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Saturday,  April 20, 2024 9:22 PM 

ETC: European travel nears pre-COVID levels; Canada shows “significant” recovery

  • Buzz
  •   02-14-2024  7:26 am
  •   Pax Global Media

ETC: European travel nears pre-COVID levels; Canada shows “significant” recovery
Lisbon, Portugal. (Unsplash/Liam McKay)
Pax Global Media

The European Travel Commission (ETC) released its quarterly tourism update on Tuesday (Feb. 13), reporting that foreign tourist arrivals to Europe were 1.6 per cent below 2019 figures in the final weeks of 2023.

Towards the end of 2023, European tourism continued “a robust recovery,” nearing pre-pandemic levels despite inflationary pressures, the report said.

Across reporting destinations, nights were also 0.6 per cent below 2019, and the demand is expected to continue into 2024.

ETC’s “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” report, released quarterly, looks at the region’s tourism performance and economic indicators over the last months of 2023.

The recovery is being fuelled by strong intra-European travel, primarily from Germany, France, and the Netherlands, ETC said.

Long-haul arrivals, meanwhile, are bouncing back. But at a slower pace, and showing significant variations between regions such as the Asia-Pacific and North America, the commission says.

Marburg-Biedenkopf, a district in the west of Hesse, Germany. (ETC)

“The high travel demand seen in 2023 provided a significant boost to European economies and will help improve the balance sheets of tourism companies, which were hard hit by travel restrictions,” said Miguel Sanz, ETC’s president, in a statement. “However, the return to pre-pandemic levels will also put pressure to accelerate the sustainable transition of the travel industry.”

“We are working to develop new indicators monitoring social and environmental factors that will contribute to producing tourism strategies to measure not only the growth of the industry but also its impact on the environment, local communities, and businesses.”

Value-for-money destinations 

European travel was 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, the study says.

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).

They are also popular destinations for all-inclusive holidays and more affordable travel costs, which has been key to attracting price-conscious travellers.

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

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

Impact of economic inflation

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, the ETC points out, 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).

The Alhambra in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. (ETC)

“These higher prices have strained household finances, but they have not deterred the majority of those who wish to travel,” the ETC said.

“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.”

Uneven recovery

While Chinese tourists represented 13 per cent of Europe’s long-haul arrivals in 2019, their return since China’s reopening has been “slow but steady,” ETC said.

Chinese arrivals in 2023 stand at 67 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, compared to the 22 per cent average for all other long-haul source markets.

European destinations can anticipate seeing further rebound from this market in 2024, predicted to reach 39 per cent below 2019 figures, the ETC says.

On the contrary, North American markets, such as the U.S. and Canada, have 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.

Click here to download ETC's full report. 

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