ITB: Tourism boom is behind us, says IPK analyst

Travel industry resilience will be tested to the limit by a crisis that many in the sector still fail to understand, according to a leading analyst.

IPK International chief executive Rolf Freitag said: “Many still underestimate the present crisis. Travel was resilient to any problem for many years, but now we have a real, global crisis.”

Freitag said the global industry saw business increase last year despite the onset of recession, with worldwide visitor numbers up 2% on 2007. But he warned: “We reached some limits. The sunny world of booming tourism is behind us.

“This will not be an easy year. Demand will erode in the mass market. It still has a high consumer priority, but only for those on incomes above €20,000.”

He added: “The luxury sector will not be immune. High-end consumers have had to learn their perceived wealth was an illusion.”

However, Freitag suggested: “The real crisis is likely in business travel, in city breaks and in the flight-only sector.”

German-based IPK surveys 500,000 consumers in more than 50 markets to produce its annual World Travel Monitor.

Its study of consumer travel intentions in February suggested 41% of potential travellers in Europe will change their behaviour this year – mostly by spending less, travelling nearer to home or holidaying in their own country.

Freitag noted the German outbound market has stagnated for the past six years, a potentially worrying trend for TUI Travel and Thomas Cook as Germany remains their biggest market. By contrast, the number of UK outbound trips increased by 800,000 last year to 65 million.

However, Freitag ranked the UK alongside Russia and Poland as markets facing “enormous difficulties” due to the crisis.

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