The island of Usedom in northern Germany was not quite as popular this summer as it was the two previous years. Nevertheless, those working on the Baltic Sea island were not altogether displeased by the number of bookings this season. The number of reservations was only about 20% below those of the previous two years, says Michael Raffelt, founder of the Hotel Hanse-Kogge in the municipality of Koserow and chairman of the Usedom Island Hotel Association. “It hasn’t been a bad summer either,” he says. Due to the pandemic, the previous two summer seasons saw an unusually large number of Germans spending their vacations on the Baltic Sea instead of traveling abroad. “Now we have to get used to fighting for every guest again,” says Raffelt.
Traveling outside Germany again
Traditionally, about two thirds of Germans spend their vacations outside of Germany. Yet the pandemic changed this, as COVID-19 health and safety measures made international trips more difficult. This summer, however, many German holidaymakers eagerly headed abroad. Package trips to destinations in the Mediterranean were especially popular, according to the German Travel Association. The island of Mallorca, Spain, along with Greece and Turkey were in particularly high demand. Bookings even surpassed those of 2019, before the pandemic.
Tour operator Dertour observed a similar trends. After two years without vacations abroad, many German travelers seemed willing to spend a bit more than in pre-pandemic years. According to Dertour’s recently published figures, spending on hotels outside of Germany rose by some 51%. Many travelers booked high-end hotels and stayed one day longer, on average, according to the operator.
The situation in Germany is somewhat different. On Usedom, for example, Michael Raffelt has noticed a great deal of uncertainty among his guests this summer. Many bookings were made short-term, often only 14 days in advance. He feels it is partly due to rising prices in Europe. Guests want to wait to see how they develop and only then “decide if they go on vacation at all.” And once they decide to take a trip, they are spending less than usual. “Many guests no longer go to the restaurant every day,” he says.
Hotels in crisis mode
Sales figures in the German hospitality industry remain below pre-pandemic levels, according to the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA). The situation is “extremely challenging” because the industry is simultaneously “confronted with exponential costs in the areas of energy, food and personnel,” says DEHOGA head Guido Zöllick.
Additionally, more than 60% of hospitality businesses were still looking for staff at the start of the season in June. “Because there is a shortage of staff, companies are reducing their opening hours and scrapping events,” says Zöllick. Yet despite the challenges, business picked up once COVID-related regulations were dropped in May.
This positive trend is also confirmed by the Ministry of Tourism of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The region in Germany’s northeast had a successful summer tourism season. The utilization of all tourist capacities was 87% in July and 80% in August. Schleswig-Holstein, in turn, reported a 4.4% increase in overnight stays in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019. The North Sea Tourism Association, meanwhile, expects summer numbers to be about the same as before the pandemic. However, guests have recently become “more price-sensitive” and have shown more restraint when it comes to paying for leisure activities and gastronomy, says the organization.
Low water levels and camping success
Daniel Thiriet of IG RiverCruise, an industry group, also saw numerous challenges to his sector this summer. A prolonged drought led to low water levels in many places and made river cruising more difficult. Although there were only a few cancellations and complete route closures, companies had to go to great lengths to maintain operations. On Germany’s Rhine river, for example, ships could no longer operate in some places, so passengers had to be transported by bus in certain sections.
One of Germany’s travel sectors that grew during the pandemic is camping. In the first half of the year, Germany’s campsites set a new record. According to the Federal Association of the Camping Economy in Germany (BVCD), the number of overnight stays rose by 11% to 14.2 million, compared to the same period in 2019. Yet, the joy may be short-lived. “In view of the uncertain forecasts and current burdens on consumers, we are looking ahead to the fall with subdued expectations,” says BVCD head Christian Günther.
What’s in store with the energy crisis
Back on the island of Usedom, Michael Raffelt is also concerned about the future. “We have so many overlapping problems at the moment, it’s scary,” he says. He is especially worried about the projected high energy costs — some hotels on Usedom have already had their energy contracts terminated by suppliers. It remains to be seen what new conditions — and energy prices — will be. Raffelt does not expect anything positive. “After all, we are not an industry that can pass on all costs to customers,” he says. Otherwise, this would be directly reflected in booking figures.
This article was translated from German.