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Travel Agents

June 1991

In Germany, next to realtors (who, in a sellers market, charge you 3 months’ rent as commission—when you can find one who has an apartment you can afford) travel agents seem to have the most lucrative racket. Germans are continually going on Urlaub (vacation) to use up their six weeks of annual leave. Several big tour operators put together travel packages and describe them in 150 page glossy color brochures—to the Turkish Riviera, Egypt, Kenya, Greece, the Canary Islands, Thailand, Nepal—yes, even Florida! The brochures show, in addition to sites of interest in the destination area, pictures of the available hotels.

In these brochures the German penchant to account for every possibility is given free rein: tables give the price of every possible combination of included meals (all: full pension; breakfast and dinner: half pension; breakfast only, or none; although not all possibilities are available at all hotels), time of year (usually five or six different gradations), and departure airport (Berlin, Hamburg, Hanover, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart or Munich. So far I haven’t seen any airports listed in the "New Lands," what used to be East Germany.)

Also listed are those hotels where "Special Special" deals are available and during which time period: full pension for the price of half pension, 4 weeks for the price of 3, 3 for the price of 2—even 2 for the price of 1 (in fact if you can stay for an extended period, some offer 12 weeks for the price of 8, 10 for 7, ...), single rooms for the same per-person price as doubles, and discounts for children from 2-11 (e.g. 35 to 50 percent off). Of course they consider the possibility that the child may come with only one parent, in which case the discount may be only 20 percent. Naturally, there are add-on possibilities, including rental cars, local excursions, sports equipment and sports instruction. If you’re willing to gamble a little, you can sometimes save money by signing up for a hotel of a specified class, the hotel to be designated later. There are even tables showing rail/fly prices in case you don’t live near the airport (first or second class, less than or greater than 251 (!) km distance, one or two persons, additional person supplement, children from 4-11...).

The price combinations are so complex that separate, although non-glossy, brochures as thick as the glossy ones are provided to describe them all. And several pages are required at the beginning to tell how to use the tables. They also provide more detailed information than you can find in most travel guides: average monthly midday, nighttime and water temperatures, number of days of sunshine, overcast, and rain per month, hours of sunshine per day (of course, even the worst places they list look like paradise to a Deutscher in the winter).

A travel agent may have dozens of such brochures on hand, although some are smaller and more specialized. However, German travel agents are mainly order takers—if you are looking for a low-cost fare and have some flexibility in date, time or destination, they don’t know how to handle it. They don’t need to; they’ve got plenty of customers who will show them exactly which page of the brochure they want to order!

© Copyright 2000 Jack Ludwick - All Rights Reserved

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