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European tourism industry nears pre-Covid level recovery 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 per cent below 2019 figures, with nights 0.6 per cent below, showcasing a resilient travel demand across the continent—a trend that is expected to continue into 2024.

The recovery is fuelled 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 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Among these, Southern European destinations continue to be the frontrunners, boosted by favourable weather extending into the shoulder season. Serbia saw the largest surge in arrivals (+15 per cent), alongside Portugal (+11 per cent), Montenegro (+10 per cent), Türkiye (+9 per cent) and Malta (+8 per cent).

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

In contrast, Eastern European destinations bordering Russia experienced a slower rebound, with countries such as Lithuania (-32 per cent), Latvia (-29 per cent), Estonia (-27 per cent) and Finland (-24 per cent) 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 per cent compared to 2019 levels, with particularly pronounced increases seen in tourism-related expenses such as international flights (+49 per cent), package holidays (+47 per cent) and hotel prices (+35 per cent). These higher prices have strained household finances, but they have not deterred the majority of those who wish to travel. (Source: Travel Agent Central)

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