The digital destinations of the Germans

Even though the Germans’ desire to travel is currently losing momentum due to the coronavirus, the next vacation will most certainly come. And it will need to be researched, planned, found, and booked. According to a representative study by the Digital Association Bitkom, an increasing number of Germans are doing this online.

According to the study, 68 percent, or over two-thirds of the respondents, gather their information from the internet. Among online travel seekers, nearly half browse through travel and comparison portals for distant or nearby destinations for their vacations. Furthermore, 41 percent gather information from the websites of hotels, airlines, or travel agencies.

Travel blogs are less frequented as sources of information for travel planning. Only one in nine people uses relevant blogs for this purpose. Social media is consulted only by 5 percent as a help in finding the suitable destination for their next vacation. Still, 2 percent use podcasts for their travel planning.

Online vs. Opening hours

The fact that more Germans now book their trips online (45 percent) rather than in local travel agencies (39 percent) is mainly because online offers are available 24/7, independent of the opening hours of stationary travel agencies, according to the Bitkom study. 83 percent prefer online booking over offline offers because they can compare prices for various offers more comprehensively.

More than one-sixth of the respondents book online as this saves a lot of time, while over half trust the internet for their travel planning because the range of offers is broader. Over a third of the participants see the advantage of online bookings mainly in the price advantage over the travel agency around the corner.

However, there are also online skeptics, with 40 percent expressing mistrust toward online bookings and 34 percent feeling uncertain about who sees their data and where exactly it will end up. On the other hand, for some, data parsimony and skepticism end when, in exchange for personal information, they are offered either hefty discounts or goodies in the form of personalized excursions, tailored restaurants and hotels, or seamless transfers.

Once travel enthusiasts have decided to book a trip online, with or without discounts and with varying degrees of data parsimony, accommodations are the main items booked online, namely by 95 percent of the respondents.

Exactly 20 percent fewer have ever clicked the “Buy Now” button online to secure a flight. Over a third rely on the internet for booking long-distance trains, and almost one-sixth have already ordered tickets for city buses and trains online. Compared to two years ago, every travel segment shows that online booking is convincing more and more people.

Social Media Travels along

But what role do social media and digital services play in the vacation planning of Germans? In any case, a significant and dedicated one. It starts with the fact that over three-quarters of Germans take their smartphones to the beach, mountains, or on sightseeing tours in a foreign city with them.

This is consistent, as 72 percent use their smartphones to take vacation photos. In contrast, almost 40 percent of respondents struggle with whether they should give themselves and their smartphones a break from each other, at least during vacations.

Nearly half of the study participants share their travel experiences with friends and followers—whether they like them or not. 20 percent fewer roll their eyes at the mere thought of friends’, relatives’, and colleagues’ posted holiday snapshots.

But social media is not only for holiday reporting; it also serves as a planner and inspiration for upcoming trips for at least 46 percent of Germans. And once they arrive, 13 percent sometimes risk life and limb to strike a daring pose for their own social media channels.

Digitale Sustainability

Whether as a flight shame compensation or for other reasons, the digital aspect should play an even more important role in local destinations, especially with regards to sustainability and environmental protection. In this sense, it is the clear majority of respondents, at 90 percent, who wish for a way to order bed linen and towels based on their own needs in their accommodations. Over two-thirds wish for travel organizers to think first and then print or provide all travel documents in digital versions.

41 percent of respondents wish to be rewarded or encouraged in the form of a digital bonus system for their exemplary environmental behavior at the holiday destination. And one in four finally believes that big data and destinations match best when collected or self-produced data streams are used to control and inform in real-time about corresponding tourist flows. Probably to keep the holiday flow going and to protect tourist hotspots from overflowing with too many visitors or daring “selfies”.