European Tourism Returned to Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023, ETC Report Reveals

Despite inflationary pressures, European tourism’s robust rebound towards the end of 2023 signals a promising recovery nearing pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest ‘European Tourism Trends & Prospects’ quarterly report by the European Travel Commission (ETC).

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While foreign tourist arrivals and nights remain slightly below 2019 figures, resilient travel demand persists across the continent and is anticipated to extend into 2024, reports.

The revival, urged by strong intra-EU travel from key markets such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands, also sees a gradual increase in long-haul arrivals, albeit at a slower pace evident between regions such as Asia-Pacific and North America.

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. However, the return to pre-pandemic levels will also put pressure on accelerating the sustainable transition of the travel industry.

Miguel Sanz, ETC’s President

As the ETC report explains, two-thirds of destinations report either a full recovery or arrivals within ten per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with southern European destinations leading the charge, benefiting from favourable weather and affordable travel costs.

The Southern European destinations that showed growth in terms of the number of arrivals are as follows:

  • Serbia
  • Portugal
  • Montenegro
  • Türkiye
  • Malta

Despite the challenges, countries such as Iceland and the Netherlands also show notable rebounds, while Eastern European destinations bordering Russia face a slower recovery.

The ETC further noted that the recovery unfolds against a backdrop of inflationary pressures affecting both industry and tourists alike, with the fourth quarter of last year seeing a 23 per cent increase compared to 2019 levels, particularly impacting international flights, package holidays, and hotel prices.

Despite the strain on household finances, most travellers remain undeterred, with price pressures easing slightly in the final months 2023.

Moreover, in the area of ​​long-haul travel, the return of Chinese tourists since China’s reopening has been gradual, with arrivals in 2023 remaining well below pre-pandemic levels.

On the other hand, North American markets, particularly the United States and Canada, are showing significant recovery, with reported increases in arrivals and nights, along with innovative developments in sustainable travel options such as combined flight reservation systems and rail to Europe, introduced by American and Canadian airlines.