Life after Covid-19: What Germany tells us about tourism recovery
The key question for travel and tourism marketers is what the future holds post-coronavirus. How quickly will the industry bounce back once countries emerge from lockdown and consumers adjust to the new normal? This week, we look to Germany to find out.
Compared to its European peers, Germany has been relatively less affected by the crisis, and its leaders have won praise for their handling of it. The country started to ease its lockdown in early May and has seen a tentative re-opening of its tourism industry since, primarily targeting a domestic audience. We spoke to our LIMEs – Local In-Market Experts – in Germany and other German-speaking countries, to understand how the green shoots of recovery there might apply to other markets.
German consumer attitudes post-lockdown
Because Germany suffered less from the initial outbreak than other markets, Germans have a greater sense of confidence:
- 81% of Britons are “quite, very or extremely concerned” about the Covid-19 situation in their country
- In Southern Europe, the equivalent figure is 65%
- In Germany, it is 54%
(Source: Global Web Index)
Take restaurant bookings, for example. In countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and UK, the number of people booking tables at restaurants are ~90% down YoY and recovering very slowly. By contrast, Germany has fully recovered to the same volume of bookings YoY, according to Open Table.
As of the end of May, holidays have been the most delayed German purchase, but also the most missed. Whilst 40% of Germans have delayed a holiday because of the outbreak, a majority (67%) will prioritise this purchase over any others. By contrast, those who have delayed the purchase of cars, electronics or clothes are not as eager to pick up where they left it. This underlines the enduring appeal of travel in the mind of consumers (Source: Global Web Index).
Industry analysts expect German tourists to stay close to home this year, because of the slow reopening of borders and uncertainties in destinations traditionally popular with Germans. Domestic vacations are expected to be favoured by 38% of Germans in the next 12 months, whilst short-haul and long-haul take a back-seat (just 25% and 10% respectively).
Infrastructure-wise, Deutsche Bahn (railroad) operates as usual, and airlines are slowly re-opening and connecting areas within Central Europe:
- EasyJet will start offering flights to and from Germany on 1st It plans to resume its German domestic routes from Berlin on 1st September
- Air Baltic restarted its flights to Germany on 1st June
- Ryanair was operating 40% of its original schedule from 1st June
- Lufthansa, Eurowings and Swiss also plan to increase their flight connections, starting mid-June
One of our LIMEs in Berlin tells us that:
- Most of the restaurants, pubs and bars have re-opened
- So have museums, galleries, flea markets, zoos and parks
- Open-air movie theatres re-opened on 2nd June, and all other movie theatres will follow on 30th June
- Hotels, hostels, and private accommodations re-opened on 25th May
- Theatres, concert hall and opera houses remain closed (at the time of writing), except for some open-air performances
What about other German-speaking markets?
From 15th June, all borders between Germany and Austria and Switzerland fully re-opened. Travellers from Austria and Switzerland will be able to travel to Germany without restrictions.
However, with the exception of Austria, most of the neighbouring countries to Germany (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland) have had some of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world, which inevitably will dampen consumer confidence and interest in travel.
According to Google Trends:
- “Berlin hotel” is one of the most popular Berlin-tourism keywords. Search demand in Germany for this term is currently around 50% of pre-pandemic levels, but at a very minimal level in surrounding Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands
- It is a similar story for the keyword “Berlin activities”, with German volumes at 50% of pre-pandemic, and no volume for Austria and Switzerland
The early signs are that Germans are looking forward to travel. Most of those who do so will travel in their own country. By contrast, Swiss, Dutch, and Austrian travellers will remain hesitant to travel to Germany, perhaps opting for their own domestic getaways instead.
Safety factors will drive rates of visitation
Post Covid-19, it seems likely that tourists will be more hesitant to visit indoor than outdoor spaces. Whilst there could be a steady flow of domestic travel in Germany this summer, those consumers might not be enthused about spending time surrounded by other people in an enclosed space. According to respondents on Global Web Index, factors that could help Germans overcome this fear of enclosed attractions include:
- Regular cleaning (47% said so)
- Hand sanitiser (45%)
- Restrictions on capacity (37%)
- Social distancing (32%)
Only 15% of Germans would be happy without any of these factors. In addition:
- 17% of Germans quoted flexible cancellation as a key driver of purchase of holidays
- And 30% quoted price as a key consideration
(Source: Global Web Index).
6 tips for travel marketers
- Focus your paid and organic search efforts on targeting a domestic audience as key to recovery
- Create staycation landing pages on your website if you don’t already have them
- Give serious thought to how you can signal trust and reassurance to anxious tourists. What content can you create to underline your commitment to cleanliness, hygiene, safety, social distancing and so on? What can you do to aid conversion?
- Now is the time to ramp up your brand-building efforts, so that when demand returns, you are well placed to capitalise
- Consider flexible cancellation and flexible ticketing options for nervous consumers. Stimulate demand with price reductions and special offers
- Use local in-market experts to get on-the-ground insights to guide your strategy in target markets
Oban can help
The tentative beginnings of tourism recovery in Germany show green shoots for the future. To find out how Oban can help you navigate this new normal, please get in touch.
To read our sector briefing on the future of travel in a post-Covid world, click here.
Charlotte Deacon | Client Partner
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.