It’s taken a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic could not diminish Germans’ love of travel forever. On the contrary, vacations are still a top priority for many, according to a recent survey by Germany’s Holiday and Travel Research Association.
This is confirmed by Professor Ulrich Reinhardt, a tourism researcher who heads the Foundation for Future Studies. “Many Germans are not prepared to forgo relaxing, getting a break from their everyday lives, enjoying new experiences, the sun, the beach and the ocean,” Reinhardt told DW.
Travel remains popular in Germany
Domestic tourism has bounced back, too. The German hospitality industry recorded 47 million overnight stays in May this year, which marks a 5.8% rise compared to the pre-COVID-19 period. The German Travel Association also reports that travel behaviour is returning to pre-pandemic levels. “There is significantly more demand for foreign travel again, although many families are very price-conscious and favor all-inclusive deals,” it says. There is also a tendency to book holidays further in advance.
That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed how and when people travel for work.
“Changes brought about by the coronavirus are most obvious and probably most lasting in the area of business travel,” says a spokeswoman for the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW). She adds that “in particular, digitalization and the use of video-conferencing has meant that there is significantly less business travel now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Pandemic precipitates digitalization drive
According to BTW, the pandemic kicked off a rapid digitalization drive in the travel and hospitality industry. Today, there are many more opportunities to seek out an online customer service, book restaurant tables or tickets for tourist attractions on the internet. In addition, many companies have significantly revamped their overall online presence.
The long-term impact of the pandemic can also be felt in the aviation sector. According to the latest statistics from the German Airports Association (ADV), the number of passengers at German airports in the first five months of 2023 was still 27% below the same period in 2019. The area most affected are domestic flights. Whereas 2.1 million passengers embarked on domestic flights in May 2023, that figure was more than double in May 2019. Among other things, a reduced number of flight connections within Germany is to blame for this shortfall, says the ADV. Moreover, more people are choosing rail services instead.
Catching up on travel
Across the entire aviation industry, fewer flight connections are on offer today than in 2019. At the same time, demand has skyrocketed, driving up air fares. According to data from Germany’s Federal Statistical Office, tickets were 52.6% more expensive in the first half of 2023 than in the first half of 2021. Package holidays have become costlier, too. Such deals cost about 10.2% more in the first half of 2023 than in the same period of the previous year.
Despite such rising costs and inflation, people are still keen to catch up on travel now that the pandemic is over, says tourism researcher Ulrich Reinhardt. This is reflected, for example, in holiday durations. In 2022, Germans spent an average 13 days on holiday, which is almost two days longer than in 2021. In the years prior to the pandemic, Germans had been taking ever shorter holidays. The reverse seems to be happening now.
Travel safety now key desire
In the wake of the pandemic, vacationers attach far greater importance to traveling safely, says Reinhardt. Niche markets like camping holidays, which have grown very popular since the pandemic, could benefit from this. Whether demand for long-distance travel will remain as high as it currently is, on the other hand, is questionable, he says. High prices and discussions over natural resources and pollution will have more influence on international travel in the future, he thinks. Even so, Germans will most likely continue to enjoy exploring the world.