TOU-I-7: Holiday destination preferences

The picture shows a Baltic Sea beach with numerous beach chairs and the sea in bright weather.Click to enlarge
German coastal resorts might be able to outcompete the Mediterranean if it gets hotter there.
Source: Photograph: © Konstanze Schönthaler / Bosch & Partner GmbH

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

TOU-I-7: Holiday destination preferences

The travel behaviour of Germans so far reflects only few developments potentially associated with climate change. The market shares held by domestic tourism and the Mediterranean area are stable. After an extended period of decline, there are signs of a slow increase in the market share of holidaymakers for Western Europe and Scandinavia to become potential beneficiaries of climatic changes.

Two lines show the market shares of holiday trips to European destinations, specifically to the Mediterranean and to Scandinavia and Western Europe. In a stacked column display, a secondary axis shows the percentage market shares of holiday trips to Germany and abroad.
TOU-I-7: Holiday destination preferences

Two lines represent the market shares of holiday trips to European destinations, specifically to the Mediterranean and to Scandinavia and Western Europe. The values are set to 100 for the starting year 1997 and indexed for the following years until 2017. For the Mediterranean there is a significantly increasing trend, for Scandinavia and Western Europe a quadratically increasing trend. In a stacked column display, the percentage market shares of holiday trips to Germany and abroad are shown on a secondary axis. The market share for Germany is around 30 per cent; the time series shows a quadratically decreasing trend. The market share for foreign countries is around 70 per cent; the time series shows a quadratically increasing trend.

Source: Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen e.V. (Reiseanalyse)

Are Germans changing their travel pattern?

Apart from demographic change, holiday period regulations, purchasing power and available leisure time, political crises, increasing competitive pressure, increasing price sensitivity and entitlement mentality – climate change is one of the forces that will influence the national and international travel behaviour of German travellers in the long term. German holidaymakers have many diverse interests and enjoy trying out novel and different travel offerings. Travellers will keep changing their travel habits time and again, possibly also as a result of changing temperature and precipitation conditions. A representative survey conducted in 2013 showed that 22 % of German tourists adapt their travel plans to rising temperatures and intend to travel to cooler regions.78 In the representative population survey ‘Environmental Awareness in Germany’ (Umweltbewusstsein in Deutschland)I virtually half the respondents stated in 2012 that they would change their leisure or holiday planning, for instance regarding strenuous activities in heat or to avoiding hot holiday regions, whereas in 2014 and 2016 this statement was made by more than two thirds of respondents.

Traditionally beach holidays, bathing and sunbathing have held the leading position at the most beautiful time of the year. In 2010 29 % of all holidays abroad conformed to this pattern.79 It is therefore no wonder that for Germans the Mediterranean region has been the most popular destination for holidays of more than five days’ duration.

Adverse impacts are expected in particular for summer beach holidays in the south and thus the Mediterranean as the traditional destination. In other words, Mediterranean destinations might be perceived as less suitable for summer vacations, for instance when heat waves and drought mean that conditions are often beyond a holidaymaker’s thermal comfort zone, or when precipitation fails thus causing problems with water supply and increasing the risk of forest fires. By contrast it is assumed that travel destinations in Central and Northern Europe might benefit from climatic changes, if higher temperatures and lower precipitation levels increase the attractiveness of local bathing resorts, and if the summer season is extended. The outcomes of statistic modelling of the development of tourism in Europe suggest on one hand that for the hitherto cooler countries and in destinations at higher altitudes, a higher number of international visitors can be expected. On the other hand, there might also be an increase in the number of domestic tourists, if there is a shift in tourism demand from foreign destinations to Germany.80

At sufficiently high altitude, there might also be benefits for winter sports tourism in Northern Europe. As the amounts of precipitation and snow increase in the winter season, the snow guarantee remains higher in Scandinavia than in many parts of the Alps. Consequently, the region concerned may be able to increase its market share of alpine and nordic ski sports, if traditional winter sport resorts in Germany, but also low-lying skiing areas in Austria become less attractive for winter holidays owing to a diminishing snow guarantee.

Generally speaking it is to be expected that climate-related large-scale changes in the travel behaviour of German travellers will not become apparent in the immediate future. On one hand, the climatic development does not proceed continuously. In fact, unfavourable weather events and weather patterns occur irregularly. It is only when holidaymakers keep having negative experiences with climatic conditions at their specific destination more frequently and more regularly, that the impacts on travel behaviour will become apparent. On the other hand, the prospective holidaymaker still has the option to adapt to changed conditions in the Mediterranean area. They might, for example, travel at a different time, if summer temperatures in the main season become too high. Besides, they have the option to choose other destinations in the Mediterranean area. For example, for the south of France, temperatures are expected to rise more gradually than, say, the south of Spain or the north African coast.

So far the travel pattern of German holidaymakers does not display any developments normally attributed to climate change. Now as before, the Mediterranean is still the most attractive travel destination for German holidaymakers. Leaving aside minor fluctuations, the market share of this segment has remained stable at approx. 35%. The market share of domestic holidays amounting to approx. 30 % also shows only minor changes for the period in question. By comparison, the regions of Scandinavia with 3 %, and Western Europe, i.e. the British Isles, the regions of France not bordering the Mediterranean, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland – latterly accounting for 14 % – have been attracting distinctly fewer German holidaymakers. It is interesting to note that only for these regions has it been possible to identify a trend in the past few years. The interest in a holiday in Western Europa or Scandinavia has suffered a significant decline since 1997.

78 Schwirplies C. & Ziegler A. 2013: Are German Tourists Environmental Chameleons? A Micro-econometric Analysis of Adaptation to Climate Change. Joint Discussion Paper Series in Economics by the Universities of Aachen – Gießen – Göttingen – Kassel – Marburg – Siegen, Nr. 34/2013, Marburg, 26 pp.
79 see endnote no. 68.
80 Hamilton J. & Tol R.S.J. 2007: The impact of climate change on tourism in Germany, the UK and Ireland: a simulation study. Regional Environmental Change, Jg. 2007, H. 7: 161–172.
I - s. Fußnote S. 207