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22/01/2024 By : Albert Jennings, GIA Germany

"This will be the best summer ever"

The news channel N-TV invited tourism experts to discuss the travel year 2024. The guests were optimistic, with some even expecting new (sales) records for the summer. However, some uncertainties remain.

N-TV hosted the tourism talk entitled "How do we travel in times of crisis". Presenter Isabelle Körner had TUI Cruises boss Wybcke Meier, DER Tourism COO Mark Tantz, VUSR chairwoman Marija Linnhoff (association of independent travel agencies), Jens Ritter (CEO of Lufthansa Airline) and author and "vacation saver" Ralf Benkö as guests. It became clear in the 50 minutes or so that there can be no talk of a crisis, at least in the travel industry - not in the past year and not in 2024 either.

Mark Tantz, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at DER Touristik, set the tone of the discussion with regard to his own company. The booking figures are already looking very positive, partly because the company has a wide range of offers for every budget, said Tantz.

Marija Linnhoff had a similar assessment. The Chairwoman of the travel agency association VUSR was also convinced that 2024 will be a very strong travel year. People would not be held back by the economic and political crises. This would not have a negative impact on demand, on the contrary. People want to get away, recharge their batteries on vacation and leave their problems behind them, at least for a while.

Lufthansa Airline CEO Jens Ritter - "The need for travel is unbroken" - and TUI Cruises boss Wybcke Meier - "Cruises are very much in vogue" - were also more than confident. Ritter was also particularly pleased about the increase in flight bookings by young customers under 30. Lufthansa is currently recording an increase of 30% compared to the previous year.

TV author Ralf Benkö put these observations into perspective. He pointed out that although sales were high as a result of rising travel prices, the number of travelers was still well below that of the pre-corona year 2019. Especially for families who are dependent on vacation periods, it could be difficult for popular destinations on the Mediterranean in view of significantly higher prices.

Linnhoff agreed: "Families are missing out on bookings." Tour operators should therefore reconsider some price images, she suggested. Benko also saw room for this, as tour operators and Lufthansa had achieved very good results last year. Financial buffers are there.

Price-sensitive versus spendthrift customers

Cruises promise planning and budget security, Meier said, promoting her own product. Although vacations at sea are more expensive than on land, the gap has recently narrowed. DER Tourism Manager Tantz warned against taking a one-sided view. Although there is a very price-sensitive clientele, on the other hand, holidaymakers would certainly treat themselves to higher-quality trips - as they did in 2022 and 2023.

There are definitely offers for holidaymakers who have to pay more attention to their budget. These destinations include Turkey, Bulgaria, Tunisia and, on long-haul routes, Thailand .

One of the factors that could have a negative impact on demand for travel is the increase in ticket tax, which will make flights and travel more expensive from May. The additional costs in triple-digit million range could not be shouldered alone by the airline, said LH CEO Ritter.

(FVW, Jan 11, 2024)

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