While international tourism companies like TUI and Thomas Cooke battle the economic doldrums, this summer is progressing just like all the rest for family-run Schauinsland travel.
About 350,000 people a year relax on Schauinsland vacations
After 88 years of operation in the north of Duisburg, Schauinsland travel has moved to a modern, glitzy building near the city's harbor. But the family-run company has humble roots -- it began by transporting furniture and offering bus tours, said Gerald Kassner the company's sole proprietor.
The business' name came from Kassner's grand father, who founded the company. The first bus tours offered in the 1950s took tourists to the Black Forest and Kassner's grandfather was so impressed with the 1,284-meter (4,213-foot) Schauinsland mountain the visitors went to see near the city of Freiburg, he named his company after it. The name translates roughly to "look into the country."
Taking on the big boys, and winning
Spain's beaches are popular among for German tourists
Visitors can't book bus tours with Schauinsland travel anymore, but they can fly with the company to tourist destinations, as some 350,000 people do every year. Half of the tourists head to Spain or the Canary Islands with others boarding flights for Egypt, Tunisia and the Dominican Republic, contributing to the company's 200 million euros ($253 million) in revenues and 20 percent growth.
However. Kassner, who employees 90 people, said he does not want to become a major international player in the branch, not to mention be swallowed up by another company.
"We do not owe anything to shareholders and do not have any subsidiaries," he said. "The capital stays with the company so that we have the chance to work effectively."
Breaking the unwritten rules
Schauinsland surprised a number of the travel industry's larger companies for its willingness to break the branch's unwritten rule of keeping customers locked into all-inclusive flight and hotel deals.
"With us you can book just the hotel or you can combine the hotel with other flights," Kassner said. "We have a lot of combination possibilities."
Early negotiation can make gettting a fair price difficult
The some 10,000 of Germany's 12,000 travel agents who offer Schauinsland tours also know what they can offer customers long before they've heard from other tour companies. The Duisburg company's winter 2006/2007 catalog landed on desks in May, considerably earlier than its competitors who don't tend to start thinking about it until the second half of the year.
This means the hardest part of Kassner's job -- negotiating room prices with hotels -- also has to be done earlier.
"The individual hotels do not always want to publish their prices so early, especially attractive, fair-market prices," he said, adding that company representatives went on a shopping trip in April to work out lower prices. "The bookings arriving for the coming winter are very positive."