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ITB Convention : most experts believe the effect of the Ukraine crisis on tourism will be limited

Evoking the ongoing war in Ukraine, most experts in various panels during the ITB Convention expect that its negative effects would be limited for the tourism industry itself. However, skyrocketing prices of commodities and petrol would far more impact the travel sector.

According to the various discussions at the ITB Berlin Convention, many potential travellers’ hearts are currently balancing between the strong wish to travel, as a “revenge” after two years of lockdowns and restrictions, and the option of cancelling a holiday due to the spike in oil and gas prices following the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Asked in various panels, experts speaking at the ITB Berlin Convention however estimate that the impact of the current crisis would be short lived.

Asked about the potential consequences, Martin Lohmann, CEO, New Insights for Tourism (NIT), Kiel/Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen e.V. pointed out that the “norm” for tourism has always to grow in time of crisis. “If we look at the evolution of travel trends in Germany, we see a total disconnection between travels and world crisis. From 1955 to 1995, total travels by Germans grew from over 20 million in 1955 to almost 80 million in 1995.

Crisis and travels are generally disconnected shows FUR data

During that time, Germans faces 11 crisis in the world or/and in Europe such as the Cuba Missile Crisis (1962), the Vietnam War (1955-1975), Czechoslovakia Crisis (1968), Tchernobyl nuclear disaster (1986) or the Gulf War (1991). German travels hovered around 70 to 75 million between 1995 and the start of the Covid pandemic despite another 15 crisis around the world during that period (09/11 and 2nd Gulf War; Arab Spring; tsunami in Asia; terrorist attacks in Europe, among others).

Lohmann explained that the travel behaviour resilience has in fact a strong psychological dimension. The tourism system is influenced by many factors. But taken individually, they are unlikely to have much influence on holidaymakers. The economy, disasters, the political environment of countries, society or technology will all play their part in the decision.

“When starting to plan a holiday, we tend to focus our awareness on its planning. We tend generally to look at one big event and to ignore the others,” he stressed during his presentation. Only Covid-19 put a cast over travel movements in 2020 and 2021. Some 55 million trips were done last year by Germans.

ITB Convention : most experts believe the effect of the Ukraine crisis on tourism will be limited
The tourism evolution in Germany highlighted by Martin Lohmann, CEO, NIT and FUR (Photo: screenshot of ITB Convention livestream)

The war in Ukraine might alter tourism but not cancel holidays

Tourism demand remains then very strong and the situation in Ukraine is unlikely to deter travel wishes. However, it could have an impact on the selection of destinations. In a panel discussion on Wednesday March 9, data experts Andreas Wulfes (Managing Director, Neusta Data Intelligence), Hayley Berg (Head of Price Intelligence, Hopper) and Mathias Gerber, (Regional Director Central Europe, Sojern) were asked about the potential damage of the war on travel intentions. More than the war itself, which continues to be so far seen as a regional event, the increase in prices could be a determinant factor to alter travel plans.

“We experienced a drop in flight and hotel bookings during the last two weeks. But we already see a comeback in bookings in the last few days,” said Andreas Wulfes. In its Travel Data Insights Dashboard, Sojern monitors a rise in booking volume, although it considerably slowed down. On February 27, the global booking volume was up 23.2% compared to the same week of 2021. A week before, bookings were still up 33.95% compared to 2021.

Hayley Berg from Hopper indicated that since the start of the war, US travellers seem to shun Europe. In a recent study, searches for round-trip flights from the US to Europe have been down an average of 9% below expected level. Europe represents 15% of international bookings compared to 21% in early February. Prices increased on average by 16%.

If the situation in Europe remains constant, travel will resume. The biggest uncertainty would be prices. But all experts estimate that it would translate into a change of destination, not necessarily a holiday cancellation.

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