Tourism: Tour operators will remain in crisis mode in 2022

Tourist at Hamburg Airport

After another slump in sales in the tourism year that is coming to an end, tour operators and travel agencies expect to reach the pre-crisis level at the earliest in 2023.

(Photo: dpa)

Düsseldorf There is still no radical recovery in the pandemic-damaged travel industry. As the German Travel Association (DRV) found in a survey of 550 tourism companies in mid-October, 60 percent of companies do not expect sales to return to pre-crisis levels until 2023.

A third even thinks this is not conceivable until 2024. “This sentiment clearly shows that the crisis for the travel industry is not over yet,” said DRV President Norbert Fiebig.

The industry key figures that Travel Data + Analytics determined for the DRV show the extent of the misery: By the end of September 2021, the tour operators recorded a decline in sales of 69 percent compared to the pre-Corona year 2019. According to DRV, Tui, DER Touristik, Alltours and others are missing around twelve billion euros in the till this year alone. There had already been a similarly high deficit in 2020.

Above all, the almost total failure of the winter season between November 2020 and April 2021 had a 94 percent decline in sales compared to winter 19/20. The subsequent booking business from May 2021 for the summer, which at times was even significantly above the level of 2019, could not compensate for the minus. Between May and the end of October, the current booking status shows a cumulative decline in sales of 56 percent compared to the pre-Corona summer 2019. Long-distance travel and cruises in particular suffered a deep slump.

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The ability to plan also suffered from the pandemic. Bookings at such short notice as in summer 2021 have never been made before: In the main holiday months of July and August, TDA determined, 55 to 61 percent of all trips were made less than four weeks before departure.

There is no bankruptcy wave for the time being

So far, short-time work benefits and bridging aid have ensured that the feared wave of insolvencies did not materialize, according to the DRV. The number of bankruptcies was even below the level of previous years. Almost two thirds of those surveyed state that they did not have to lay off any employees during Corona. However, around half of the companies lost employees who switched to other industries. In addition, two thirds of the travel companies stated that they had not offered any training positions.

Market leader Tui even lost all of the Group’s equity in the main summer season. With a further capital increase, they want to reduce the excessive debt level there.

“Last winter did not take place at bookings, so to speak, and summer only started around June,” complains Ralph Schiller, head of the Munich tour operator FTI. “Since then we have experienced a surge in demand and have achieved over 30 percent more sales in the short term than in the pre-Corona summer 2019”, but one cannot compensate for the winter and the lack of advance bookings for the summer. The only consolation from the point of view of the FTI boss: “We are closing the year as a whole better than last year.”

However, there is apparently a positive trend in business trips, which remained at a low level in the third quarter and are now picking up strongly, as Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr confided in a newspaper in Austria at the beginning of the week. Business travel has returned faster and stronger than expected, he said. “At the moment we are seeing an extension of the summer travel season into autumn and into winter.” On the one hand, this is due to the catch-up effects after the pandemic and, on the other hand, the opening of the USA announced for November.

More: After the travel ban was lifted: bookings for flights to the USA are increasing rapidly

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