Analysts predict the coronavirus pandemic and inflation will continue shaping how and where we choose to spend our holidays in 2023. Environmental considerations will play a minor role.
There is considerable uncertainty about the new year among those who work in the travel industry. “Due to the overall situation as this moment, it is difficult to make a reliable prediction about the future,” the German Travel Association (DRV) told DW. “The war in Ukraine, inflation and growing energy costs dampen the outlook.”
This uncertainty is compounded by a change in booking and travel patterns. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing tendency to make last-minute bookings, says the DRV. This can be explained by constantly changing travel rules and restrictions during the height of the pandemic, which made long-term holiday planning challenging.
Professor Ulrich Reinhardt, who heads the Foundation for Future Studies, analyses how external factors shape our travel behavior. He says it is influenced by the prevailing circumstances and encompasses immediate factors such as “inflation, the coronavirus, and the war in Ukraine” but also more fundamental ones like digitalization, globalization and climate change.
Nevertheless, “for a majority of Germans, vacation season is the best time of the year,” Reinhardt tells DW. “It means rest and recovery, and provides an opportunity to forget about the stressful humdrum of everyday life.” He is certain many Germans will continue traveling for this very reason.
The pandemic and related travel restrictions sparked a veritable camping renaissance in Germany, says Reinhardt, as this form of open-air holiday offers low infection risk and maximum freedom. That said, he does not foresee all Germans flocking to campsites in the future.
He thinks these holidays will appeal only to a segment of the population, just as biking trips, hiking holidays, surf or camper van vacations don’t appeal to everyone. “The vast majority of Germans will still want to lounge on a beach, or poolside, eat well and disconnect from their everyday lives,” predicts Reinhardt.
Yet the COVID pandemic has also increased our yearning for security, he says. “Safety will be a crucial factor while on vacation, not just in terms of terrorist attacks or crime, but also with regard to one’s personal health,” says Reinhardt. Even so, the desire to see new places and meet new people remains. “The pandemic forced us to seriously restrict our leisure activities, our travel and interactions with others — and while we temporarily adjusted to these restrictions, our basic human need to socialize, communicate and connect remains, especially on holiday.”
While climate change is increasingly present in public discourse, it is having little influence on how we choose to travel. Wolfgang Strasdas, head researcher at the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Eberswalde University of Applied Sciences, says, “There has been a broad awareness of sustainability [in the world of travel] and it is growing.” Even so, this awareness is “not entirely reflected in our travel behavior.” He says environmental concerns still only have a marginal impact on planning and booking holidays.
This is echoed by the German Travel Association (DRV), which says one can detect a “certain discrepancy between the expressed desire for sustainable travel and actual bookings.” The organization says surveys show many people want to travel sustainably, yet only a tiny fraction put their money where their mouth is.