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07 June 2024

European tourism experienced strong momentum in the first quarter of 2024

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The European tourism sector has experienced a solid recovery in the first few months of 2024, according to a report by the European Travel Commission. Foreign arrivals (+7.2%) and overnight stays (+6.5%) in the first quarter of the year exceeded the 2019 figures. The recovery is largely driven by strong intra-regional travel fuelled by Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. This is coupled with demand from the US, which continues to be Europe’s most important long-haul source market.

The figures for the first quarter of this year continue the upward trend seen in 2023, which recorded foreign arrivals at 1.2% below 2019 levels, and nights at only 0.2% below them. According to Miguel Sanz, President of ETC (European Travel Commission), "the early figures for 2024 reveal a positive outlook for European tourism this year. Consumer travel spending is set to rise notably across Europe, hitting record numbers in the coming months. This boost will support the travel and tourism businesses heavily impacted by the pandemic years and ongoing economic instability. Still, high prices and geopolitical risks remain key hurdles for tourism, as the sector as a whole also strives to adopt more responsible practices to benefit the locals and preserve the environment.”

Year-to-date data shows that destinations in Southern Europe are leading the recovery in terms of international visitor numbers compared to 2019 levels, including Serbia (+47%), Bulgaria (+39%), Turkey (+35%), Malta (+35%), Portugal (+17%), and Spain (+14%). These destinations offer competitively priced holiday experiences, often combined with milder winter temperatures.

Nordic and Baltic countries

Nordic countries are also witnessing an uptake in tourist activity, as overnight stays grew above pre-pandemic levels. This increase is particularly evident for Norway (+18%), Sweden (+12%), and Denmark (+9%). This high interest is partially driven by winter sports tourism and the allure of the Northern Lights.

Meanwhile, countries in the Baltic region continue to lag behind due to challenges caused by the war in Ukraine, with Latvia registering the lowest post-pandemic international arrivals (-34%), followed by Estonia (-15%) and Lithuania (-14%).

Data from the first few months of 2024 also shows an uneven long-haul source market performance. The United States and Canada continue to dominate, reflecting 2023 trends. There was also an increase in travellers from Latin America, particularly Brazil, during the first quarter of the year. By contrast, although the APAC (Asia and Pacific) region shows signs of improvement compared to the last quarter, recovery remains modest and uneven. While Chinese travellers are beginning to return to Europe, recovery from Japan is still slow.