March 7, 2023

ETC confirms return of long-haul travel to Europe

During the ITB Media Monday on March 6, the European Travel Commission (ETC) highlighted the rebound of long-haul markets to Europe. Particularly from the United States, according to ETC President Luis Araujo

Europe expects a full recovery of its long haul markets by 2024.

Europe remains one of the most dynamic tourism markets in the world after experiencing a strong rebound in international arrivals in 2022. Long-haul markets have however fallen short of expectations, explained Luis Araujo, the President of ETC at the commission’s ITB Berlin press conference on Monday. While short-haul travel to Europe in 2022 performed 15% lower than 2019 numbers, long-haul was still 43% behind pre-pandemic figures.

But an acceleration in the rebound of long-haul markets is on the cards this year according to a panel of experts at the ETC conference. The commission predicts that long haul travel will be back to pre-pandemic numbers by 2024. Overseas outbound markets are now enjoying a relatively quick recovery as vital air links are restored and travel restrictions lifted.

“Long-haul generated up to 25% of all arrivals prior to 2020. They were back last year to 19% and we expect they should grow steadily. The USA is very close to its pre-pandemic levels at 80% recovery rate. We expect they will reach 2019 levels in 2024”, explained David Goodger from Tourism Economics.

One of the main markets to focus on is China. “Chinese outbound was the boom market of the 2010s”, said Tom Jenkins, President of the European Tourism Association, which represents the private sector. “Chinese arrivals in Europe rose by 350% representing 10% of all non-EU stays”, he added. The recovery in the Chinese market is on the way but is proving to be slower than originally planned. Lingering problems are blocking air fares due to a lack of connections. Inflation and economic difficulties in China are other elements feeding a more cautious approach. But China is due to be back although the three panelists estimate that China outbound full recovery will mostly happen in 2024.

According to Tom Jenkins, steps have been taken to speed up China’s recovery such as simplified visa processing and the return of additional flights, which will likely bring air ticket prices down. In February, the European Union suggested that pre-departure testing requirements should be dropped.

Photo: Luis Araujo, President ETC, David Goodger, Tourism Economics and Tom Jenkins, President ETOA – © Messe Berlin GmbH

Europe invites the curious

The ETC’s campaign aims to promote Europe to niche markets. “Europe stands for many values and we want to highlight them to our travellers. We promote democracy, freedom and the rule of law. This is the idea behind the slogan “Europe invites the curious,” explains Luis Araujo. Niche themes are “Nature & outdoors”, “History & Ancestry” and “Creative Cities”.

An issue that the ETC is also tackling is the visa delivery for EU countries. “It is one of our top concerns on our agenda. Speeding up the visa system to reinforce a seamless travel experience is a priority. We are talking with the European Commission about it,” told Araujo.