fvw dossier

German travel agents hope for low growth again

Travel agents in Germany increased their combined turnover by 1.6% last year and are hoping to generate low growth again in 2016 despite a turbulent year, according to the annual fvw dossier on the German travel agents market.

The country’s travel agents increased overall turnover by 1.6% to €23.5 billion in 2015, calculations by DRV and DER Touristik market research expert Werner Sülberg based on the fvw dossier figures showed. Tourism remained the main growth driver with a 2.8% rise to sales of €13.7 billion while sales of flight tickets stagnated at €7.9 billion. In terms of customer segments, private travel sales increased by 1.8% to just over €16 billion while business travel sales increased slightly to €7.4 billion, the dossier showed.

DER Touristik remained Germany’s largest travel agency chain with a 3.6% rise to turnover of €4.5 billion last year, the dossier showed. TUI Germany consolidated second place with a 1.9% increase to sales of €3.6 billion while Lufthansa City Center remained third with stagnant turnover of €2.4 billion. Business travel specialist BCD Travel was ranked fourth with turnover of €1.8 billion, ahead of the Thomas Cook Partner Group (all TC sales channels) with stagnating sales of €1.5 billion.

In terms of travel agency cooperation networks, whose members include diverse larger and medium-sized agency chains, the RTK Group (RTK, Alpha, TUI Travel Star) had stable sales of €3.6 billion ahead of the TSS Group, which increased sales by 4% to €2.8 billion. The other three large cooperations were Schmetterling, with sales of €2 billion, AER, with €1.3 billlion, and Best-Reisen, with €900 million. In turn, there are two mega-alliances: QTA, comprising RTK and Schmetterling, consolidates turnover of €4.5 billion; TMCV, covering TSS and AER, represents turnover of just over €4 billion.

The outlook for this year, however, remains unclear after travel agency sales fell in recent months as consumers delayed bookings following terror attacks in several destinations. Sülberg commented: “In a normal year, about two thirds of (total annual) sales should be in the till by now.” But sales are still about 7% behind last year as of end-April, according to market researchers GfK.

The mood among the leading travel agencies is mixed as good sales for Spain, long-haul holidays and cruise contrast with poor demand for Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. “As long as there are no negative special effects, then we expect a slight rise this year,” said AER director Pedro Turbany. Lufthansa City Center chief Hasso von Düring also predicts a “positive” business trend for the chain this year. In contrast, Schmetterling manager Anya Müller-Eckert said the chain has double-digit growth for cruises, holiday homes and car rentals but growth will only be generated with a recovery in demand for Turkey and a stabilisation for Egypt.

Among the big tourism groups, TUI Germany agency chief Ralf Horter said he was “very satisfied” with business but this view is not shared by Thomas Cook or DER Touristik.