Travellers in Europe expected to spend €800bn this year

Overseas tourist arrivals and overnight stays to Europe surpassed pre-pandemic 2019 figures in the first half of the year, new data reveals.

Tourists in Europe are expected to spend €800.5 billion in 2024, up 13.7% over last year, according to estimates from the European Travel. Commission.

This is coming from increased operating prices, the return of high-spending tourists from the Asia Pacific region, and strong demand from events and blended business-leisure travel.

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The most significant increases in inbound spending for the year-to-date are in Spain (25%), Greece (25%), Italy (20%), and France (16%). 

Other countries such as Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania expect to see longer average stays in 2024 than the previous year, which will also result in increased tourism revenue.

Destinations in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region have seen “notable” increases in arrivals, driven by Serbia, Malta and Portugal.

Foreign arrivals (+6%) and overnights (+7%) in the second quarter of the year where above 2019 figures, reflecting a year-on-year increase of 12% and 10%, respectively. The growth was propelled by “robust” intra-regional travel from Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

The ETC also noted an increase in the number of travellers choosing off-season travel and lesser-known destinations, driven by the search for value-for-money and unique, authentic experiences. 

Albania and Montenegro (pictured) have witnessed a “remarkable” rise in market share, up 86% and 31% respectively, since 2019.

Increasing interest in travelling off the beaten track is also reflected in online conversations about European travel, which highlighted the appeal of natural island settings, such as Madeira and Norway. 

Sustainability was a key positive reputation driver for destinations, while more negative discourse focussed on the social and environmental impacts of overcrowding in traditional tourism hotspots, according to the ETC’s latest trends and prospects report.

At the same time, the growth of rail capacity is opening the door for travellers to explore new experiences and destinations. 

Germany’s national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, saw a 21% increase in international routes between 2019 and 2023, primarily benefitting neighbouring countries. 

Eurostar services have returned to pre-pandemic passenger levels, and Spanish rail operator Renfe reported selling 500,000 tickets within six months of launching an international line to France. 

“All three of these operators have plans to expand capacity in the coming years, highlighting rail’s growing importance in European tourism,” the ETC said.

But the Commission warned that “significant challenges” continue to affect the travel sector, such as the rising costs of accommodation, business operations and flights, along with staff shortages.

Despite the ongoing impact, these challenges have lessened compared to the previous quarter.

ETC president Miguel Sanz said: “It is encouraging to see the increasing diversification of the European tourism landscape this quarter. 

“This benefits both emerging destinations and established hotspots that may potentially face overcrowding. 

“Furthermore, growing tourist numbers in lesser-known areas will help small businesses still recovering from the pandemic or struggling with rising operational costs due to the current economic context. 

“We welcome a more balanced spread of tourism across Europe, contributing to the increasing sustainability of our industry.”

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