The Austrian travel company Verkehrsbüro Group can look back on a summer of 2023 that was “quite successful from a tourist point of view”. However, there are already noticeable changes that could affect the entire industry.
During the Ruefa Trend Talk, the managing director of the subsidiary Ruefa Reisen explained that the summer of 2023 was very successful. From time to time it would have been quite turbulent, but: "The holiday mood and desire are enormous. There are still almost two months left until the end of the tourist summer season, but we are significantly better for the post-season of September and October than in 2022 and we are catching up on the record result of 2019. We have already been able to increase sales from the summer business by almost 14% compared to the previous year. Compared to the record summer of 2019, we are currently at around 85%".
The bookings were received much earlier this year than in previous periods, which were severely affected by the corona pandemic. This also had an impact on pricing: "From the second quarter we had to work with significantly fewer offers, but felt significantly higher prices - which of course made a lot of demands on us in the travel agency," says Freund. With regard to prices, the assessment from the beginning of January has been confirmed that package tours can be expected to rise by an average of 2022 to 8% per destination compared to 10.
A number of natural disasters had a negative impact on business. Ruefa Reisen was particularly hard hit by the fire that occurred on the Greek island of Rhodes. Freund: "The fire in the south of Rhodes in July in particular kept us busy for weeks - but it also encouraged us with regard to all our service and safety efforts for our customers. At the time of the fires, we had around 350 guests in Rhodes, all of whom we were able to reach and take care of as best we could. For planned arrivals, we were able to find alternative destinations or dates in a timely manner and less than 4% of the planned trips were canceled at the customer's request. The feedback from customers was exceptionally positive”.
In the ranking of the most desirable destinations in summer 2023, Greece and Spain are once again at the top. Turkey and Egypt, which were able to position themselves well as shooting stars with the highest gains last summer thanks to a particularly attractive price-performance ratio, secured their positions, and Cyprus is also in the fast lane.
destinations | Share of Ruefa sales | Change to 2022
- 1. Greece | 24% | +12%
- 2. Spain | 11% | +14%
- 3. Türkiye | 8% | +21%
- 4. Egypt | 7% | +33%
- 5. Italy | 7% | +10%
- 6. United States | 4% | +23%
- 7. Cyprus | 3% | +37%
- 8. Germany | 3% |-8%
- 9. Croatia | 2% | -5%
- 10. France | 2% | +8%
The development of cruises in this summer season was particularly evident - especially in the western and eastern Mediterranean. These were able to position themselves well as an alternative to stationary holidays, especially for families, and delivered a 50% increase in sales compared to summer 2022. In the “destination ranking”, the cruise would take 6th place.
Winter business starts much faster - long-distance trips to Asia, Africa and America are in demand
“Many customers are learning their lessons when it comes to booking behavior – booking early is the order of the day. And yes, for some it was either simply too expensive, too crowded or too hot for the 2023 summer vacation. We are now seeing many of these customers in the travel agencies for trips in autumn, winter or spring 2024," says Michele Fanton, Managing Director of Ruefa, on the current assessment of the situation.
The incoming bookings for the 2023/24 winter season (as of August 31.8.2023, 55) look very different than last year with a sales increase of XNUMX% - a sign that the corona pandemic is no longer a decisive criterion for customers and they again long-term and book early with regard to price advantages and specials. “Packages bought long-term in advance definitely offer price advantages here. Relying on short-term bargains is still not advisable. We may get one or two offers, but it's definitely not going to get any cheaper," said Fanton.
The top performers Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles enjoy uninterrupted popularity – plus Thailand, which is making a sustained comeback as the most popular winter destination. The Emirates - above all Dubai and Abu Dhabi - are also very popular, especially for rather shorter trips. Other destinations around the equator are also ahead in the race for the favor of winter guests in 2023/24: Africa - from Cape Verde, Morocco via Egypt to Kenya and Tanzania/Zanzibar to South Africa and Namibia - presents itself in all its diversity. "Especially East Africa is in high demand again this year, the individuality, exoticism and variety of the trips with correspondingly interesting price-performance ratio is attractive," says Fanton.
In the west, the USA and the Caribbean with their metropolises and dream beaches continue to lure, although the USD/EUR exchange rate is currently more of a spoilsport, summarizes Fanton. The ABC islands are particularly attractive and rather unknown to local holidaymakers - the three very different islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao attract with an irresistible mixture of Caribbean flair and Dutch influences - and as the "Leeward Islands" are certainly outside of the known hurricane zones. Another plus – they are easy to reach with direct flights from Amsterdam several times a week.
And the cruises division is also looking forward to the 2023/23 winter season with confidence – with attractive routes on all the seven seas. "There are really great offers, there is something for every taste here - regardless of whether you are looking for entertainment on the new, large ships or whether you are interested in lesser known routes with small, exclusive ships," explains Fanton. In addition, more and more shipping companies are making great progress in terms of sustainability and are significantly modernizing their fleets.
Trend: Equalization of tourist peaks
“The extremely extreme summer leaves no one untouched. We are convinced that a big movement will start here - namely the sustainable equalization of the tourist peaks. In the future, those who can will drive more often in the early or late season. We can already see that - the strongest increase in sales of currently 51% compared to the previous year is in October, September is currently 25% above 2022. And also in the pre-season was May with plus 23% and June with plus 16% significantly stronger than in the previous year. For us tourism experts, the autumn, semester and Easter holidays are becoming more and more interesting - it is quite possible that in the future many more travelers will time their main holidays and long-distance trips differently. Here we as an industry are asked to also offer corresponding offers with earlier starts or longer charter chains," says Fanton, looking forward to a thoroughly exciting, certainly changing future in tourism.
The first figures already speak for this - the bookings for the autumn holidays 2023 are currently up 75% compared to 2022, for advance bookings around Easter 2024 (March/April) the bookings are currently even 90% above the comparative values of the previous year.
The tenor in the travel agencies is also uniform - customers are increasingly complaining about the blocked nine weeks of summer holidays and the Austrian holiday system in general, which is no longer up to date in many respects. A look at Germany or Switzerland, for example, shows that a different distribution with shorter summer holidays but autumn and spring holidays is possible. In return, this would open up a wide range of opportunities and opportunities. For example, city trips, round trips and study trips in the southern Mediterranean region could benefit significantly from these new timings: "Wonderful round trips in southern Italy or southern Spain are hardly feasible in summer due to the ever hotter temperatures, but in spring or autumn they are simply great," enthuses Fanton.