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Germans Are World’s Top Spenders on Vacations : Tourism: Trips are an important part of their lives. The Japanese are ranked a distant second.

From Reuters

When it comes to the necessi ties of life, many Germans add something else to the requirements of food, shelter and clothing: Travel.

Germans are the world’s biggest spenders abroad for vacations, well ahead of the Japanese, who rank a distant second, according to a recent report by the Bundesbank.

In the United States, German is practically the second language at many of New York’s leading tourist attractions such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s department store.

A strong mark that boosts buying power and a healthy dose of “Wanderlust,” along with East Germans taking advantage of their right since 1990 to travel freely, underscore the well-earned title for Germans of “top world travelers.”

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Despite rising taxes and lingering concerns about the economy, Germans are set to spend a record $47.53 billion abroad in 1995 compared with the prior record of $44.23 billion set last year, a leading German economist said recently.

“Travel is critical to Germans, even more so than hobbies, autos or entertainment,” Armin Unterberg of Dresdner Bank told a news conference at the annual CMT international travel fair.

The record $44.23 billion in spending last year also marked the first time since World War II that travel spending rose in Germany during a recession, he said.

The fair, expected to attract about 230,000 people during a nine-day period that began last week, offers Germans the chance to learn about vacations to more than 100 countries.

Those in attendance are more than just window-shopping. Net spending by Germans abroad totaled an estimated $33.01 billion in 1994, up from $29.44 billion in 1993, according to the report issued this month by the Bundesbank.

By comparison, the Japanese spent the equivalent of $25.09 billion abroad in 1993, according to the Bundesbank data.

The German travel deficit is expected to rise to about $55 billion in 1995, but at a slower rate than in recent years, Unterberg said in the report released each year at the fair.

The travel deficit has been in the red since 1960 at $660 million and has been steadily surging ever since, helping to wipe out a growing positive trade balance in recent years, Unterberg said.

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The growing travel deficit also highlights the pitfalls of having a strong currency: Germany is not attractive to tourists.

Spending by foreign tourists in Germany has remained steady at $11.22 billion each year since 1990, and Unterberg predicted spending to remain at that level in 1995.

“Travel among foreigners in Germany is stagnant,” he said.

Indeed, the strength of the mark has been daunting to foreign visitors: The number of foreign guests staying overnight in Germany fell 15% between 1990 and 1993.

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The German tourist board DZT underwent a major restructuring in 1994 to boost German tourism, but the country still suffers from the perception that it is not interesting to young travelers who typically spend more money than older travelers.

The gains in foreign spending have also come at a time of real income cuts, high unemployment and reductions in spending for household goods and services, Unterberg said.

The report said Germans spend about 3.6% of their income on travel, above the average of 2.9% for Europe.

Norbert Walter, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, said the desire to travel, combined with lower disposable incomes due to the higher taxes, could lead to a disturbing drop in savings that could lead to economic problems in the future.

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“Germans plan nothing else as carefully as their vacations,” Walter said. “It’s a problem for our future. We are not saving and investing enough. Instead, people just want to travel.”


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