European Tourism Trends in 2012

With 2012 nearing its close, a number of statistics about the first half of the year have been released that showcase perhaps not ecstatic news for...

With 2012 nearing its close, a number of statistics about the first half of the year have been released that showcase perhaps not ecstatic news for the travel industry, but certainly much better news than what might have been expected considering the current economy. Here is a look at some of the trends and predictions within the travel and tourism industry within Europe.

European Tourism Trends in 2012


In 2011, according to UNWTO Tourism Highlights, demand for international tourism maintained momentum and international tourist arrivals grew by 4.6%, up from 940 million in 2010 to 983 million. Europe was the fasting growing region worldwide.

International tourist arrivals in Europe


As of the start of the peak season in 2012, in their quarterly report, European Tourism reports that travel in Europe is holding the course that was established earlier in the year with most destinations seeing continued visitor growth.  European air carriers also reported continued strength on European routes.


The first half of 2012 for European travel has exhibited at least some resilience despite a weak and uncertain global economic environment with most destinations experiencing growth in both foreign visits and overnight stays.


Eastern and Central Europe continue to be hot spots, performing well withLativa, Poland, Lithuania and Romania experiencing visitor increases of upwards of 10%. In the United Kingdom, they’ve experienced a 5% increase, while the Republic of Ireland had a slight decrease in visitors.


European Tourism : Foreign visits to select destinations

While there has been a slowdown in international air travel, it still continues to expand. February 2012 showed rather strong growth at 9.3%, while the spring brought slight drops of 7.4% in April and 5.6% in May.



2012 Tourism Performance Summary


Arrivals and nights’ data have showcased the strong performance in Eastern and Central Europe while the large Western European destinations such as Germany, the UK, Austria and Spain also posted growth in the first five months of 2012.

Hotel performance covering a larger number of countries do present a more mixed picture of performance, with the 16 of 26 reported countries show occupancy declines through May of 2012.


Occupancy trends in Europe


Both foreign visits and foreign visitor nights show growth over the past year in many Eastern European countries suggesting that travelers may be seeking more travel bargains in destinations that tend to be less expensive.



Long-term forecasts


Visitor growth forecasts expect the largest growth to come from the Middle East at 13.5% with Asia and the Pacific following close behind at 13.1%, Africa at 9% and 6.5% for the Americas. Within the both the EU and non-EU countries it is expected to slightly increase at 2.9%.


Air-Transport Stats


Air travel demand has been encouraging with European airline passenger growth exceeding 5% through mid-April. Despite the signs of a more pronounced economic slowdown, international air travel has continued to expand.


Europe: Airline passengers load factor


While there are uncertainties in Europe and North America, air capacity in those regions have risen, although only marginally as the year has progressed. The Middle East has led the growth, which continues to record the strongest increase while Africa has also seen a renewal in air traffic. On a global level, the results are said to be indicative of a rebound in 2012, following the modest growth that was seen in 2011.



European Hotel Performance: January – May 2012


Occupancy rates of European hotels have mostly trended toward flat. Hotels in Eastern and Northern Europe have experienced the largest increases in occupancy through May; however, Western Europe occupancy rates are essentially flat and rates in Southern Europe have fallen.


Europe-  Hotel Performance


Country-specific data has shown that there are many areas performing well, especially in Central and Eastern Europe such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland and Hungary who have all recorded at least 10% increases.


Outside of those areas, only Iceland and Ireland have experienced robust growth between January and May.



Key intra-European Markets


In key intra-European markets, the first half of 2012 shows that travel from Germany expanded to most destinations throughout Europe. The biggest growth was in German-to-Eastern European destinations, including Romania, Estonia and Lithuania. Travel to these countries increased by over 15%.

Travel from German to more expensive Western European destinations such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy stalled during that same time period. Visits from Germany also increased fairly significantly in the nations of Latvia, Serbia, Malta, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.


Visits from The Netherlands also expanded strongly in the first half of 2012 with the three leading countries the Dutch traveling to including Lithuania, Latvia and Croatia. The French travel market remained mixed. Of 19 recorded destinations, six experienced declines. The biggest growth was seen in the countries of Serbia, Cyprus and Slovakia.


Within Italy, the situation was similar to France, also recording uneven results. Six of 18 destinations showed declines while Italians preferring Serbia, Cyprus and Slovenia where growth increased.


In the United Kingdom, while there was steady growth early in the year, the market worsened slightly with 9 of 19 reporting destinations experiencing a decline in the number of UK visits. Again, growth destinations were in the majority in Eastern Europe where there are lower cost and lower volume markets that aren’t indicative of a healthy UK outbound market. The growth trend for UK outbound is show to have weakened.


Visits from UK to Europe destinations


Visits from US to destinations in Europe





While the uncertain economic backdrop has not yet caused significant falls in tourism, the trend seems to be one of slowing growth. Encouraging signs are seen within air travel with European airlines experience passenger growth around 6% through mid-June.  On average, European airline load factors have strengthened and continued to rise, on average.

Hotels are showing mixed signs of performance through Europe with destinations in Central and Eastern Europe performing much better on average. In Southern Europe destinations have experienced declines in hotel occupancy between January and May. Overall, data suggests a moderation in hotel occupancy rates in most European sub-regions is apparent.

Tourism arrivals data overall during the first half of 2012 seem to be revealing an uneven picture of growth in the major European markets.




A quarterly insights report produced for the Market Intelligence Group of the European Travel Commission (ETC)
by Tourism Economics (an Oxford Economics Company)


European Tourism & Travel Trends in 2013



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