Bonn Because of the pandemic, more people are taking holidays in their own country. Holiday destinations in NRW such as the Sauerland and the Eifel could actually benefit from this. But because a flight to Majorca is more likely than an overnight stay on the doorstep, the frustration of the domestic industry is great.
The desire to travel meets a great deal of frustration - that sums up the situation for holidaymakers and the tourism industry before Easter. Yet Easter business is particularly important for the beleaguered industry because many people then book short holidays in Germany. "It is a bitter blow for us that the number of cases is now soaring and our sales are plummeting," says Rouven Soyka, spokesman for the Sauerland Tourism Association. April is actually a very strong month for tourism in the Sauerland and the start of the hiking and cycling season. At the same time, skiing is still going on in some areas. "We are of course no competition for the Turkish Riviera or Spanish beaches during the main holiday season in summer, but we are traditionally in particularly high demand for the short holidays," says Soyka.
But these once again come at a time when the pandemic in Germany seems to be coming to a head. On Monday, the incidence nationwide was 107. Intensive care physicians and many virologists are therefore calling for further tightening of the rules. Further relaxation is unthinkable for most experts. In return, the industry also shows itself to be in agreement. "A week ago, I would have advocated further opening steps," says Soyka. "Unfortunately, that is difficult to justify in view of the situation." Corresponding losses in turnover are expected. Already in January, the Sauerland recorded a 75 per cent drop in overnight stays. For 2020, it was already 50 per cent less.
Overnight stays in the Eifel collapse
The mood in the Eifel is similarly gloomy. In the Rhineland-Palatinate part of the Eifel, overnight stays fell by an average of 33.4 per cent last year, according to figures from the Eifel Tourism Association. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the Eifel is even down by 42 percent. There is no prospect of improvement for the time being. "Due to the outlook for travel at Easter, demand is very restrained," says Eifel Tourismus spokeswoman Uschi Regh. Easter is traditionally the start of the season for tourism in the Eifel, she adds. "Easter business is therefore an important basis for the businesses that had hardly any income over the winter."
At the same time, the Germans' desire to travel is actually unbroken, as Martin Lohmann, managing director of the Institute for Tourism and Spa Research in Northern Europe, ascertains in travel analyses. "The desire to travel is very great, at least as great as in the years before Corona," says Lohmann. He says this was most recently evident last summer. "Demand then jumps in the tourist hotspots, people want to go to the mountains and the coast." However, the desire to travel is dampened by the official requirements and uncertainties that the infection event brings with it. Many people therefore prefer to holiday at home. According to the institute, the share of domestic holidays rose from 26 to 30 per cent in previous years to 45 per cent in 2020. At the same time, the number of holiday trips fell from 70 million in 2019 to 50 million last year.
Flights abroad, no overnight stays at home
The slump was even greater for short breaks of between two and four nights, of which around 75 per cent were booked for domestic destinations in 2019. Out of 90 million short breaks, only 38 million remained in 2020. "The industry is actually desperately dependent on the Easter business," says Lohmann. Accordingly, he says, the frustration is high that German holidaymakers are more likely to be able to get on a plane for a holiday in Majorca, the Seychelles or the Maldives than on their own doorstep. This is made possible by the removal of travel warnings for destinations abroad where the incidence is low, while there are accommodation bans and night-time curfews at home. "The frustration with this is high," says Lohmann. "Domestic operators are incensed by the strange corollaries that result from the regulations.“
Accordingly, the NRW Tourism Association is calling for economic perspectives for businesses in NRW. Tests, digital contact tracing and model trials are suitable in addition to existing hygiene concepts to make travel safer, it says. In this way, the association hopes for nationwide openings, but at the same time demands further financial aid. "The breath of the businesses is curtailed, the reserves have been used up," said a spokeswoman.
While the travel industry is already writing off the Easter business, there remains a tentative hope for the summer. "As vaccination coverage, contagion and testing opportunities progress, the chances of travelling are quite good," says Lohmann. "At least within Germany and the neighbouring countries it should be possible."
Original text: Andreas Dyck - Translation: Mareike Graepel