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Europe’s Tourism Rebound Steams Ahead Into 2023

Despite economic challenges, Europe’s tourism rebounds in the third quarter of 2023, amid solid traveler enthusiasm to visit European destinations. The European tourism industry is demonstrating impressive resilience. Despite enduring inflation and escalating travel costs, the industry’s recovery has exceeded expectations, thanks to robust consumer demand.

The European Travel Commission’s (ETC) recently published “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” report for Q2 2023. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the latest tourism and macroeconomic trends in the region.

Sustained Recovery: Europe’s Tourist Arrivals Near Pre-Pandemic Levels

Remarkably, Europe’s tourism recovery has reached approximately 95% of 2019’s international tourist arrivals, underscoring the sector’s resilience amidst economic hurdles. A quarter of European destinations have already surpassed their pre-pandemic foreign arrival levels, confirming the strong travel demand.

According to ETC’s President, Miguel Sanz, “The positive recovery of international tourist arrivals in H1 2023 is heartening. Europe must prepare to manage this increased demand effectively, emphasizing travel dispersal to address overcrowding, while extending tourism benefits to lesser-traveled areas.”

Consumers Prioritizing Value-for-Money Destinations

Despite tightened budgets due to economic strain, the tourism sector remains resilient. As consumers become increasingly price-driven, it’s evident that value-for-money destinations are performing well. Recent data shows an impressive recovery. The most improved destinations include Serbia (+27%), Bulgaria (+21%), Montenegro (+12%), and Türkiye (+9%), offering travelers affordable yet enriching experiences.

European Air Traffic Volumes Ascend

As we go into the summer peak season, European air traffic volumes are also rising steadily. They are edging closer to pre-pandemic numbers. This resurgence is attributable to increased airline capacity across European and foreign airline carriers.

The return of planned seat capacity to 96% of its pre-pandemic levels further underscores this trend. The latest data also shows that European international Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs) have continued a steady recovery. They reached 90.8% of 2019 levels in April.

Graph Recovery of summer air travel ticket sales, 2023 by IATA and S&E Economics, shows Europe reaching 91% of 2019 levels. North America reached 99% of 2019 levels.
Recovery of summer air travel ticket sales. ETC report.

However, potential disruptions such as aviation strikes, labor shortages, and war-related airspace closures pose significant uncertainties.

“Long-haul travel has been lagging during Europe’s tourism bounce back, but we are now seeing how it is gradually returning to regain market share this year,” said Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of the European Travel Commission (ETC).

US Tourists Fueling Europe’s Travel Recovery

Interestingly, the US has emerged as the leading long-haul source market for Europe. Data suggests that 52% of reporting destinations have surpassed pre-pandemic levels of US tourist arrivals. Favorable exchange rates encouraged US travelers to explore European destinations. Affordability remains critical, especially with the looming threats of high inflation and a potential recession.

Locations like Portugal (+79%), Türkiye (+78%), and Montenegro (+43%) have reported substantial growth in arrivals from the US market. Eastern European destinations like Latvia (+135%) and Poland (+51%) have also seen significant upticks in arrivals from the US. This rise is fueled by various factors, including diaspora visits and news coverage.

Europe’s Top Tourism Priority: Sustainable Travel Strategies

Europe’s tourism industry anticipates a positive recovery in 2023 despite economic challenges. The industry must embrace sustainable strategies to meet demand and ensure the well-being of destinations. They need to strike a balance between economic benefits and long-term viability.

“The tourism industry has both a responsibility and an opportunity to protect the resources it depends on, including the natural environment, wildlife, and cultural heritage that bring travel experiences to life. Sustainability is developing into a competitive advantage and one of destinations’ most important potential unique selling points. In the future, tourism competitiveness will directly depend on destinations’ progress in offering more sustainable and climate-friendly travel,” said Santander.

For a comprehensive analysis of Europe’s tourism trends, download the full ETC report here.

The European Travel Commission (ETC) represents the national tourism organizations of Europe, promoting sustainable tourism development across the continent. For more information, visit their website at www.etc-corporate.org.


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