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How is the pandemic changing the travel behaviour of Germans?

Within the “ReiseZukunft” (travel future) project, the CENTOURIS Institute at the University of Passau conducted a survey in May about the changes in the travel behaviour of Germans and the new possibilities of contactless travel. The first results are now available. By Janine Meier

The representative study with 1,297 participants shows a clear trend: yes to travel – but safety takes precedence. This applies to the majority of the respondents. The coronavirus holiday profile in 2021 is characterised by individually planned, shorter stays in self-catering tourist accommodation with independent travel and activities outdoors and in the countryside. Difficulties accompanying holidays in 2021 are, above all, increased preparation work and problems caused by difficulties in gathering information, financial uncertainties and a perceptible social pressure. Of particular note are the willingness to pay for financial protection and an increased interest in a consultation and booking at the travel agency, the use of the digital vaccine passport and the possibilities of contactless travel.


CENTOURIS is an institute of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Information Systems at the University of Passau and develops scientifically substantiated practical solutions for issues in the tourism sector.

Around one quarter of the respondents are unsettled by the current travel situation and respond in a correspondingly cautious manner. However, the vast majority of Germans can imagine going away this year, even if not to risk areas. Around a quarter of the respondents have already booked a trip for 2021. 6 out of 10 people said that travel tends to be frowned upon in their social circle at the moment. It is primarily the younger respondents who have this feeling. In turn, one third of these say that they definitely take these reactions into consideration when making their travel decisions.

Travel preparations are particularly difficult during the coronavirus pandemic, especially the lack of planning stability and the selection of possible travel destinations. For many people, it is also difficult to gather information about the basic conditions for arrival and departure that have to be observed in the destination country and about the general healthcare in the destination country. Financial issues such as those relating to cancellation conditions or insurance benefits in the event of illness are also pressing. Therefore, anyone who would like to go on holiday has to invest a lot of time in clarifying all these questions. Some local restrictions lead to people foregoing a trip altogether. For many respondents, this is the case if the basic tourist infrastructure, such as restaurants, tourist attractions or means of transport such as funiculars, is closed or unavailable. Many respondents find restrictions in the context of coronavirus protective measures annoying, but accept them anyway. A certain familiarisation effect, e.g. restrictions in the food service or retail sector, can be seen here.

Self-sufficient travel and a trend towards staycations

In terms of the travel destinations, domestic and foreign holidays rank approximately equal – but every second domestic traveller said that they had changed their travel behaviour because of coronavirus. In the case of foreign holidays, the focus was clearly on European destinations (which can be reached by car). Almost 60 % of the respondents consider self-sufficient travel to be (very) important, whereby they are primarily thinking of travelling in their own car and of accommodation in a holiday apartment or house. Camping is also enjoying increasing popularity due to coronavirus: extrapolated to the entire population, around 7.5 million Germans are very interested in a holiday in a caravan, a mobile home or a campervan and just under 3 million Germans have been considering purchasing a corresponding vehicle since the pandemic.

Just under 3 million Germans have been considering purchasing a caravan, a mobile home or a caravan since the pandemic.

Almost every second respondent for whom a holiday would not be out of the question in general this year would make use of a travel consultation or holiday booking at a travel agency due to the special situation this year. 22 % of them have not used corresponding services before the pandemic. The willingness to pay for individual travel components that are necessary or helpful with respect to coronavirus is only evident in some cases – specifically whenever it relates to the respondents’ own financial protection, for example flexible cancellation conditions.

Contactless travel and the digital vaccine passport

Contactless travel is broadly accepted by the respondents, especially so that they can travel again in the first place. On the other hand, a good third of the respondents reject contactless travel. A high usage is postulated for most of the queried areas of application for contactless travel. Face and voice recognition at the airport (check-in) and within the accommodation appear particularly helpful. Almost every second respondent definitely wants a digital vaccine passport and another 32 % would accept this if it became a basic prerequisite for travel. 17 % reject a digital passport.

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