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Travel and tourism in Europe - statistics & facts

Europe is the global leader in international tourism, accounting for roughly two-thirds of international tourist arrivals worldwide. The growth rate of inbound tourism in the region accelerated in the 2010s, with Europe reporting a peak of 745 million international visitors in 2019. With the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, the volume of inbound tourists dropped dramatically, as lockdowns and emergency measures adopted during the health crisis disrupted non-essential travel worldwide. In 2021, the total contribution of travel and tourism to European GDP partially recovered from the impact of COVID-19, amounting to 1,450 billion U.S. dollars. While this figure rose by 28 percent from 2020, it remained way below pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, the contribution of travel and tourism to the European job market grew by nearly five percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, with these industries generating, directly and indirectly, approximately 35 thousand jobs.

Tourism in Europe during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic turned international travel in Europe upside down, as tourists preferred domestic visits over trips abroad due to different travel bans adopted across the region and the level of uncertainty related to the health crisis. At the beginning of the pandemic, the number of international tourist arrivals in Europe fell by over 90 percent. Even though this scenario gradually improved during the following months, inbound tourist arrivals in the region were 39 percent lower in March 2022 compared to 2019. With the sharp drop in inbound visitors came a decline in international tourism expenditure in Europe, which more than halved between 2019 and 2021.

On the other hand, while the domestic tourism expenditure in Europe did not catch up with pre-pandemic figures, it grew by 34 percent in 2021, totaling nearly 897 billion U.S. dollars. That year, domestic travelers represented around 75 percent of total travel and tourism spending in Europe, denoting an increase of 11 percentage points from 2019. Meanwhile, after falling significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic, outbound tourism in Europe was estimated to report moderate year-over-year growth in 2021 and then bounce back in 2022.

Travel planning and behavior of European tourists

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, a 2022 study showed that European travelers favored trips to domestic and neighboring destinations over countries outside Europe. As of May 2022, roughly 57.5 percent of respondents intended to travel to a close-by European destination or a country within Europe in the following six months, while around 31 percent mentioned visiting their own countries. When focusing on travel and tourism within the region, Mediterranean countries ranked as the most popular choices, with Spain, France, and Italy being the favorite destinations for European travelers.

Overall, roughly 73 percent of surveyed European travelers expressed their intention to take a trip domestically or in Europe as of May 2022, while nearly 77 percent claimed the same in March 2022. The decreased intention to travel might be due to a series of factors, such as the impact of inflation on travel and tourism and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which ranked as the main concerns of Europeans about trips in Europe as of May 2022.

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