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Travel and tourism in Europe - statistics & facts

Europe is the global leader in international tourism, with over 700 million inbound tourists arriving in the region each year. The rate of growth accelerated in the 2010s, as many countries became more mobile. Although a welcome development, the increase in visitor numbers brought its own challenges, as many destinations looked to find sustainable ways to cope with the high intensity of tourists. Regardless, the travel and tourism sector has had a positive impact on the European economy. In 2019, an estimated 2,191 billion euros was contributed by travel and tourism to European GDP, though this number fell by half during 2020 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic . Meanwhile, the contribution of travel and tourism to the European job market accounted for over 38 million jobs in 2019, and almost 35 million jobs in 2020, denoting a decrease of roughly nine percent over the previous year due to the health crisis.

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

The travel industry was one of the heaviest impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which led to severe reductions in the number of international tourists worldwide. The pandemic also affected domestic travel as stay-at-home orders were enacted to control the spread of the virus. In Europe, this can be seen in the large drop in European domestic tourism expenditure in 2020, which fell by 48 percent to a low of roughly 631 billion U.S. dollars.

The numbers of international tourists in Europe showed similar trends. At the beginning of the pandemic, the number of international tourist arrivals in Europe fell by 97 percent for all regions. By the beginning of 2021, tourist arrivals had still not nearly recovered to their previous levels, with Western and Northern Europe reporting the greatest reduction over the previous year. Europeans also were not traveling much during the pandemic, with European outbound travel forecast to drop by over 60 percent for all regions in 2020.

Outlook for tourism in Europe

Despite the steep costs to the travel industry in 2020, forecasts for travel in 2021 and beyond predict growth, which could be impacted by such measures as COVID-19 travel passports, aimed at mitigating the effects of the pandemic while minimizing the risk of new infections. The growth in inbound visitors to Europe, for example, was forecast to increase by over 100 percent for all regions except Western Europe in 2021. In the same vein, the revenue of the European travel and tourism market across all sectors was forecast to increase again in 2021, with revenue values expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023. Overall, outbound tourism from Europe was also predicted to bounce back after 2020, but in this case, Asia Pacific was the region forecast to have the highest growth worldwide in outbound visitors in 2021.


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