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Meaningful statistics: Three leading market research institutes provide valuable insights into their surveys

The first day of We Love Travel! kicked off in earnest with a panel under the heading ’Crunching Numbers’ which presented the findings of three leading market research institutes. Ulf Sonntag from FUR presented September’s ReiseAnalyse findings. The survey had asked participants whether they had the money, time and the desire to travel. The good news is that the answers were similarly positive to last year’s on all three counts. Only ten per cent of the respondents said they would travel only if a vaccine were available.

What is particularly heartening is that many customers already have winter and summer plans. There is a slight preference for destinations that can be reached by car. Beyond that, holidays in nature are much in demand, as is sustainable travel. Asked about what their plans were in detail, interviewees emphasised hygiene, avoiding personal contact and a preference for destinations which, if the situation became serious, would allow them to get back home easily. Besides car travel, there is a trend towards holiday apartments and employing tour operators, because it gives visitors a sense of security. Participants were also asked their impressions on travel this summer against the backdrop of the coronavirus. For the most part they were different, but in general good.      

Afterwards, Roland Gaßner from Travel Data & Analytics presented the latest travel market findings. On average, bookings are around 25 per cent of last year’s figure. Currently, and in the face of rising infection numbers, uncertainty abounds. Accordingly, the reservations being taken by tour operators are mostly at short notice. By contrast, some customers are looking ahead and booking holidays for summer 2021. Reservations for the upcoming winter holiday season are down.

A breakdown of the entire year shows that 2020 began on a very positive note. This was followed by a complete collapse in bookings during lockdown, before optimism returned among customers. However, this received a quick damper again, with the big destination of Majorca suffering especially. Greece is doing comparatively well. In September, its new bookings even surpassed the previous year’s. To date, Portugal and Cyprus have come relatively unscathed through the crisis.

Afterwards, Peter Kautz from Statista provided a valuable insight into global travel industry figures. The industry has grown massively over the past 70 years. Since then it has recorded 1.5 billion hotel overnights alone. The institute registered a 55 per cent drop compared with 2019. Initially, the forecast for 2020 was positive, in anticipation of a strong fourth quarter. The overall outlook however is that the market will likely only stabilise again in 2023

One interesting forecast is that the countries with the biggest market declines due to the coronavirus will probable bounce back strongest – they include Mexico and China, but also Germany. This can be attributed to their large domestic markets. China’s domestic air travel market is back at 100 per cent again. A look at the individual markets and the impact of the coronavirus shows that, as expected, the cruise industry has suffered most. By contrast, the luxury market has remained comparatively stable.

After the presentations the audience was able to ask questions. Which factors were important for regaining the trust of customers? Replying, Ulf Sonntag said what was absolutely necessary was for politicians to send a clear message, to create the conditions now that would allow customers planning certainty.

Roland Gaßner was asked whether, despite the pandemic being a unique situation, were there any parallels with past crises? He compared this situation to 9/11, which had also led to a massive drop in demand. The big difference was that this crisis would take much longer before the markets could recover.

Lastly, Peter Kautz was asked what could be done to return the situation to normal. He also emphasised that trust was dependent on the overall conditions. If cruise ships were banned from docking on the orders of local authorities then naturally that had a big negative impact on consumer trust.

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