European tourism demand continues to grow and proves resilient to safety and security challenges and political turmoil, according to a new report from the European Travel Commission (ETC). Overall growth, however, has slowed from the previous year (+5% in 2015) affected by those destinations required to rebuild market confidence following tragic events. Europe welcomed 620 million international tourist arrivals in 2016, a 2 percent increase compared to the same period in 2015.
According to the European Travel Commission's latest report, "European Tourism - Trends & Prospects", the majority of destinations reported healthy growth in the last months of 2016. Iceland remains the top growth destination (+40%) followed by the outstanding performance of Cyprus (+20%) and Slovakia (+19%) owing to improved air connectivity and off-season visitation. Bulgaria (+16%) also saw robust growth while other destinations such as Serbia and Portugal (both +13%) are increasingly becoming appealing for bargain hunters. On the contrary, safety and security concerns weigh down on visitor numbers in Turkey (-31%) and Belgium (-14%) while a strong Swiss Franc weakens Switzerland's tourism performance (-2%).
Europe's Large Source Markets Continue to Drive Growth
European travel remains heavily reliant on intra-regional demand. Several destinations reported double-digit growth from Germany and France, attributable to stable economic conditions in the Eurozone. In the UK, a weaker pound failed to deter travel demand, with almost one in two European destinations reporting double-digit growth from this market. Visitor arrivals from Russia are gradually improving with significant increases recorded in the Mediterranean and the Baltic destinations. Russian tourist flows are expected to grow throughout 2017 as the rouble strengthens.
U.S. arrivals to Europe increased by 8 percent (some 27.4 million) in 2016 helped by a strong dollar, encouraging economic conditions and favorable airfares. However, it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue due to the new US administration's retrenchment from globalism, the ETC said. Overall, Chinese growth (+2%) has slowed down from 2015, as safety concerns dissuades travel to Europe.