.

The general economic pessimism is having an impact on the German’s mood for travel, at least partially. Initial indicators show us that in 2009, the tourism industry will struggle to match its figures of previous years. This is shown in the results of GfK TravelScope survey, for which GfK Panel Services continuously gathers data on vacation travel, reservation and information behavior, as well as travel plans of German consumers. The latest survey shows that travel plans this year are down 3.5% on the comparable figure for 2008.

Travel agents are reporting a similar development. In January, their sales fell by a total of 9% year on year and, according to the latest results from the GfK Tourism Distribution Panel for the 2009 summer season, from last autumn families have been booking significantly fewer trips than before. Especially families with children are holding back on plans for the coming summer, too. With a drop of 6.4%, the planning figure for this group of respondents is significantly below the previous year’s level. However, it remains to be seen whether they are actually going to travel less or are simply being cautious for the time being and will pack their suitcases after all, come the summer. If the inflation rate, which is currently at an historic low and remains low, purchasing power will rise in line with tax reductions and pension increases. This will mean more money in the holiday fund for those who do travel.

Traveling in Germany more popular

This could also boost the German national economy. In summer 2008, Germans took 42.9 million vacations in their home country – a rise of 1.9%, and an end to this trend is not expected in 2009. Already at the end of February, 3.7% more trips had been planned within Germany and this figure was even higher for stays of more than ten nights. The Alps, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, as well as Northern locations, are high on the list of favorites for the coming season. However, travel to certain overseas destinations was not down on the previous year. According to the Tourism Distribution Panel, trips to countries like Vietnam, Japan and Tanzania were actually higher than before in the list of top destinations.

Expensive holiday still being booked

It appears that the tourism industry is split into two: some consumers, mainly families, are swapping the Riviera for Rugia, and others continue to seek relaxation in the Caribbean. This would explain why more expensive vacations in particular, costing EUR 1,500 and upwards, are not dwindling in popularity and are currently selling as well as they did in the previous year. Vacations costing up to EUR 750 fell according to statistics. It appears that those who can are still traveling and those with less money are opting to make savings on vacations.

Data source: GfK Panel Services (Travel Scope), GfK Retail & Technology (Tourism Distribution Panel).

If you have any queries concerning this article or Compact, please contact Claudia Gaspar,  e-mail: