Germany expects to host fewer tourists in ’09 -GNTB


FRANKFURT – Germany, No. 3 among Europeans’ favourite holiday destinations, will host fewer tourists this year as the economic crisis crimps business trips and short breaks, the GNTB national tourism board said.

Overnight stays in Germany are expected to fall 2 percent in 2009, the GNTB said on Thursday, which marks a steep drop from last year’s 2.1 percent gain.

“The global economic crisis has reached international tourism,” said Petra Hedorfer, the board’s chief executive.

Global tourism shrank 1 percent in the second half of 2008 after a 5 percent expansion in the first half and may not recover in 2009 if the economic environment weakens further, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation said in January.

“Shorter, closer and cheaper” is the trend for 2009, Hedorfer said. It was difficult to tell how exactly consumers would react to the economic crisis as they increasingly decided at short notice whether or where to go on holiday, she added.

Bookings at German travel agents and tour operators for this year’s summer holiday season already show signs of weaker demand. “We are a little bit behind compared with last year,” said Klaus Laepple, president of the German Travel Association (DRV).

Sources told Reuters in January that bookings at the German operations of Europe’s largest travel companies — TUI Travel and Thomas Cook — for the 2008/09 winter and the coming summer season were down by a single-digit percentage rate.

Germany, which attracts the most European tourists after Spain and France, counted fewer tourists from the United States, Britain and Spain last year — countries particularly hard hit by the financial crisis.

This development was, however, offset by growing interest in Germany from Dutch, Danish and Polish tourists, GNTB said.