Group travel is as popular as ever among German holidaymakers – older persons, clubs and associations in particular - because group travel is good for social cohesion, team spirit and general wellbeing – as well as being excellent value for money. Coach holiday demand in Germany has remained quite stable for over a decade at ca. 7 % of the overall holiday market (e.g. over 5.5 million holidays of over 5 days duration in 2015). 1.25 million combination flight / coach trips were also taken abroad in 2015.
Enquiries and bookings for group travel in 2017-2018 in Germany are exhibiting a strong demand for culture, history, study and active programmes e.g. walking, cycling, archaeology, allowing guests more time for themselves and for optional day trips / activities. Cookery courses, family / farm / craft workshop visits are also proving quite popular along with based holidays, wellness, yoga and relaxation. This “slow-down” trend is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace but about seeking to do everything at the right speed; savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them, doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible.
Milan Kundera in his novel „Slowness“ (1995) states that, “The degree of slowness is directionally proportional to the intensity of memory. The degree of speed is directionally proportional to the intensity of forgetting.” The advantages of slowing coach travel down are many. These include seeing the people and visitor attractions of a destination closer up, how they live, work and play, what the history, archaeology, landscape, art and culture is about. Immersion as opposed to fleeting glances - memorable interactions and living experiences as opposed to ticking off lists and sights - becoming part of the scenery as opposed to just passing on through.
If every second of a group’s day is pre-scheduled then there is little time left for unexpected encounters or for allowing customers time to think about what they have seen or what they have experienced. Slow travel as opposed to packed round trips is often more economical, too, as groups book just one or two hotel bases, opening up endless possibilities to relax and explore by foot, bicycle, boat, rail and of course by coach with shorter transfers and excursionss. Participants, with the assistance of qualified tour guides, start talking to and interacting with locals in shops, cafes and pubs and during festivals and events; attend cookery courses, learn to bake bread, take photographs or paint watercolours; see lambs being born or cows being milked … taking their time out to let things happen, to allow newly-gained impressions sink in.
Two of The Eagles’ greatest hits could be taken as anthems for slowing down coach travel today – “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (1973) and “Take it Easy” (1977). “The Eagles Generation” as seen here are entering a phase in their lives where they are being advised to slow down a little, take exercise, travel and enjoy life a little bit more – they are becoming smart and active seniors even if they do not yet consider or feel themselves to be so. They are a new generation of potential coach travellers, with distinctive histories and different travel biographies to their parents and grandparents.
The challenge for destinations, wholesalers and coach holiday operators in 2016 is to adapt and adjust current programmes and offerings to such changing market requirements; to maintain current business and market shares while at the same time attracting, motivating and catering for a whole new generation of coach tourism customers.