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German operators: Terrorism top challenge in 2016

15/01/2016 Top Stories , Trends
German operators: Terrorism top challenge in 2016

Some 35 executives and top managers from different sectors of the German travel industry agreed that the threat of terror attacks would be the main challenge this year

The German travel industry faces tough challenges and uncertainties this year, including terrorist threats and the refugee crisis, top managers told fvw in their ‘outlook for 2016’.

Some 35 executives and top managers from different sectors of the travel industry contributed their predictions, targets and outlook for this year (which were made, and published, before this week’s terrorist attack in Istanbul). Most agreed that the threat of terror attacks would be the main challenge for the tourism industry, which make planning more difficult and rapid responses more important.

German Travel Association (DRV) president Norbert Fiebig said the main challenge will be “to take the concerns and fears of customers seriously, give them advice in travel agencies and provide a certain level of security with professionally organised travel”. Similarly, Michael Frenzel, president of the German Tourism Federation (BTW), warned that recent terror attacks could dampen travel demand and urged the industry “to make clear and ensure that travel is as safe as possible”.

Biggest challenge

Thomas Cook Germany CEO Stefanie Berk said the biggest challenge in 2016 will be the uncertainty surrounding terrorist threats but emphasised that “we have improved our crisis management enormously in recent years and can react to every event quickly and professionally”. She added: “Overall, we are confident that people will not let themselves be stopped from travelling.” Thomas Cook itself aims to become ‘the most popular and customer-focused tourism company’ in Germany based on profitable growth and an improvement in the net promoter score this year, she said.

TUI Germany chief Sebastian Ebel said the main challenge would be to “maintain people’s desire to travel” despite threats from terrorism, and urged: “We should continue to travel where we want to.” TUI Germany’s priorities in 2016 would be to grow more strongly and to extend its market leadership,” he added.

DER Touristik COO René Herzog said tour operators would have to respond to changing booking and travel patterns this year, while the group wanted to defend its long-haul market leadership and successfully integrate Kuoni in Switzerland. Alltours director Markus Daldrup also cited these market trends and highlighted stable finances, organic growth and expanded of branded products as the tour operator’s main priorities.

Ability to plan

FTI Group CEO Dietmar Gunz described ‘the ability to plan’ as the main challenge since all figures were based on typical seasonal travel patterns. “We have learned in recent years that unpredictable factors repeatedly disrupt this system,” meaning tour operators have to display flexibility. FTI’s priorities in 2016 will be further growth and satisfactory profits, driven by product development and ‘a quality offensive’. Schauinsland-Reisen owner Gerald Kassner highlighted support for crisis-hit destinations as an important issue.

Citing terrorism as the biggest challenge for the tourism industry, Tamer Marzouk, Germany director of the Egyptian Tourist Office, said his aims are to recover to the level of 1.3 million German visitors which was last achieved in 2010, increase the importance of cultural tourism and Nile cruises, and successfully implement the planned advertising campaign for the destination.

Airlines and cruises

Among airlines, Condor chief Ralf Teckentrup said over-capacity will remain a challenge for the entire industry. Condor’s top three priorities for 2016 are profitable growth, the integration of Thomas Cook Airlines and to move towards becoming Europe’s largest leisure airline.

In the cruise sector, Wybcke Meier, head of TUI Cruises, called for refugees in Germany “to be brought into the workplace quickly and without complications”, while MSC’s Germany chief Michael Zengerle said the company is already “number one among international firms” on the German market but he wants to improve customer recognition through customised products.

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