Despite low overall growth there are plenty of opportunities for tour operators to expand their business in 2016, argues Paul Needham.
As 2015 draws to an end, attention is switching to the outlook and prospects for the German organised travel market next year. After moderate growth of about 4% for tour operators in the year ending October 2015, many experts predict a similar low single-digit increase in 2016 against the background of generally solid economic trends but uncertainty over the global political situation and the potential impact of terror attacks on demand.
The main trend in the traditional beach holiday market is clearly the fluctuation in passenger flows between different destinations rather than significant overall growth. Germans are switching, for example, from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Western Mediterranean which is seen as a safer holiday region.
The real market growth is in niche segments, as the recent fvw dossier on the German tour operator market showed. Some of the biggest business opportunities for next year are in these areas.
The cruise market is powering ahead and some tour operators have already started to offer new packages combining, for example, a one-week Mediterranean cruise with a few days’ beach holiday. Other creative and flexible deals involving ‘land + sea’ packages could well come on to the market next year.
Long-haul travel is another big growth area at present. This is mostly driven by attractively-priced packages to mainstream destinations such as the Caribbean, North America, the Gulf states and South-East Asia. But other destinations in, for example, Latin America, Africa and other parts of Asia can hope to benefit next year, too. Better flight connections, competitive pricing and improved marketing could help some countries gain a larger share of the German market.
There are many niche markets that offer good growth prospects. Luxury holidays, cultural trips, active holidays, sports & wellness, for example, are just some of these diverse segments, along with offers for specific target groups such as so-called ‘best agers’ and active seniors, single travellers and the LGBT community. Indeed, leading tour operators are increasingly recognising this potential and are broadening their offers or teaming up with specialists to provide the holiday content while they use their sales strength to market the packages. There could be more such tour operator partnerships in the year ahead.
Fundamentally there is plenty to play for. The organised travel market, estimated at about €27 billion, only accounts for about half of the overall German market. The remainder comprises direct bookings of transportation and accommodation by consumers, mostly through the internet and increasingly through international travel portals. If tour operators can succeed in winning even some of these individual bookings, then they could start to transform their prospects for next year.