Bird flu, Mohammed cartoons hit travel trade

8th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

8 March 2006, BERLIN - Europe's biggest travel group TUI AG said Wednesday that worries about bird flu and the tensions unleashed in Muslim nations by the so-called Mohammed cartoons, had hit German bookings for the key summer vacation season.

8 March 2006

BERLIN - Europe's biggest travel group TUI AG said Wednesday that worries about bird flu and the tensions unleashed in Muslim nations by the so-called Mohammed cartoons, had hit German bookings for the key summer vacation season.

With cases of avian flu having been discovered in Germany as well as parts of Europe, the Mediterranean and Turkey and extensive news coverage of the reaction to the Mohammed cartoons, TUI said revenue from summer bookings from Europe's biggest economy stagnated year-on-year.

The group said total bookings for summer were running at just two per cent more in terms of revenues and client numbers compared with last year.

"The start to the summer season in east Mediterranean areas was hit by bird flu and the Mohammed cartoons," said TUI chief Michael Frenzel.

Instead of travelling to Turkey, TUI said that many people had switched to holiday destinations in nations such as Spain.

As a result, TUI reported a 35 per cent surge in bookings in Germany for the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca.

Earlier this week, Europe's second biggest tourist group Thomas Cook reported a similar experience saying that reports about avian flu in Turkey had resulted in a plunge in bookings for the nation with many people opting for vacations in Spain.

Thomas Cook expects a sense of normality to return to bookings once avian flu had disappeared from media headlines.

However, despite the avian flu worries and regional tensions Thomas Cook reported a stronger growth in bookings for the summer season saying they were almost 10 per cent higher compared to last year.

The cases of bird flu discovered in Germany have been concentrated along the nation's northern coastline, which include major summer destinations. Germans booking to holiday in their own country this summer rose by just 1.5 per cent, TUI said.

The build-up to this year's summer season has also been accompanied by signs of growing confidence among consumers in Germany as the nation's economy hauls itself out of a protracted period of stagnation.

Indeed, Frenzel remained cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the group.

"If the positive sentiment is no longer overshadowed by the external factors, bookings numbers will rise again in the short term," he said. "We are already observing a positive trend again."

TUI is also confident about the prospects for the summer season saying that it did not expect the staging of the football world cup in Germany to result in Germans remaining at home for the month that the championships are being held.

Hanover-based TUI said revenues from winter bookings rose by 2.4 per cent while customer numbers rose six per cent compared to last year's winter season.

DPA

Subject: German news

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