Dusseldorf The tour operator DER Touristik promises crystal clear lakes, “an impressive mountain panorama and traditional, richly decorated villages”. “Spectacular looks”, enthuses the advertising text, abound on the trip.
We’re not talking about the Himalayas or the Peruvian Andes, but about the Bavarian Tegernsee. Those who are studying the travel offers of the Rewe subsidiary these days feel like a look through the home films of the 1950s. “The guests of the eight-day cycle tour ‘Sun Quadrilateral’ explore the Palatinate and the picturesque Rheingau,” says the brochure. “Vineyards galore line the paths.”
A culinary trip to the imperial city of Worms, Heidelberg or Schwetzingen is at the top of the program this time. “Wide valleys, gentle hills and rugged mountain heights” can be admired by anyone who joins the DER hiking tour through the Black Forest. Everything can of course be booked in the travel agencies of the Rewe subsidiary. Summer 2020.
The reference to the beauties of home is cleverly calculated. Because although competitor Tui is pushing for a season start in the Balearic Islands, in Bulgaria and Greece or in Cyprus for mid-June, only a few holidaymakers are likely to feel like traveling by air this year. Many are frightened by the fear of flying infections, insufficient hospital capacity abroad and possibly quarantine weeks after returning home.
Little is likely to change that Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) is currently exploring vacation options for Germans abroad. “The Ballermann,” warned a travel expert on Facebook at the weekend, “could become an Ischgl 2.0.”
Until at least June 14, the Federal Foreign Office still advises against all “unnecessary tourist trips” worldwide. Virologists continue to be critical of the efforts of some holiday countries to reopen in the summer season – especially the advances from Spain and Italy, which were piqued by the fact that last year the crowds of tourists in cities like Palma, Barcelona or Venice still wanted to hell.
It is therefore fitting that countries such as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are starting their hotels again tentatively from this Monday – an example that the other federal states will follow in the next few days. Restaurants, museums and some amusement parks are also opening their doors in Germany.
If you believe a survey by the online shopping platform Mydealz among 1831 consumers, the number of German holidaymakers will double this year. In addition to the 11.7 percent of those surveyed who had already planned a vacation in Germany according to their own information, there is now an equally strong group who originally wanted to travel across the border.
Another quarter of those surveyed said they would completely do without a vacation trip in 2020. In addition, there are numerous undecided people. 25 percent of the respondents said they had canceled their vacation abroad because of the Corona epidemic. Another 21 percent said it was postponed until later.
“Vacation in Germany is currently very popular with travelers,” explains a spokesman for Mydealz. Just 17 percent had answered the question with a clear “No”, whether vacation in Germany could be an alternative to vacation abroad for them. In contrast, more than one in two (51.33 percent) answered with a clear “yes”. Almost one in three said that they would then like to go on holiday in Germany, “if traveling abroad is still not possible”.
Short vacation at home
Even German holiday regions that have been sidelined so far are expecting a strong influx due to the current trend. “The classic holiday resorts on the North and Baltic Seas or in Bavaria expect occupancy to their capacity limits in summer,” advertises the five-star Hotel Vila Vita Rosenpark in Marburg. Anyone looking for travel pleasure away from mass tourism can now discover completely new destinations – “such as Middle Hesse”.
In the end, however, it will be the short trips in Germany that shape the holiday scene at home. Only one in five is considering going on vacation in Germany for two weeks or more. Half of the Mydealz respondents stated that they only planned a week, a quarter even only traveled for three to four days. “Apparently, many Germans are currently using their vacation days sparingly so that they can travel ‘properly’ again later in the year,” says the study.
And yet: The Germany trips will be significantly longer this year than in the previous year. For August, the Cologne-based online agency HRS calculated an average length of stay of 8.6 nights. In 2019 it was only 6.4.
The trend is not limited to the popular summer months. During the rest of the year, the guests planned longer trips back home. In December, for example, the average stay was 5.2 compared to just 3.7 nights in the previous year, reports HRS managing director Tobias Ragge. “German holidaymakers also rely on holidays close to home when planning their medium-term travel,” he concludes.
The brokers at HRS, one of the largest providers in Germany with around 180,000 vacation rentals, can only confirm that domestic vacation rentals are experiencing a real boom. Since the openings were announced, the booking volume has increased by more than 200 percent compared to the previous year.
The supply on the coasts and on the edge of the Alps is becoming noticeably scarcer, reports HRS. After all, 26.6 percent of holidaymakers in Germany are drawn to the Baltic Sea, Mydealz found, 23.9 percent have envisaged the North Sea coast. The Allgäu and Lake Constance followed with 20.6 and 18.8 percent.
On the other hand, those who cannot find what they are looking for in these regions still have good chances elsewhere. In the less well-known regions, there are still a few things to get hold of, the online brokers report. These included the Swabian Alb, the Spessart, the Spreewald, the Saxon Switzerland, the Black Forest, the Sauerland or the Rhineland.
Despite the surge in bookings, the price increase in the German holiday regions is still moderate, HRS determined. The Cologne residents found the highest prices for accommodation in August, where they climbed to an average of around 120 euros per night. However, tariffs fluctuated widely depending on the region.
So far, as the industry says, the boom has been limited to holiday homes and apartments. There, many holidaymakers promise, at least it seems, a higher level of hygiene and more security against the corona pandemic. “We assume that soon many hotels in the tourist regions will notice an increase in bookings,” said HRS boss Ragge, nevertheless hopefully.
Tui has been promoting its village hotel on Sylt since Sunday, which has been welcoming tourists again since May 18. Holiday resorts in Boltenhagen on the Baltic Sea or in Fleesensee on the Müritz are also said to help the battered tour operator generate sales after the shutdown.
But neither the big tour operators nor the travel agencies will save the Germany boom from red numbers. “Germany has traditionally been a direct marketing destination,” says Marija Linnhoff from the Association of Independent Self-Employed Travel Agencies (VUSR). “Most holidaymakers in Germany call directly in the hotel.” The sales thus largely pass the package dealers and agencies.
Holidaymakers are much better secured with a package booking – apart from that, only the less customer-friendly tenancy law applies to direct bookings of holiday apartments. However, many hotel and holiday apartment providers are currently foregoing the travel agency offers because of the high demand. “We won’t be able to survive simply through tourism in Germany,” warns the travel agency representative.
More: Tourism industry hopes to restart after border openings.