German online travel agents

Lower growth for German OTAs

The largest online travel agents in Germany are seeing slower growth after double-digit increases in recent years as competition from suppliers intensifies.

The German online travel sales market remains highly intransparent and fragmented, this year’s fvw dossier on the travel agency market showed. Few companies disclose their online sales revenues, resulting in a large number of estimates. Neither the German Travel Association (DRV) nor the internet travel association VIR have exact figures for the market.

According to experts and diverse studies, the sector is estimated at about €22 billion last year, with about half of these revenues generated as direct sales to consumers by suppliers such as airlines, hotels, car rental firms and rail companies (primarily Deutsche Bahn).

A further €6.6 billion was generated by flight and hotel portals while pure online travel agents accounted for only about €3 billion, according to fvw estimates. The 18 largest portals and OTAs generated estimated revenues of about €7.7 billion in 2014, a ranking in the fvw dossier showed. The German Travel Association (DRV) and market researchers GfK estimate that the portals and OTAs generated high single-digit growth last year but are seeing slower growth so far in 2015.

The largest three portals offering a full selection of package holidays, flights, hotels and cars are Unister Travel, Expedia and Holidaycheck. Unister claims to have sold holidays worth €2 billion last year compared to an estimated €1.3 billion the previous year. Expedia (including hotels.com) is estimated to have increased sales in Germany to €1.1 billion in 2014 from €990 million in 2013. Holidaycheck, owned by the Tomorrow Focus group, had estimated sales of €765 million, a moderate increase on the previous year.

Among other major travel retailers, travel agency alliance Schmetterling increased online sales to €686 million last year, TUI Germany had online sales of €540 million compared to an estimated €450 million in 2013, while Thomas Cook had estimated online sales of about €250 million. Tour operators FTI and Alltours had even lower online sales revenues, according to estimates, while DER Touristik and Schauinsland-Reisen have minimal online sales.

Meanwhile, the online accommodation sector has turned into a three-way fight between Booking.com, HRS and Expedia. These three giants accounted for an estimated 90% of online bookings for hotels in Germany last year, according to the IHA association, although their share of bookings for foreign hotels is believed to be significantly lower. None of these companies publish sales revenues for the German market but Booking is estimated to have generated sales worth €2 billion in 2013, ahead of HRS (€1.4 billion) and Expedia.

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