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Business

Tourism Industry Sees Early Signs of Recovery

Most of Germany's leading travel groups report that bookings are gradually picking up after the post-September 11 downturn, and they're cautiously hopeful about prospects for the coming year.

Germany's travel industry is starting to note hopeful signs that the effects on business of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are starting to ease.

"Bookings are on the rise again but are still below the year-ago levels," said reservation service provider Start Amadeus GmbH, which processes the lion's share of holiday bookings made in Germany.

The DER travel group, part of retail giant Rewe, echoed the positive sentiment. "The good news is that people are travelling again," said DER managing director Norbert Fiebig at the presentation of preliminary figures for the group's 2001 business year.

Fiebig said that figures for the winter season were expected to match those of last year, while he was "cautiously optimistic" about prospects for the summer season. For its tour operators Dertour and ADAC, DER forecast an 8% sales increase to DM1.9 billion and 2.2 million guests for the tourism year ended Oct. 31. DER said only Meier's Weltreisen, its long-haul tour operator, had incurred a drop in sales – of 13% to DM400 million.

Here an already negative trend was deepened by a collapse of the important North America business. The DER group uses calendar-year, not tourism-year, reporting. For full-year 2001, it expects to continue its run of annual growth in pretax profit. But it said conditions next year were expected to be considerably more difficult.

Fiebig stressed that DER, unlike rival Thomas Cook, had no plans to restructure or to make job cuts.Thomas Cook took a less upbeat view of industry prospects. "Demand is fluctuating. There is neither a negative nor a positive trend," a spokeswoman said.

Market leader TUI, part of tourism giant Preussag, was cautiously optimistic for the 2001/2002 tourism year. It forecast market growth of 1–2%. Alltours, one of the few remaining mid-sized travel groups on the German market, was the most upbeat. It reported a 6.5% rise in winter bookings and said even preliminary bookings for the summer season were up by more than one third from the year-ago period.