According to the latest edition of the quarterly report “European Tourism Trends & Prospects” published by the European Tourism Commission (ETC), European tourism experienced a strong rebound in the first quarter of the year, with foreign arrivals and overnight stays exceeding 2019 levels. The recovery is mainly driven by strong travel demand from Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The United States remains Europe’s most important long-term source market. However, disparities between regions and source markets remain, with some regions still struggling due to the conflict in Ukraine and other geopolitical risks. Sporting events, high travel demand and inflation are driving tourism spending to record levels. France and Germany are expected to see further growth due to the Olympics and Euro 2024. Prices and geopolitical risks remain a challenge for tourism, but consumer demand remains strong.

Early year figures show that Southern European destinations are leading the recovery in 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. The Nordic countries are also experiencing a boom in tourism activity as the number of nights spent has risen above pre-plague levels. This increase is particularly noticeable in Norway (+18%), Sweden (+12%) and Denmark (+9%). The strong interest is partly due to winter sports tourism and the magic of the northern lights. Meanwhile, the countries of the Baltic region continue to lag behind due to the challenges of the war in Ukraine, with Latvia having the lowest number of international arrivals post-epidemic (-34%), followed by Estonia (-15%) and Lithuania (-14%).

Inflationary pressures and geopolitical uncertainties remain a major concern for the European tourism industry. The war in Ukraine continues to impact tourism, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, the war between Israel and Hamas is currently having a significant impact on travel from Israel to Europe, with arrivals to Israel down 54% year-on-year in the first quarter of reported destinations.

Consumer data also shows that travel will remain a priority in 2024. Both intra-Europe and long-haul tourism spending increased in early 2024. Travellers are forecast to spend €742.8 billion in Europe this year, an increase of 14.3% compared to 2023. This is attributed to both inflation and changing travel preferences, as travellers potentially opt for longer stays or more varied experiences. Germany will be the main source of travellers’ spending, accounting for 16% of total European spending in 2024.

This summer brings two major sporting events to Europe: the Olympic Games in France and the UEFA European Football Championship in Germany. Inbound spending is forecast to increase by 13% in Paris and 24% in France as a whole compared to 2019. The Euro 2024 will be less concentrated in the German capital, with games taking place in ten cities. This is expected to share the traffic and all participating cities will see a significant increase in tourism revenues (European Travel Commission).