Tourists Will Contribute a Record €800 Billion to Europe’s Economy in 2024

Malta this year has received more visitors seeking fewer crowds and temperate weather. Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images (Sean Gallup/Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty )

(Bloomberg) -- Record summer temperatures, exorbitant luxury hotel rates and overcrowded hot spots: Nothing is getting in the way of a European summer vacation. At least, not yet.

A new report from the European Travel Commission on tourism spending and travel trends published in the second quarter of 2024 and shared exclusively with Bloomberg confirms that demand for the region is continuing to soar.

International tourists are projected to spend a record €800 billion in Europe this year, the report shows—that’s a 37% increase over pre-pandemic levels of €583 billion, per United Nations World Tourism Organization data. Overseas visitor arrivals are also up 6% over 2019 thus far, the report reveals, marking a fresh record for Europe.

Driving this year’s European tourism boom are Americans, the report adds, and 72% of the record tourism spend has so far taken place in western European destinations. Further revenue boosts have come from intra-regional visitors and returning East Asian tourists, notably from China, though Chinese travelers’ spend contribution was not immediately available, ETC said.

“For now, we can see that southern European and Mediterranean destinations remain firm favorites for travelers in Europe,” said Eduardo Santander, chief executive officer at European Travel Commission, in an emailed statement. That’s because tourists continue to prioritize warm weather and value-for-money, he added, both of which can still be found in parts of southern Europe.  

That’s the case with Greece, for example, despite experiencing increased climate impacts including heat waves this year and wildfires last year. The latter haven’t had any impact on the destination’s appeal, the report states. Indeed, the country has seen fancy-yet-affordable hotel options proliferate this year, most of them away from the pricier haunts of Santorini and Mykonos. 

But northern destinations are fast gaining market share. In fact, the data confirm a shift in European tourism patterns is already underway: More visitors flocked to destinations with temperate weather and fewer crowds in the first half of this year. This ongoing rise in “coolcations” has led to notable increases in international overnight stays for Denmark (+38%), Norway (+18%) and Sweden (+9%), year-to-date relative to 2019. 

There’s also a growing preference for lesser-visited or less-crowded European destinations in the south, the report shows: Overseas tourist arrivals for Croatia and Malta rose 7.6% and 37% above 2019 levels, respectively, while Albania’s share of overnight tourist arrivals has risen by 86% compared with 2019 levels.

Places with a favorable currency exchange are soaring in popularity, too, whether they’re off-the-beaten-track or not—Bulgaria (+29%), Serbia (+40%) and Turkey (+22%) experienced double-digit growth in international tourist arrivals over pre-pandemic levels. 

As far as online perceptions of Europe, which the report also tracks, the region scored higher than others around the world, according to the ETC, with a score of 46 out of 100 for the second quarter of 2024. In second and third place were the Middle East and Asia Pacific, with scores of 45 and about 35, respectively. Social sentiment measurements are a result of tracking discussions and information on destinations shared on social media, forums, blogs, company websites and online reviews. Zero is considered the middle point, with equally positive and negative mentions.

One thing travelers have soured on is overtourism in popular destinations. But the challenge in some places has resulted in opportunity for others. That explains why places such as Magerøya in Norway, Bornholm in Denmark and Iona in Scotland are gaining attention. 

Encouraging tourists to venture to under-the-radar locations is key to spreading the benefits brought in by international travelers across Europe, says Santander, especially as small businesses face economic pressures, including higher operational costs and staffing shortages. 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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