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Inbound tourism in European countries - statistics & facts

Inbound tourism refers to non-resident visitors to a certain country from other areas of the world. It is particularly relevant for the travel and tourism industry in Europe, and often has seasonal patterns. While the number of inbound tourist arrivals worldwide has steadily increased over the last decade, Europe has remained the leading market worldwide for inbound tourism with nearly 750 million inbound tourists in 2019 alone. With so many inbound travelers, the impact to European economy is evident. The spending of international tourists in Europe reached nearly 640 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, though this fell by over 60 percent in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Leading countries for inbound tourism in Europe

While Europe as a whole is the leading destination for international tourists worldwide, certain regions and countries are more popular for inbound tourism. In 2019, Southern and Mediterranean Europe was the region with the most international tourist arrivals in Europe, welcoming over 300 million inbound visitors. Northern Europe reported the least amount of inbound tourists that year. According to the latest figures published by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), southern European countries such as Spain, Italy, and Turkey reported some of the largest numbers of international tourist arrivals by country in Europe. However, France topped the list with nearly 90 million inbound tourists arriving there in 2018 alone. When looking at the spending of international tourists in Europe by country in 2019, Spain reported the highest expenditure, though inbound tourist spending in France was not far behind.

Inbound tourism in Europe during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, international tourism worldwide ground to a halt as travel restrictions and border closures emerged in efforts to contain the spread of the virus. The number of monthly international tourist arrivals in Europe fell to just under two million in April 2020, a dramatic decline from the nearly 60 million inbound travelers arriving in the same month one year prior. Summer of 2020, normally the peak season for inbound tourism, also saw just a fraction of the tourist volume of the previous year. When looking at the change in monthly arrivals in Europe over the previous year, Southern and Mediterranean Europe saw a drop of 65 percent in arrivals during the peak summer season in 2020 compared to the previous year. This reduction in visitors in the summer of 2020 was less dramatic than at the beginning of the pandemic, but towards the end of 2020 the decline in inbound visitors worsened once more and dropped to an 80 percent reduction over the previous year.

Following the massive decline in inbound visitors to Europe in 2020, growth in inbound visitors to Europe in 2021 is forecast to surge by nearly 150 percent in most regions, with Central and Eastern Europe expected to show the highest growth. Western Europe is expected to reach a 50 percent growth in inbound visitors in 2021, then all regions are forecast to start to level off to a growth of under 20 percent each in subsequent years. Future growth in inbound visitors has the potential to be influenced by the introduction of COVID-19 travel passports, which aim to kickstart international tourism while minimizing risks of spreading the virus.

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