Business with the most beautiful weeks of the year is back in full swing after the tough Corona years. Tour operators report strong bookings so far. German airlines are looking forward to the new year in a somewhat relaxed manner, even if the number of seats available remains tighter than in other European countries. However, holidaymakers should not hope for price reductions. “The ticket prices remain high – like other prices,” Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr recently announced.
According to the German Travel Association DRV, prices for package tours are only likely to rise moderately, if at all. However, the federal government's planned increase in air traffic tax could make summer vacations significantly more expensive for many millions of people in Germany, warns association president Norbert Fiebig. Before the plans became known, several large organizers expected average price increases in the mid-single-digit percentage range. The German Tourism Association expects something similar for trips between Rügen and Mittenwald.
According to the DRV, for the first time since Corona, travel agencies and organizers have had a normal travel year again. “Sales from tour operators were able to exceed those of the record year 2019 – driven by an excellent summer season. The early bookers are back and so are the package holidays,” reports DRV President Fiebig.
However, due to high inflation, not everyone could afford an organized trip. According to data from the analysis company TDA, the number of holidaymakers in the past tourism year 2022/2023 lagged behind by 15 percent compared to 2018/19.
Given the strong demand for the coming summer season, the industry is confident that it will also catch up in terms of guest numbers. Industry leader Tui expects the number of its customers in the current travel year to climb back to the level of 2019.
The second in the industry, DER Touristik, is particularly optimistic about the summer season. “With Dertour and the sister brands ITS and Meiers Weltreisen, we are currently heading towards the best summer we have ever had in terms of guest numbers,” said Ingo Burmester, Central Europe boss of DER Touristik Group, recently.
Schauinsland managing director Gerald Kassner expects strong package travel business. “The demand for vacation continues to be high,” he said at the end of November. Alltours boss Willi Verhuven sees it similarly: “People want to get out of everyday life. They want to travel, despite and especially because of the many crises.” This trend is likely to continue in the coming year.
There is also confidence in tourism in Germany. “The mood and booking situation for 2024 have been very good so far,” reports the managing director of the German Tourism Association, Norbert Kunz.
The German airlines are looking forward to the new year in a somewhat relaxed manner, even if the traffic light coalition chose an increased ticket tax as an additional source of money shortly before the end of the year. This makes air travel even more expensive, even if details are still missing. According to the forecast by the airline association IATA, profits will continue to rise moderately globally and also in the individual European market. For 2024, IATA chief economist Andrew Matters expects European companies to make a profit of $7.9 billion (€7.3 billion) after $7.7 billion in the current year.
The supply of seats on the German market remains scarcer than in other European countries, but prices are not falling even on a global scale. Even though tourist providers are starting more flights, the overall offer in Germany remains well below the values from the last pre-Corona year of 2019. According to an evaluation by the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL), the number of seats available up to and including May 2024 will only be 84 percent of the level by 2019. In the rest of Europe, however, 102 percent is expected.
The Lufthansa Group, by far the largest provider, wanted to increase its offering in 2024 by around 10 points to 95 percent of the pre-crisis level, but has to cancel flights again in order to keep operations stable due to a lack of staff, aircraft and handling capacity. After sharp price increases in 2023, CEO Spohr has already prepared the audience for consistently high ticket prices because supply continues to lag behind demand. The higher ticket tax is now added on top for all passengers departing from a German airport.
The only thing that could ensure more flights are the large direct airlines such as Ryanair, Wizz and Easyjet, which tended to avoid German airports with their high fees last year. Industry leader Ryanair wants to increase its passenger numbers from the current 184 million to more than 300 million guests by 2034 and will not be able to do without the German market to achieve this.
Air traffic control chief Arndt Schoenemann therefore expects the low-cost airlines, which are currently limited to a few German airports such as Nuremberg, Cologne and Hahn, to return soon. For now, the Irish are struggling with the consequences of delivery problems at US manufacturer Boeing and, like most airlines, have fewer aircraft than desired.