itb ITB Berlin

EXCLUSIVE: These are the numbers of tour operators for the Summer! | What Ebel, Heapy, Der Touristik, MTS, easyJet told M&T | What are the increases for 2025?

BUSINESS TOURISM

The prospects for the 2024 summer season are excellent, as almost all tour operators -with few exceptions- and especially the big ones, see a significant increase in bookings, with the Mediterranean and Greece attracting the interest of European tourists. In the context of this year’s ITB, ΜΟΝΕΥ & TOURISM spoke with leading tour operators, namely Sebastian Ebel of TUI, Steve Heapy of Jet2, Ingo Burmester of Der Touristik, but also agents from MTS, easyJet, Anex, Coral, Schauinsland, and so on. In addition, there have also been discussions about the 2025 season, which is just around the corner, for negotiations between hoteliers and tour operators.

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In more detail, TUI, the global travel giant, appears to be recording a 15-20% increase in pre-bookings compared to the same period last year, anticipating an excellent year in all markets. Within the TUI group there is widespread satisfaction with the developments in the markets, and the addition – as No 2 essentially – of David Schelp, who has returned after a “break” to TUI for whom he has worked for 20 years, is expected to make a particular contribution.

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Steve Heapy, who was in Berlin, expects a very positive season for Jet2, and told M&T that “keep an eye on us, we will surprise you with our news and performance”. Sources at Jet2 are reporting an increase in pre-bookings of more than 15%, compared to the same period last year. It is worth noting -a development that shows the dynamics of the market and Jet2- that for the first time in history, the company is starting flights to Corfu on March 29 and even with 5 frequencies per week, when in all the last years it started in the first week of May.

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MTS Group expects to bring approximately 900,000 tourists to Greece, compared to 750,000 in 2023, achieving a 20% increase. Its major markets, as the group’s Greek chairman Theodoros Mylonakis explains, are Germany and England, to 18 Greek destinations (the largest in order are Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Halkidiki, Corfu) and 2,500 hotels. In fact, MTS expects a new increase of at least 10% for 2025.

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Der Touristik, -DERTOUR GROUP now- which had an extremely important presence in Berlin, where the head of the REWE Group – the parent company of Der – was also present, is showing a 10% increase, with Ingo Burmester, head of DER Touristik Central Europe, estimating that at the end of the year, the final performance will be much higher. In terms of pre-bookings, the group is recording a 47% increase for the 2024 summer season, compared to the previous year, and an equally impressive 33% increase in customer numbers. In this context, there is high demand for Greece, Turkey and Spain. The summer destinations with the most bookings for Europe’s second largest travel group are not surprising, with Turkey, Spain and Greece in the top three destinations in the ranking, with Turkey showing the strongest growth.

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According to the head of DER Touristik, another trend in summer holidays is that they are becoming more and more personalised. “For example, there is growing interest in return trips, outdoor activities and glamping, as well as trips to the Nordic countries,” said Burmester. As for prices, Burmester, who gave a special presentation in Berlin, in which M&T participated, spoke of “low price increases in the mid-single digits.” According to him, the overall increase in prices will lead many customers to consciously seek out holidays that offer particularly good value for money. This can be seen, for example, in the “positive booking trend” in countries such as Turkey and Tunisia. Therefore, cheap holidays to summer destinations abroad will still be available in the summer of 2024. And he made a special reference to Greece in response to a question from Μ&T, stressing that the country is at the top of the group’s priorities.

A significant increase of 29% is shown by Coral, which expects an increase of 16% especially for Greece. The major tour operator estimates that it will bring 190,000 tourists to Greece, compared to 163,000 last year.

EasyJet Holidays is also showing significant growth of around 20%, and it looks like there will soon be a change in leadership, with Garry Wilson being promoted to the parent company and Paul Bixby being upgraded.

The head of easyJet Holidays Garry Wilson, with Konstantinos Deriziotis| ©MONEY & TOURISM

Furthermore, ALLTOURS and Schauinsland Reisen show a significant increase of about 15%. The ANEX – ODEON group seems to be moving steadily, while FTI seems to be moving downwards due to the problems it is facing.

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The Rhodes

Rhodes expects a significant increase in incoming tourism.

According to data gathered by MONEY & TOURISM, TUI UK has 210,000 seats planned, Jet2 has 240,000 seats from 29 March to 9 November, with 65% being packages, while easyJet has 80,000 seats.

AEGEAN

However, AEGEAN is also making significant expansion in the German market, with new moves as follows:

Mr. Dimitris Gerogiannis and Mrs. M. Spyridaki | MONEY & TOURISM
  • The German market is traditionally a highly targeted market for AEGEAN, where it has been active since 2001, having established strong ties with tour operators and passengers. During this period, the airline has performed well, carrying more than 20 million passengers in total, despite strong competition from both the so-called “legacy carriers” and the “low cost” airlines operating mainly in the summer months.
  • Network: AEGEAN’s network in Germany includes 9 destinations in total (Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hannover, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart) with direct scheduled flights from/to Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion and Kalamata, operating more than 12,000 flights per year. This year, charter flights will be operated additionally from 4 destinations (Friedrichshafen, Erfurt, Bremen and Memmingen) to Heraklion and from 6 destinations (Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Friedrichshafen) to Rhodes.
  • In particular, Athens offers daily direct flights all year round to/from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart, while Hanover, Nuremberg and Cologne are served seasonally, with the Athens-Frankfurt route being significantly enhanced from October 2023 with the addition of an extra daily flight. Similarly, the frequency of flights to and from Berlin and Dusseldorf has been enhanced with the addition of up to 2 flights per week from Athens.
  • Similarly, AEGEAN connects Thessaloniki with daily or weekly flights to Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart, with daily flights to and from Frankfurt increasing to 2 daily flights from 31 March.
  • It is recalled that the first routes to and from Kalamata airport started in the previous weeks, while the corresponding routes connecting Heraklion with Munich and Frankfurt are expected to start on 13/03 and 14/03 respectively.
  • Capacity: According to the planning, available seats in the German market will increase by a total of approximately 8% with the additional capacity to and from Athens mainly concentrated in the months of March to May. Similarly, capacity to and from Thessaloniki will see an overall increase of 11% with the additional seats linked to the additional daily flight to and from Frankfurt.
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  • The company’s overall ambition is to maintain the destinations and the extensive network it has been operating since last year (180 destinations in 49 countries with 307 direct scheduled and charter flights), as well as to increase the frequencies and the number of available seats, where conditions and demand allow.
  • Trends: The first indications for the summer season are positive, as occupancy rates are at similar levels to last year (or even slightly higher), but available seats to the German market are increased (indicatively +20% in March, +8% in April, +13% in May from and to Athens).
  • Equally positive messages are recorded by the degree of response to the offers made by the company, mainly from Greeks, but also from foreigners, who do not seem to cut their travel expenses. Pre-bookings so far show that the available seats are being immediately absorbed by demand, which demonstrates the dynamism of the German market.
  • The early start of the summer season (as early as mid-February with the first flights to and from Kalamata), the positive signals from the interest in search engines (despite the pressure from Spain, Portugal and neighbouring Cyprus) and the response to the offers, as well as the increased occupancy rates, both on the first summer flights starting on the weekend (e.g. e.g. from/to Heraklion), as well as during the Catholic Easter period, are expected to lead to increased passenger traffic at the beginning of the summer season.
  • It is worth noting that this year’s winter season was particularly positive, as occupancy rates exceeded 70% and the number of places on offer increased, creating the conditions for a positive “streak”.
  • Especially with regard to passengers from the German market, who now seem to choose our country also during the winter months, their preferences are focused on destinations, where traditionally have high demand and visitation, such as Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rhodes, Kalamata, Kos etc., but now also some smaller islands.

The conclusions

An extremely important conclusion that emerges from all the discussions in Berlin is that Greece is very high on the priority list of all tour operators from all markets!

A second conclusion is that in the last 15 days, there has been a stagnation in pre-bookings, but this is to be expected due to the end of early bookings and which will “recover” soon, according to estimates of market players.

The third conclusion is the significant increases of more than 5% that hoteliers are asking tour operators, who have “open ears”, but all parties are concerned about whether European tourists can afford to pay higher costs.

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