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Revival of Package Getaways: Europe Embraces Affordable Travel Enthusiasm


Robert Tavares

March 22, 2024 - 09:22 am


The Unlikely Resurgence of European Package Holidays

Amid the heightened anticipation of the summer season, European travelers are gravitating towards package vacations, a trend that is setting the travel industry ablaze. What was once regarded as a quaint product aimed at an older demographic is now making an unexpected yet vigorous return. Overcoming a near collapse during the pandemic, all-inclusive packages are witnessing a renaissance as they appeal to increasingly younger and discerning vacationers seeking out cost-effective, worry-free expeditions.

The allure of configuring flights, accommodations, transfers, and meals in a single, straightforward transaction is driving growth in this sector beyond expectations. Market insights suggest a projected global surge of more than 11%, with Western Europe inching close to its pre-pandemic vigor. Britain, a core player in the market, has already bounced back to its 2019 levels with Germany trailing only slightly behind.

"The industry was almost written off, especially with the rise of online booking platforms that empowered customers to customize their travel itineraries," admitted Carsten Spohr, CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. "However, the disruptions brought on by COVID-19 have reversed this, steering people towards the security of all-inclusive packages."

Euromonitor International

Airlines, in particular, are finding this renewed interest to be a profitable venture once perceived as a less significant aspect of their operations. British low-cost airline EasyJet Plc is anticipating a 35% growth in passenger traffic for its holiday segment this year. Peer operators Jet2 Plc and TUI AG are also witnessing a surge in package bookings, a powerful growth driver noted by Lufthansa.

TUI, among other companies, has refined its offerings to resonate with a younger crowd that is adept with online platforms. Today's packages are far more diverse, offering experiences that eclipse the cliche sun-and-beach getaway. Caroline Bremner, who heads travel research at Euromonitor, points out the broad spectrum of options available. For instance, EasyJet Holidays has unveiled an add-on tour of Iceland's Thingvellir National Park, encapsulating geological marvels and luxuriating thermal waters. Similarly, TUI has broadened its horizon with a Kenyan safari that promises to showcase the regal wildlife of Africa.

The evolution of travel packages also caters to the diverse needs of bigger family units and offers various consumer-friendly options. As cited by Bremner, plans that include installment payments, child-friendly amenities, and all-encompassing dining arrangements resonate as a "safe bet." These options provide a preemptive lock on expenses, a beneficial approach amidst the economic pressures of rising living costs.

Looking at global revenue forecasts, package tours are anticipated to rake in about $280 billion this year, which equates to nearly 86% of the levels experienced in 2019. The International Air Transport Association indicates that while the broader aviation industry has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the package tour subsector is rising from an even more dramatic fall—over 66% of its revenue vanished at the nadir of 2020.

Package tours aren't a novel innovation. They date back to the 1960s, when holidaymakers sought economical means to explore or lounge on sun-drenched shores. The advent of modern narrow-body aircraft like Boeing Co.’s 737 jet and travel operators introducing leisure trips marked the accessibility of overseas jaunts to Spain and other attractive destinations. However, the '90s saw this market decelerate as internet-savvy travelers began to craft their itineraries via online platforms. The fallout of this shift was evident with the pre-pandemic collapse of travel giant Thomas Cook.

Today, airlines recognize the disadvantage of not capitalizing on the package tour bandwagon. Ryanair Holdings Plc, for instance, revised its profit outlook downwards following a rift with online travel agents that led to a takedown of its listings. To counteract this, the Irish carrier has since initiated partnerships with the likes of TUI, thus integrating its flights into the lucrative package tour ecosystems.

The package holiday scene traditionally saw British and German travelers flocking to the temperate Meditteranean coasts of Spain, Greece, and Portugal in search of warmth and relaxation. This annual migration, fraught with friendly competition over beach accommodation, became a staple cultural exchange. Today, the UK stands tall as Europe's most prolific contributor of outbound tourism and the second largest globally after the US, achieving a commendable 99% of its 2019 tourist output last year. Predictions by Euromonitor indicate an impressive 11% growth for this year. Germany isn't far behind, hovering around 91% of its pre-pandemic level of outbound tourism.

Countries such as Italy and Croatia are making significant strides, with Italy on the path of a 26% growth and Croatia expected to enjoy a nearly 16% annual increase up to 2028. TUI has also seen burgeoning demand emerge from France, while Lufthansa's low-cost arm Eurowings is marking the Czech Republic as a vividly growing market.

Package tour offerings, while continuously drawing a more mature demographic attracted by the simplicity of a singular transaction, are making inroads with a younger audience. The projections for growth are robust, as observed by Paul Charles, CEO of The PC Agency. Travel operators have significantly refined the quality of package tours, and their marketing strategies have notably advanced.

Following the collapse of Thomas Cook, EasyJet identified a window of opportunity to establish a package-tour division focused on delivering superior value and flexibility. Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet, in an interview, projected optimism about the future growth in this sector, stating expansively, "I don’t see any limits to it.”

The resurgence of the all-inclusive package holiday is a testament to the dynamic nature of consumer behaviors and industry adaptability. The ease of having everything arranged beforehand, from travel to meals, coupled with transparent pricing and the reassurance amidst uncertain times, is an offering that seems to have regained its charm. As the travel industry looks to innovate and cater to the evolving preferences of younger and more tech-savvy travelers, package holidays might just be the beginning of a renewed, value-driven approach to tourism.

For more information on the reinvigoration of the package holiday trend, you can delve deeper into the insights provided by Kate Duffy at Bloomberg through the following link: Cost-of-Living Squeeze and the Holiday Industry.

The global travel industry is witnessing a phenomenal return to an era defined once by convenience and affordability. The humble package tour, resilient in the face of modern-day challenges, continues to prove its worth, adapting, evolving, and proving that sometimes, the best way to move forward is to embrace the full circle of coming back.