First, travel warnings appeared, then mandatory testing for vacationers, and finally quarantine. From Monday, passengers returning from high-risk areas not only had to submit a negative corona test on arrival, but must then be quarantined afterwards. This is another bad news for tourism, which has returned to the wall since the Corona broke out. Norbert Fiebig is president of the German Travel Association, which represents 11,000 travel agencies and 2,300 tour operators.
Mr Fiebig, Germany is in a coronavirus lock, no one knows what will happen next. Are people still booking holiday trips for this year?
The desire to travel is there. My impression is that it is even more pronounced than usual at the moment. Locking is depressing and people lack travel. I expect that it will be possible to catch up as soon as it is possible to travel again under reasonable conditions. Reservations for this winter are 70 percent lower than last year, but reservations are accelerating for the summer. Many people expect to be able to travel again. This is definitely related to vaccination. However, we are still a long way from the data for 2019. This is also due to the fact that more and more customers are booking in a very short time.
Norbert Fiebig, born in 1959, has been president of the German Travel Association (DRV) for almost seven years and represents one of … Photo: German Travel Association
Many tour operators offer their customers the option to cancel or re-book the trips they are now booking, shortly before, free of charge before their arrival. Is he coming?
These offers are very useful. People experienced a mess last year, with widespread travel alerts, sudden testing requests, shortly thereafter by canceling them by mail and introducing quarantine. Vacationers are extremely insecure. Poison is not only for travelers, but also for tourism. Many now want to arrange their dream trip, have reduced hotel and flight capacity, but also want to be able to react flexibly if general conditions deteriorate. The year 2021 will be characterized by flexibility – on both sides, for companies and customers.
No one wants to go on vacation if they have to be quarantined afterwards.
The new mandatory entry test makes travel even less attractive, especially in connection with the subsequent quarantine, which will last at least five days. This is a de facto travel ban. Tourism suffered a drop in sales of more than 80 percent last year. With the introduction of the quarantine requirement for passengers returning from risk areas, it was up to 90 to 95 percent. The Higher Administrative Court of Münster recently abolished the quarantine requirement for North Rhine-Westphalia, which should have consequences for other Länder.
How do you envision it
Tests contribute to greater travel safety. The right way is the regulation introduced by the NRW, according to which negative test results can be submitted to health authorities instead of quarantined immediately upon return. If the federal government focuses on this pragmatic and at the same time effective regulation of the NRW, it will allow travel again after the retreat of the second corona wave.
Testing instead of quarantine is what tourism wants. Reality is different. At the moment, passengers returning from … Photo: dpa
Why waste test capacity for fun travel?
Before the Christmas visit, I had a PCR test done. The result was there the next morning. In addition to PCR tests, a large number of rapid tests are available, which guarantee reliable results in a short time. If you look at these two things together, there is enough capacity, wasting is not the right term. We should therefore soon return to the test facility for returnees from risk areas, such as North Rhine-Westphalia, and end the forced quarantine.
[Alle wichtigen Updates des Tages zum Coronavirus finden Sie im kostenlosen Tagesspiegel-Newsletter “Fragen des Tages”. Dazu die wichtigsten Nachrichten, Leseempfehlungen und Debatten. Zur Anmeldung geht es hier. ]
Many airlines consider allowing only people with a negative corona test or vaccination to board. Would it be a model for the whole of tourism?
As for the test, I agree. I’m skeptical about vaccinations. Especially since it is still unclear whether people who have been vaccinated can infect others. In addition, it will take a long time for anyone who wants to be vaccinated to be vaccinated. On the other hand, it is already the case today that passengers must prove certain vaccinations when entering certain countries.
Cruise ships were corona hotspots. Passengers are now routinely tested before departure. Did it avert danger?
Tui Cruises and Aida require their passengers to have up-to-date negative PCR tests. Crews are equally tested in advance. Both measures increase security, and that is a good thing. As far as I know, there are no new infections on these ships.
Rush to German winter sports areas: The authorities are now watching closely. Photo: dpa
What do you think: will Mallorca take place in the summer?
I’m sure of that, also because of the vaccinations. People want to travel, they are in the starting blocks. Many have not gone on vacation or been where they wanted to be last year.
Are there regions where holidays are already possible at Easter?
However, according to the current situation, you must be quarantined in the Canary Islands after returning – except for North Rhine-Westphalia. If you want to travel far, for example Cuba. I expect Greece, Spain and Turkey to be in demand again this summer.
As classes are canceled in schools due to Corona, there are calls to shorten the summer holidays. How would you like it
For tourism, the length of the summer holidays is not a decisive problem, because people usually do not travel for six weeks, but rather two. It is important for us that the federal states continue to coordinate holiday dates so that not everyone has school holidays at the same time.
No port in sight: cruise ships have a hard time docking. Photo: dpa-tmn
In the last few days, there has been a real run in the German snow areas. Do you understand day trips?
No, the pictures of the crowds annoyed me. Nothing bad happened while walking through the snowy forest or pulling children on sleighs. Obviously, the call for strict compliance with hygiene and distance regulations cannot be repeated often enough. Such crowds are counterproductive. Here, the common sense of every individual is necessary so that our rights to freedom are no longer restricted.
You have long warned against bankruptcies in your field. But so far there is no sign of a wave of bankruptcies, is there?
There have been several significant cases, especially in the area of tourism sales, where major regional players have left the market. Fortunately, we have not yet seen a big wave of bankruptcies, as most companies are supported by the state through bridging grants and loans. The economic situation is tense. At the moment, it is still helping that over-indebted companies do not have to file for bankruptcy at this time.
[Behalten Sie den Überblick über die Corona-Entwicklung in Ihrem Berliner Kiez. In unseren Tagesspiegel-Bezirksnewslettern berichten wir über die Krise und die Auswirkungen auf Ihre Nachbarschaft. Kostenlos und kompakt: leute.tagesspiegel.de.]
This Regulation shall expire at the end of the month.
That would be fatal. We need time and an extension at least until the summer, even better for tourism until the end of this year, so that companies can put their balance sheets in order with the help of summer trade. Politicians should also be aware of this, because otherwise great government assistance would be useless.
To what extent has government funding for tourism prevented the worse?
State aid was very important, especially regulations on part-time work and bridging allowances. However, the measures were not always precise and in some cases distorted competition.
Struggle for existence: So far, government support has prevented a wave of bankruptcies. Photo: dpa
In the case of bridging aid III, the important question of how failure costs should be adequately compensated has not yet been clarified. Approximately 40 percent of lost travel agency commissions were compensated under Bridging Assistance I. For bridging aid III, the basis for the calculation should continue to be the commissions lost and the margins caused by the canceled journeys. The starting point for the reflection is bad here, because there are now almost no reservations. This needs to be changed as soon as possible.
However, the amounts increase.
Until now, companies have been able to claim up to € 50,000 a month. This amount has now been increased to EUR 200 000. The problem, however, is that this amount still applies to a single travel agency as well as to companies with multiple offices. But if you have 30 or 40 branches, you won’t get too far. This must also be adjusted. In addition, travel agency operators must be able to adequately compensate for their lost wages in the business in order to earn a living. We still need help from the state, but it is even more important that politicians now create the framework conditions for re-travel.
The State took over the stake in Lufthansa. Should he do the same with Tui?
It is important to maintain an effective tourist infrastructure. This applies to mostly medium-sized companies, but also to large companies. Tui is a big player in the market. Exit from the market could result in collateral damage for the whole industry.