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Culture

More Space Poolside as Germans Stay Home

Despite the discomfort it's causing, the hot summer has been embraced by tourists who are flocking back to resorts after last year's lull. All except the Germans who are conspicuously fewer in number.

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Fewer Germans on holiday means more space for other nationalities


It is one of the hottest summers on record for many a year and for those holiday makers who booked their vacation months ago in the hope that 2003 would deliver weather worthy of their main break, it is a welcome, although intense, sunny period.

However, one group traditionally first to grab all the good spots on the pool side is conspicuously smaller in number this year. While global tourism picks up from the slump caused by terrorist attacks, war and the deadly SARS virus, the self-acclaimed champions of world travel are staying at home in increasing numbers. This summer, there will be fewer Germans on the beaches.

A report from British research group Mintel sees a strong increase in global tourism in the next three years, with an expected 240 million people from the United States, Britain and Germany going abroad on holiday by 2005. Germany will continue to provide the world with the greatest number of travelers in the coming years but by 2015, Britain is expected to leapfrog the United States into second place in the travel league table.

Fewer Germans traveling than last year

Badestand an der Ostsee

Global instability has cut the numbers of people on the beach.

Even so, the numbers of Germans travelling abroad right now are significantly lower than previous years and estimates expect fewer Germans to book a holiday trip – at home or abroad – in 2003 than in the record low 2002. It seems it is taking longer for the Germans to dip their toes back into the waters of travel after global emergencies such as the war in Iraq than other nationalities.

While tourists from the UK, France and elsewhere quickly resumed their travel habits after the end of the war, the usually intrepid and keen Germans have stayed away from the travel agencies. Robin Zimmermann, a spokesperson at TUI, Europe’s biggest tour operator, told the Financial Times: "This has been a uniquely German phenomenon. Elsewhere, Iraq interrupted the usual travel patterns only temporarily. In Germany, bookings are only now beginning to recover."

Economy and unemployment factors

Global tourism figures are expected to almost double by 2005 from the low of 185 million travelers in 1999 and will keep growing steadily until at least 2015, depending on world events, but Germans are unlikely to contribute in great numbers while their home economy continues to struggle and the unemployment situation worsens.

"The jobless levels in particular have people worried," said Christian Börgen of the DRV travel industry association. "Not only are people reluctant to shell out money but many are probably also uncomfortable with the thought of turning their backs on their employers for three full weeks, for fear of not having a job to return to."

Tour operators suffering

Reisende am Flughafen

More people are heading off at the last minute.

As a result, Germans are taking shorter summer vacations and leaving the booking of their travel arrangements to the last minute in an attempt to get the cheapest rates available, much to the dismay of the big tour operators.

Both TUI and Thomas Cook have cut capacities and lowered prices for the coming winter by 11 percent to compete with last minute agencies which have seen an increase in summer bookings. TUI’s total tourism sales are down by 7.3 percent on those from last year with German sales down even more, a 10.8 percent drop in the market from the figures in 2002.

However, figures suggest that although fewer Germans are contemplating holidays this year, in terms of destinations favored by those who are venturing out of Germany, there have been no big shifts.

Spain and Italy still popular

Überfüllter Strand in Valencia, Spanien

Spain remains the number one destination for Germans.

Foreign destination number one for Germans remains Spain, with 13 percent of Germans heading for the southern sun. And even the recent spat between their country and Italy hasn’t stopped 10 percent of all German travelers heading to Silvio Berlusconi’s homeland. Other popular spots include Croatia, Bulgaria and Turkey, while more than a third of German holiday makers choose to travel within their own country.

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