The Tourist Echo: The summer season has just started, on a usual date. Is it necessarily a good sign, after two years of pandemic?
Christopher Fuss: It’s true that what was normal before is now a chance. Being able to start again on the usual date is a very good sign for the tourism industry. We have just spent two years doing and undoing to now return to something that is more familiar to us, and which is therefore easier to control. This is one of the positive signs that we are seeing for this year 2022, and which makes us optimistic. We think we can do much better this summer than in the last two years.
What are these positive signs?
Christopher Fuss: The first is what we were talking about: the fact of being able to work within the usual timeframes. We launched the “Primo” operation in December, as usual, before accelerating marketing in mid-January. Last year, sales had really started at the end of April, with the reopening of Greece… But, for this summer, the market seems to be recovering its reflexes. The appetite for traveling abroad, and for reassuring products such as clubs, is very strong. It is clear, given the current state of reservations, that customers will be there this summer. And there are other positive signs, such as the increase in the average basket, in particular via the lengthening of the length of stay. During the summer of 2019, 15.8% of our customers left for more than 8 days. This summer, they will be 20.1% to do so.
The market is therefore regaining its good reflexes. But hasn’t the pandemic transformed certain behaviors?
Christopher Fuss: Purchasing behavior has changed, that’s for sure. But booking at the last minute backs off a bit. In 2021, uncertainty linked to the pandemic dominated behavior. For summer 2021, 65% of sales were made in the two months before departure, and only 14% between three and six months before departure. For this summer, the trend has reversed: 53% of sales are made between 3 and 6 months before departure, for only 15% in the two months preceding departure. Because the market now seems to be cautious for its purchasing power rather than for the pandemic and its consequences.
One could however believe that, paying attention to its purchasing power, the market is postponing its vacation plans.
Christopher Fuss: The appetite at the start has taken over until now. The market absolutely wants to leave, but is rediscovering old reflexes that allow it to protect its purchasing power. The success of our “Primos” proves it, for example. By booking early, customers want to get the best rates. Like before the pandemic. And it is also this concern that partly explains the announced success of holiday clubs this summer. Customers want to control their spending and stick to their budget. The all-inclusive formula is ideal to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the stay.
Do they book early to make sure we get rooms? Some destinations, such as Greece or Spain, seem to be in high demand…
There are, sometimes, questions of stock, it is true. Especially in Greece. Our Club Marmara Zorbas Beach, on the island of Kos, for example, is already full in July and August, and it will be very difficult to find rooms available this summer in this hotel. We also observe this phenomenon of tension on certain Spanish destinations, which encourages customers to book earlier. Here again, it is the mark of a gradual return to more usual behavior, that the market is becoming dynamic again and that it looks more and more like it was before the pandemic. Other destinations, such as Morocco or Tunisia, are also making a marked comeback. It’s a very good surprise, and we are delighted, because they are two very important tourist partners for France. We also think that this enthusiasm for these few key destinations will boost the entire market. This is why we are optimistic.
Until working as much as in 2019?
Christopher Fuss: Even if all the signals are green, it will not be possible to achieve the same turnover as in 2019. We are aiming for 75% instead. Quite simply because certain segments take time to start again. This is the case of the circuits, for example, which have resumed for a few weeks, but on which we have fallen behind since the launch of sales. But, here again, we see good things: the success of Portugal, Italy, Northern Europe, and even the recovery of Canada and the United States are harbingers of what could be pass in the months to come. The groups are resuming, too, but we won’t be able to catch up on what hasn’t been done in the past two years in one season. But we are delighted to see that the momentum in the individual segment is as strong as in 2019.
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