HANNOVER (dpa-AFX) - People in Germany are in the mood to travel. Before the start of the summer vacations, which begin first in Thuringia and Saxony on Thursday, tour operators are reporting strong demand and some hotels are already fully booked. "Germans are in a great mood to travel this year," says Kerstin Heinen from the German Travel Association (DRV). After the travel restrictions of the Corona years, vacations are now back at the top of Germans' wish lists - "despite all the economic developments".

Two thirds want to go on vacation

According to a representative survey conducted by market research institute Innofact on behalf of Norisbank, 63.5 percent of Germans are planning a vacation trip this summer. This is the highest figure in five years and more than in the pre-corona year 2019. 60 percent of the summer program of the world's largest travel group Tui was fully booked in May. The industry runner-up DER Touristik with the brands Dertour, ITS and Meiers Weltreisen also reported strong booking figures. "We can see that demand is continuing to increase," says a spokeswoman. "Travel will remain a priority in 2024." Following the insolvency of competitor FTI at the beginning of June, both tour operators now want to increase their capacities once again in order to create additional places.

Holidaymakers are drawn to the Mediterranean

Following the travel restrictions during the coronavirus years, holidaymakers are once again being drawn to faraway places, says tourism expert Torsten Kirstges from the Jade University of Applied Sciences in Wilhelmshaven. "The classic destinations are on the rise again." Especially around the Mediterranean: above all Spain, but also Italy, Turkey and Greece. "Majorca is doing particularly well," says a Tui spokesperson. Group CEO Sebastian Ebel warned in May that there could be a shortage of places on the Germans' most popular vacation island in the summer. It could also be tight on popular Greek islands, his spokesman added.

Competitors woo FTI customers

Kirstges believes that the FTI insolvency will not put a damper on the desire to travel. "This will not have a major immediate impact on travel behavior." The market has long since been redistributed. "There are enough offers from other tour operators who are now trying to attract customers." And thanks to the protection provided by the German Travel Security Fund, package travelers can expect a refund of the money they have already paid. Only very few FTI customers would therefore probably forgo their summer vacation altogether. "That will only be a tiny minority," believes Kirstges.

Long-distance travel in demand again

Overall, it is clear that people are flying more again. "Air travel has increased sharply again since 2022 and is now back to at least pre-coronavirus levels," says Kirstges. And that despite higher ticket prices. Many people are not only traveling to the Mediterranean, but also to Asia or America. "More long-haul trips are being booked again. This is now on the rise again," says Kirstges. "There's definitely some catching up to do after it completely disappeared during the coronavirus pandemic." Destinations in Asia such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are "more in demand than ever", reports a DER Touristik spokeswoman. The same applies to North America, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates.

Holidaymakers are spending more

However, customers also have to dig deeper into their pockets for their vacation. "It has become more expensive. Travel spending has risen, partly due to inflation," says Kirstges. However, this has not dampened the desire to travel. "People are more likely to save money by traveling a day or two shorter or spending a little less money on site during their vacation." However, Tui and DER Touristik agree that no savings are being made on the vacation itself. On the contrary: many customers are even spending more and booking better hotels or extras, both tour operators report. And cruises are also on the rise again. Many ships are already fully booked, according to Tui.

Germany remains the number 1 travel destination

Domestic vacation regions are also benefiting from the desire to travel. "Germany is still the most important travel destination for Germans," says Kirstges. Around a quarter of all holidaymakers stay in their own country. "The coasts of the North Sea and Baltic Sea are in demand. But also Bavaria and the mountains." The current flooding in parts of Bavaria will not change this. "It will hardly have any effect, as we have seen with previous natural disasters. Once the floods are over and the tourist infrastructure is intact, people will travel there again."

Lower Saxony is correspondingly confident about the upcoming season. "The booking situation for the islands, the inland and the coast is good," reports a spokeswoman for the North Sea Tourism Agency in Wilhelmshaven. The average occupancy rate is between 75 and 90 percent. Schleswig-Holstein is less euphoric. After an initially good start, the travel year is now more of a mixed bag, says Bettina Bunge from the Schleswig-Holstein Tourism Agency. "There is still capacity available for the summer in all regions."

In Bavaria, on the other hand, the industry is optimistic. "We are confident and hopeful and are looking forward to a good summer season," says Thomas Geppert from the hotel and restaurant association Dehoga Bayern. However, fears that the floods could lead to a wave of cancellations, which may also affect areas not damaged by the floods, are not yet off the table. There is still no clear picture, says Geppert. However, we have heard of individual companies canceling.

By contrast, the hope that domestic tourism could maintain the boom it experienced during the travel restrictions in the coronavirus years has long since vanished. "That's all been put into perspective again now," says Kirstges. "It's back to a normal level."/fjo/DP/zb