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Germans Catch the Travel Bug

The travel industry may lose valuable holiday guests to the soccer World Cup in June, but experts estimate Germans will make up for it after the championship ends.

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Domestic destinations like the Baltic Sea still top travel plans

"People are practically sitting on packed suitcases," said Horst Opaschowski, director of the Hamburg-based leisure research institute BAT Freizeit-Forschungsinstitut. He said 2006 would be a good year for the travel sector, adding that two-thirds of Germans have already planned to go on vacation this year -- and not just briefly, but for a longer period.

"Vacations are getting longer and the trend towards short trips is over," said Opaschowski.

Nothing beats a long holiday

Since the 1980s, Germans' holidays have gotten shorter: from 18 to just 12 days in 2004, for example. But since last year, it appears the travel-friendly Germans have had a revelation: weekend and short jaunts cannot compare with a three-week holiday break.

Fussball-Weltmeisterschaft, Fan auf Reisen (Montage)

Many tourists will head to Germany for the World Cup

The most popular destination remains Germany itself. But the domestic vacation is becoming less desirable. In past decades, the share of domestic trips has dropped from 69 percent in 1961 to 32 percent.

And the end isn't near. For holiday regions in Germany, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to compete with foreign competition. People are simply fascinated by warmth, distance and the big, wide world, Opaschowski said. The domestic market is losing market shares, he said.

"Actually, it's also interesting to see the cut-throat competition among domestic holiday regions," Opaschowski said. "Bavaria continues to reign supreme at the top of the list, followed by the Baltic and North Seas."

Coastline and mountains compete with each other to court Germany holidaymakers, who can fly to Mallorca quicker than drive to the Baltic island of Rügen or the Bavarian Alps.

Mallorca, Panoramafoto

The beaches on Mallorca are a popular destination

Long-distance destinations increasingly popular

For years, Spain, Italy, Austria and Turkey have been the most favorite travel destinations for German tourists. But other countries are catching up, in particular Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Greece. They are close on the heels of the top destinations. Croatia and Slovenia are gaining ground on Austria.

But long-distance travel is also a growing trend. The Caribbean remains very popular. China, Japan and India are also in increasing demand.

According to Opaschowski, this explains why the average travel stay was on the rise. For long-distance trips, people need money and lots of time, which singles and childless couples, particularly, willing to invest more in vacations.

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