European Tourism Recovery Continues Into 2024: Stats

According to the latest edition of the “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” quarterly report released by the European Travel Commission (ETC), Europe’s tourism industry is experiencing a robust recovery in the first months of 2024. The report monitors the performance of European tourism in the first quarter of the year and the macroeconomic and geopolitical factors impacting the industry’s outlook on the continent.

Based on data from reporting destinations, foreign arrivals (+7.2 percent) and overnights (+6.5 percent) in the first quarter of the year surpassed 2019 figures. This continues the upward trend observed in 2023, which recorded foreign arrivals 1.2 percent below 2019 levels, and nights just 0.2 percent below. The recovery is largely driven by strong intra-regional travel fueled by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. This is coupled with demand from the U.S., which continues to be Europe’s key long-haul source market.

Year-to-date data shows that destinations in Southern Europe are leading the recovery in terms of international visitor numbers compared to 2019 levels, including Serbia (+47 percent), Bulgaria (+39 percent), Türkiye (+35 percent), Malta (+35 percent), Portugal (+17 percent) and Spain (+14 percent). These destinations offer competitively priced holiday experiences, often combined with milder winter temperatures. Nordic countries are also witnessing an uptick in tourist activity, as overnight stays grew above pre-pandemic levels. This increase is particularly evident for Norway (+18 percent), Sweden (+12 percent) and Denmark (+9 percent). This high interest is partially driven by winter sports tourism and the allure of the Northern Lights.

Meanwhile, countries in the Baltic region continue to lag behind due to challenges caused by the war in Ukraine, with Latvia registering the lowest post-pandemic international arrivals (-34 percent), followed by Estonia (-15 percent) and Lithuania (-14 percent).

Data from the first few months of 2024 also shows an uneven long-haul source market performance. The U.S. and Canada continue to dominate, mirroring trends from 2023. There was also an increase in travelers from Latin America, particularly Brazil, during the first quarter of the year. Conversely, though the APAC region shows signs of improvement compared to last quarter, recovery remains modest and uneven. While Chinese travelers are beginning to return to Europe, recovery from Japan is still slow.

Inflationary pressures and geopolitical uncertainties remain significant concerns for the European tourism industry. The war in Ukraine continues to impact tourism flows, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, the war between Israel and Hamas now significantly affects travel from Israel to Europe, with Israeli arrivals down 54 percent on last year in Q1 across reporting destinations. For tourism industry professionals, accommodation costs (59 percent), business costs (52 percent) and staff shortages (52 percent) are seen as the biggest challenges.

Conversely, online social conversations surrounding travel in Europe have positive tones, surpassing discussions about other global regions such as the Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific in early 2024. Highlights include praise for seasonal beauty, outdoor adventures and cultural events like Carnival celebrated across European countries.

Consumer data also shows that travel remains a top priority in 2024. Both intra-European and long-haul tourist spending increased in early 2024. Forecasts indicate that travelers will spend €742.8 billion in Europe this year, a 14.3 percent increase compared to 2023. This can be attributed to both inflation and evolving travel preferences, with travelers potentially opting for longer stays or more diverse experiences. Germany will be a main source of traveler expenditure, accounting for 16 percent of total spend in Europe in 2024.

This summer will bring two major sporting events to Europe: the Olympic Games in France and the UEFA European Football Championship in Germany. The Olympics are expected to attract a surge in domestic and international tourists, with the impacts extending beyond the city of Paris itself. Inbound spending growth is projected at 13 percent for Paris and 24 percent for all of France on 2019 levels. The Euros will be less concentrated in the German capital, with games taking place across 10 cities. This is expected to offer a more dispersed benefit, with all participating cities poised to experience a significant rise in tourism revenue.

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