By Humphrey Carter
THE ITB Berlin travel fair opens today and will provide the Balearics with a clear indication as to how well, or more likely how poorly, bookings are going for the summer season. However, not only will the Balearic sector find out how the German holiday market, gripped by its worst recession ever, is panning out this year, it will also learn that German holiday habits are changing. The country as a whole is involved in a campaign to boost domestic tourism which last year saw the number of Germans holidaying at home increased by 13 per cent. And if further proof is needed that the Germans intend to take a holiday this year, the latest results, according to the vice-president of the German Tourism Association, Tilo Braune, is that just as many people as last year maintain they will be going on holiday. But, Braune said this week that, as far as the German market is concerned, “the package holiday is no longer enough to satisfy travellers' highly individualistic needs." Apart from value for money being paramount, especially in view of Germany's recession and international instability, which head of Thomas Cook Stefan Pichler highlighted on Wednesday, German holiday habits are changing, be it going abroad or staying at home. According to Braune, apart from active holidays, the most popular types of holidays involve city visits, cultural activities and holidays with events. But the growth market for the future is going to be “wellness” holidays, health and fitness breaks enabling people to recharge their batteries and spend some time looking after themselves. Experts believe that in the next ten to fifteen years, the wellness holiday market will have quadrupled in size. At the other end of the market, by the year 2010, a quarter of the German population with be over 60 and tourism experts are calling on the industry at home and abroad to account for the needs of the growing market, bearing in mind that the over 60*s are generally well travelled, critical, well informed and free to travel when they wish. They like a healthy climate, opportunities to explore nature, attend to their health needs and have access to interesting cultural events. This year the tourist industry is having to negotiate an abnormal year dogged by threats of war, terrorism and recession, but for the future, holiday habits across Europe are changing. For the meantime however, the Balearic delegation heading to Berlin is not very upbeat about the summer season. The winter season has been poor, for example just 22 of the 200 hotels along the Playa de Palma opened, with bookings down around 25 per cent. Palma's Tourism Councillor, Juan Bauza has already slammed the winter season “the worst in history” and president of the Majorcan Tourist Board, Miguel Vicens believes that Majorca is suffering from tough competition from destinations with much better winter climates which have increased capacity. Sources for TUI, the world's largest tour operator, said yesterday that the outlook for this summer is “worse than last year” with tour operators poised to launch into a price war in order to try and stimulate the summer market.


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