European Tourism Draws Close to Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023

According to the latest edition of the “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” quarterly report released by the European Travel Commission (ETC), European tourism continued its recovery through 2023, nearing pre-pandemic levels despite inflationary pressures. Across reporting destinations, foreign tourist arrivals stand at 1.6 percent below 2019 figures, with nights 0.6 percent below, showcasing a resilient travel demand across the continent—a trend that is expected to continue into 2024.

The recovery is fueled by strong intra-European travel, primarily from Germany, France and the Netherlands. Long-haul arrivals are also bouncing back, as well, but at a slower pace and showing significant variations between regions such as the Asia-Pacific and North America. The latter, including the U.S. and Canada, has seen significant recovery. Two-thirds of European destinations have reported growth in arrivals and/or overnights from the U.S., while over half have seen the same for Canada. Moreover, American and Canadian airlines announced developments in combined flight-rail booking systems for Europe, offering a more sustainable travel option when moving around the region.

European travel remained resilient in the last months of 2023, with two-thirds of destinations reporting either a full recovery or recording arrivals and/or overnights within 10 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Among these, Southern European destinations continue to be the frontrunners, boosted by favorable weather extending into the shoulder season. Serbia saw the largest surge in arrivals (+15 percent), alongside Portugal (+11 percent), Montenegro (+10 percent), Türkiye (+9 percent) and Malta (+8 percent). They are also popular destinations for all-inclusive holidays and more affordable travel costs, which has been key to attracting price-conscious travelers.

Other countries also achieved a significant rebound compared to 2019: Iceland saw a 12 percent increase in arrivals even amid volcanic eruptions, while the Netherlands grew tourist nights by 16 percent despite a smaller 2 percent rise in arrivals, indicating longer stays.

In contrast, Eastern European destinations bordering Russia experienced a slower rebound, with countries such as Lithuania (-32 percent), Latvia (-29 percent), Estonia (-27 percent) and Finland (-24 percent) lagging.

The rebound in both arrivals and nights across Europe is occurring against the backdrop of inflation affecting both the industry and tourists alike. In Q4 2023, inflation surged by 23 percent compared to 2019 levels, with particularly pronounced increases seen in tourism-related expenses such as international flights (+49 percent), package holidays (+47 percent) and hotel prices (+35 percent). These higher prices have strained household finances, but they have not deterred the majority of those who wish to travel.

Overall, pricing pressures eased slightly over the latter months of 2023 compared to the previous quarter for tourism-related costs but remain significantly elevated relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Source: ETC

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