While tourism arrivals in Europe stand just 3.2% below 2019 levels, countries bordering Russia and Ukraine are seeing numbers suppressed by as much as 33%, European Travel Commission (ETC) data shows.
According to the European Tourism Trends & Prospects quarterly report released today (7 November), 65% of reporting destinations were still below pre-pandemic levels for international arrivals.
Despite this, the publication said, full recovery is expected in 2024, a year earlier than forecast.
By the close of 2023, international tourism numbers across Europe are expected to stand at 91% of pre-pandemic levels.
Year-to-date data shows Southern European and Mediterranean destinations have surpassed 2019 tourism numbers.
Frontrunners include Serbia with a 15% increase, Montenegro (+14%), and Portugal (+11%). Also ahead were Turkey (+8%) and Malta and Greece (both +7%).
Eastern European markets neighbouring Russia and Ukraine remained hardest hit. ETC said this was due to a prior reliance on Russian travellers.
From a travel perspective, the implications of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is having the greatest impact on Lithuania, where passenger numbers are down 33% on 2019 levels.
International travel to Latvia (-30%) and Estonia (-27%) are also strongly affected.
ETC also noted that Israel’s military action in Gaza could have a knock-on effect for markets including France, Turkey and Romania which are popular with Israeli travellers.
Europe cost-of-living continues to hit tourism
Another travel trend highlighted in the report includes a preference for affordability and off-peak travel as the cost-of-living crisis continues.
Tourists are now placing a greater emphasis on value for money, however travel is still prioritised over other discretionary expenses.
Markets perceived as more affordable, and those with favourable exchange rates, are proving popular. Examples include Turkey and Bulgaria.
Package holiday destinations, including Portugal and Spain, are also seeing high demand, according to ETC data.
A wider range of destinations are being considered compared to the pre-pandemic period. Trending locations include Montenegro, Albania and Croatia.
While travel is holding up against other leisure spend, travellers are increasingly looking to reduce the cost of their holiday, ETC said.
Tactics include booking well in advance, considering ‘shoulder season’ and off-peak trips, and taking advantage of package deals with essential costs already paid for.
An ‘encouraging rebound’
“Despite persistent economic and geopolitical challenges, it is encouraging to observe the ongoing rebound of European tourism,” said Miguel Sanz, ETC President.
“However, we must acknowledge that the true measure of tourism success extends beyond the number of visitors and nights spent at a destination. It is essential to also consider and evaluate its impact on nature, local businesses, and the resident population.
“As Europe’s tourism industry recovers, we should strive to develop innovative, sustainable metrics to better define its overall health and progress.”
The full European Tourism Trends & Prospects is available to download now from the ETC website.
Last year, the European Travel Commission said there was a “strong appetite for travel” as tourism numbers recovered.