Covid-19 fears see Germans vacationing closer to home

06 August 2020 4 min. read

According to a new analysis of holiday habits in Europe, residents of Germany are avoiding long-distance vacations this summer. Despite travel restrictions across the continent having largely lifted, the majority of searches for destinations on popular travel sites are for domestic locations.

The Covid-19 lock-down has greatly exacerbated the steady decline witnessed by the hospitality and aviation industries in the last three years. The number of hotels and airlines experiencing solvency issues, or completely collapsing, had already risen in recent years, but the sudden freeze on international travel has pushed even more firms to breaking point in 2020.

With most lockdown measures pertaining to travel across Europe having eased in June, it initially appeared as though the majority of people were likely to make use of their new-found freedom after being shut away for months, and take an international vacation. In late May, for example, a global poll of more than 4,000 would-be travellers found that of nine major economies, the UK had the highest number of people looking to travel internationally at 54% – with Germany following close behind on 52%.

Since then, however, and with a dreaded second wave of coronavirus seemingly beginning to materialise across Europe, interest in international travel has understandably cooled – particularly in Germany. A new study from McKinsey & Company in collaboration with hotel site Trivago has found that while booking requests rose by 65% from the start of May, much of the demand is for locations closer to home.

Covid-19 fears see Germans vacationing closer to home

McKinsey & Company used anonymised search query data from the hotel price comparison site Trivago. General search requests were analysed as well as booking queries or click-outs, revealing that destinations in Germany and neighbouring countries were currently in the highest demand. In May, 70% of German searches were for domestic destinations, compared to only 46% a year earlier. While this had fallen to 62% by the first week of June, the figures still suggest that German holiday makers are erring much more on the side of caution than initially expected.

The German coast was the new top destination for the nation’s vacations, with the North Sea and Baltic Sea being the clearest winners amid the crisis. With demand for city locations like Berlin and Munich falling around 40%, 14% of all search queries were for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which has seen twice as much interest during the pandemic of April through June as it did before the crisis. Interest in Schleswig-Holstein also nearly doubled from 6% to 11%. Demand for holiday apartments has also grown by more than 65% since the crisis, as people seek to avoid large crowds for fear of future contagion.

Axel Hefer, CEO of Trivago, said, “As expected, demand for vacations in natural surroundings and beautiful landscapes has significantly increased, while interest in city breaks has collapsed. This trend will likely continue for a long time even after Corona. Vacations in a holiday apartment are less affected by the travel restrictions than, for example, vacations in a hotel complex. They come closest to replicating that pre-corona vacation feeling.”

Spain out of fashion

Beyond Germany, the data shows that while Germans continue to look for foreign destinations, actual booking queries tend to be for neighboring countries. While the popularity of a destination pre-Covid-19 still plays a big role, with traditionally favoured travel destinations of Austria, Spain, Italy, the US, and the Netherlands still highest, 14% of all booking queries for foreign trips were for nearby Austria, which doubled its market share between April and June compared to the previous year. This saw Austria overtake the pre-crisis top destination of Spain – which suffered especially badly from coronavirus in the pandemic’s earlier stages.

At the same time, many Germans are deciding to postpone their travel plans altogether. As in the previous year, domestic trips are mainly planned for the summer months, but the data analysis shows a clear trend of international trips being postponed to later in the year and early 2021.

Related news: Nearly half of people have delayed a vacation due to Covid-19.

According to Jürgen Schröder, a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, “Not only do pragmatic considerations play a role such as the convenience of traveling to a location, but also the potential experience at the destination itself... Low numbers of virus cases and ease of accessibility with a car play a big role. Also, holidaymakers don’t want to miss out on their preferred type of vacation, which makes the German coast a good alternative to a Mediterranean holiday.”