ETC: European tourism just 1.6% below pre-pandemic levels

By Kristiane Sherry |

European tourism ETC

Europe international traveller numbers are on the cusp of fully recovering from the pandemic. 

International European tourism now stands at 1.6% below 2019 figures, new data from the European Travel Commission (ETC) suggest.

The passenger figures represent the final quarter of 2023, when nights stayed were just 0.6% behind pre-pandemic figures. 

ETC said the data shows “resilient” travel demand across the continent, with the recovery remaining strong despite inflationary pressures. 

The figures were published in ETC’s latest European Tourism Trends & Prospects, published today [13 February].

Despite the strong overall figures, the number of Chinese arrivals to Europe only reached 67% of pre-pandemic levels. 

While North America also saw a slower recovery, two-thirds of European destinations saw increases in passenger numbers from Canada and the US. 

Instead, recovery is stemming from intra-European travel, with “strong” passenger numbers from Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Value-for-money destinations were in particularly high demand, with two-thirds of destinations either reporting a full recovery, or with numbers within 10% of 2019 figures. 

Frontrunners included Serbia, which saw a 15% surge in arrivals. Also popular were Portugal (+11%), Montenegro (+10%), Türkiye (+9%), and Malta (+8%). These destinations are likely to be attracting price-conscious travellers with all-inclusive packages. 

Other countries seeing increases on 2019 figures include a 12% increase in travel to Iceland – despite the volcanic eruptions – and The Netherlands. 

Countries seeing a slower rebound include Lithuania (-32%), Latvia (-29%), Estonia (-27%), and Finland (-24%), which all border Russia

“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.

“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.”

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