Shifts in Europe’s climate, including extreme summer heatwaves and the increasing risk of wildfires in Mediterranean countries, will alter holiday calendars and boost the popularity of northern destinations, according to the CEO of German holiday giant Tui.
1. Nordics, Belgium and Holland
As Travel Tomorrow reported back in April 2023, with the mercury in southern Europe regularly hitting 40+ degrees, places like Belgium could see an uptick in popularity. Sebastian Ebel, Tui boss since 2013, has now made similar comments as his group’s latest quarterly earnings emerge. Reported in the Financial Times, the CEO forecast “changes” and a new “focus on new destinations like the Nordics, Belgium and Holland.”
The right-wing British tabloid press, which is very anti-Belgium as it is associated with the EU, immediately poured predictable scorn on the idea of holidaying on the North Sea and drinking overly strong Belgian beers, but their reaction seems increasingly out-of-touch with how many Brits really feel about their northern European neighbours.
The Ardennes region is very popular with British bikers and campers, as are the country’s historic battlefields. In addition, social media sites are full of enthusiastic pictures of stepped gables, cobbled medieval squares, and typically-Belgian bell-shaped beer glasses on sunny terraces. The hashtag #belgianbeer has been used nearly 700,000 times on Instagram.
Likewise, people rave about Nordic destinations:
3. Mediterranean threatened?
Careful not to disparage southern Europe, Ebel went on to note, “Is that a threat to the business around the Mediterranean? No, it gives us more opportunities for growth.”
In terms of changes to people’s holiday calendars, Ebel said Tui was moving away from traditional definitions of seasons with attention being drawn by autumn and spring activity. For instance, the firm is now taking “really strong” bookings for Greece into mid-November, he said. Ebel also anticipates a rise in demand for destinations associated with gentler climes, such as the Canary Islands and Madeira.
4. Quarterly earnings
Tui’s holistic booking model (flights, cruises, accommodation all bundled together) leave it very exposed to the risks of unforeseen incidents, which climate scientists say will only become more frequent and severe. Recent evacuations and cancellations due to wildfires on Rhodes is just one example, causing the firm reported losses of €25m.
It is no wonder then that Ebel’s strategy is to spread the risk over longer seasons.
Still, Ebel was at pains to emphasise that 4 out of 5 Rhodes customers experienced no disruptions and that bookings are up 5% on this time last year.
The early summer season has proved Tui’s most lucrative since before Covid-19 and third-quarter revenue of €5.3bn was “19 per cent higher than last year” according to the FT.