Status: 02/22/2021 3:17 p.m.
For the travel industry, the winter holiday business has largely failed. The organizers only head for a few regions. What is still being booked?
From Notker Blechner,
“Beach, sea, mojitos and vaccine”: With this slogan, Cuba is currently attracting foreign tourists. The communist Caribbean country used to attract revolutionaries and nostalgic people, but now it relies on health-conscious tourists. Cuba is currently developing several vaccines, including Soberana 2, which is in the promising phase III.
Cuba is one of the few destinations that tour operators and airlines still head for. Condor, for example, flies from Frankfurt and Düsseldorf to the Caribbean island. The tourists then spend their vacation in secluded hotel resorts in Varadero and the Cayos.
The streets of Havana, Cuba.
Bild: YANDER ZAMORA / EPA-EFE / Shuttersto
Holidays as a whole have fallen into disrepute – the federal and state governments continue to urgently advise against all trips that are not absolutely necessary. Chancellor Angela Merkel called on citizens to better stay at home. And yet they are also in the middle of the pandemic: holiday destinations to which travel is at least possible. This includes the luxury resort in the Maldives, Mauritius or the Seychelles.
There are also restrictions there: For the Seychelles you have to present a negative test result that is not older than 48 hours, as well as a booking confirmation of the accommodation for the entire travel time. Only then does the government issue a health permit. There is a six-day quarantine obligation on site, vaccinated people are excluded.
The regulations for Sri Lanka are similarly extreme: foreign tourists must present a negative corona test before their departure and have themselves tested again at Colombo airport. They are not allowed to leave the hotel during the entire holiday.
Hardly any desire for long-distance travel
But the Germans’ desire for long-distance travel is still very limited in view of the corona situation. Travel agencies report to tagesschau.de of manageable bookings. At most the Caribbean is still running a little. Many customers shy away from traveling to risk areas because they have to go into quarantine when they return, explains Stephie Partes, owner of “Reisemarkt 8” in Taunusstein: “Many employees cannot schedule this.”
In addition, the situation can change quickly. Where there are still low corona infection numbers today, tomorrow can be a dangerous hotspot. That’s why the travel business is still not getting off the ground.
“Paralysis in travel agencies”
According to the German Travel Association (DRV), incoming bookings in travel agencies in January were more than 90 percent below the level of the same month last year. “We are currently in a state of shock,” says Markus Smik from the Marburg travel agency Weitsprung, which has several branches nationwide tagesschau.de. “Very few customers want to travel at the moment. The uncertainty is very high, so most of those interested postpone their travel request to the second half of the year.”
This is confirmed by Anke Dannesberger, managing director of the Berger travel agency in Frankfurt. “The inquiries are currently very low,” she says. Last week she just had two major bookings for Curacao. If anything, customers were currently asking about vacations in Germany and the Caribbean. “Reisemarkt 8” -owner Partes complains that the reversals of trips that have been rebooked from last year to now are particularly tough and frustrating.
Winter in the Canaries?
The Canaries were still one of the most popular destinations at the turn of the year, as the only region in Spain that was not considered a high-risk area. Some families and pensioners fled the German lockdown to Fuerteventura or Gran Canaria on Christmas vacation and also in January to spend the winter in mild temperatures.
In the meantime, the new corona infections have risen again, the Canaries have been upgraded to a risk area. The island of La Gomera continues to advertise with the very low number of corona cases. “More than 60 percent of our bed capacity is currently occupied,” said State Secretary Maria Mendez Almenara to “Spiegel”.
Uncertain Easter holiday
The hopes of the travel agencies and tour operators now rest on the Easter holiday. But even this could fail, said Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer recently – which caused a wave of outrage in the travel industry. “If a prime minister is already talking to death about the Easter holiday without any need, that further unsettles people and pushes the travel industry, which has been extremely shaken by the pandemic, a little closer to the abyss,” criticizes the German Travel Association.
Tour operators like TUI are still optimistic that business will pick up again by summer at the latest. TUI then wants to bring 80 percent of the 2019 offer to market. “People sit on packed suitcases,” says TUI boss Fritz Joussen. Above all, the group expects a “catch-up effect for the Mediterranean”. In addition to Mallorca and the Turkish Riviera, the Greek islands of Crete, Rhodes and Kos are currently being booked for summer holidays.
Travel agency owners are much more skeptical. They are more likely to expect a rush to German vacation areas – like last summer. Back then, German citizens jostled themselves on overcrowded beaches on the Baltic and North Sea or on hiking trails in Bavaria. In fact, many vacationers are securing their dream hotels on the Baltic Sea and on Sylt, according to the tour operator FTI. Holiday apartments and houses are also in demand.
First travel agency bankruptcies
The situation among the around 11,000 German travel agencies remains tense. The federal government supported the travel agencies with bridging aid of 50,000 euros per month. Nevertheless, the first bankruptcies have already occurred. The travel agency chain Bühler, which has 37 branches with 230 employees, had to file for bankruptcy.
But even small travel agencies complain that it is difficult for them to get help. The application is a state act, criticizes “Reisemarkt 8” owner Partes. In addition, accountants and tax advisors are completely overloaded. “That sucks your nerves and your financial reserves.”
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