Europe tourism to grow further in 2023 despite challenges

The European Tourism Commission (ETC) predicts further growth in tourist arrivals in Europe in 2023, although it will progress at a slower pace than last year

European tourism demand entered 2023 on a strong footing, according to the latest edition of the ‘European Tourism Trends & Prospects’ quarterly report. At the end of last year, tourism inside Europe had recovered to 82% of 2019 total international tourist arrivals.

Outperforming countries in 2022 were Denmark, Luxembourg, Serbia and Turkey.

The ETC estimates now that a third of all European destinations should surpass their pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

However, the report shows that the branch needs to move faster away from mass tourism to preserve its future.

2022 European performances were strongly influenced by factors such as inflation, travel costs and flight shortage as well as the conflict in Ukraine.

The latter translated negatively for some countries in Central and Eastern Europe -such as Romania, Slovakia or the Baltic States.

Meanwhile, countries such as Serbia and Turkey outperformed other destinations, mostly due to an influx of Russian travellers, able to visit these countries visa-free. Some countries such as Denmark, Luxembourg or Portugal enjoyed strong numbers last year.

Steady growth predicted for 2023

According to the ETC’s latest performance report, the recovery of international travel in Europe should continue in 2023. However, the pace of this recovery may be slightly slower than last year against persisting issues such as of high inflation, high energy prices spilling into accommodation and transport prices, slow economic growth and further subdued flight supply.

Flight volumes had started to stall from the middle of last year and have continued to contract going into 2023, with volumes falling 14% below 2019 levels in January.

Europe tourism to grow further in 2023 despite challenges
Portugal | Credit: Lisbon-LC/Cleverdis

Meanwhile, some impulsion would now come from long-haul markets. Almost completely absent in 2022, the return of Asian tourists in 2023 brings a new dynamic element in the recovery across Europe. The ETC estimates in its latest report that arrivals and nights should be -5.6% and -1.9%, down respectively on 2019 levels in 2023. Around a third of all destinations are likely to report a full recovery in arrivals and nights since the global pandemic hit the industry.

Commenting following the publication of the report, ETC’s President Luís Araújo said: “It is encouraging to see healthy levels of recovery as we hurtle towards the summer peak season. However, many challenges still hinder the travel industry. From battling inflation to dealing with the fallout from the war in Ukraine, the travel industry has its hands full at the moment.

“Nonetheless, we must also focus on tackling longer term challenges. To preserve the sector for future generations, tourism businesses, policymakers, and destinations must strengthen their efforts to encourage responsible tourism practices, minimise negative impacts on the environment and create positive impacts on the well-being of our populations,” he added.

A sustainable approach is a must to survive

While recovery of the tourism industry is well-advanced in Europe as the continent rapidly goes into the summer peak season, the ETC warns that the tourism branch cannot go anymore on its “business-as-usual” travel approach. To preserve the sector for future generations, tourism businesses, stakeholders, policymakers, and destinations are called on to continue strengthening their efforts to minimise tourism’s impact on the environment and local communities.

At the same time, travellers must understand their carbon footprint and their impact on the destinations they visit, while the sector encourages more responsible practices and makes more sustainable travel options available. Ultimately, these approaches will allow travellers to make a positive contribution to the places they
visit and have more meaningful travel experiences. Implementing appropriate and more innovative strategies will not only allow to address current challenges but also maximise the benefits of sustainable tourism.

The edition of the European Tourism Trends & Prospects Q1 2023 insights on full year 2022 data, including for the first quarter of this year, as well as a detailed analysis of Europe’s tourism performance and its macroeconomic developments. It also contains a special section dedicated on the impact -positive and negative- on tourism of the Ukraine conflict. The report remains an important tool for all professionals to assess the current evolution of tourism in Europe.

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