Pack Your Bags: Europe’s Tourism Industry Set to Soar in 2023
Although the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a severe blow to travel to Europe, the continent’s recovery is progressing steadily. However, it is anticipated that it will take until 2025 for Europe to return to the level of international visitors it experienced before the pandemic.
According to the European Travel Commission’s latest data, Europe had rebounded to 75 percent of its pre-pandemic travel volumes by the end of last year. The recovery is expected to continue in the coming year, albeit at a slower pace. Despite the ongoing challenges of inflation, the conflict in Ukraine, and the resulting energy crisis, the number of visitors to Europe is expected to rise.
The recently published report “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects,” which is based on data from the fourth quarter of 2022, provides a comprehensive analysis of the travel sector’s opportunities and challenges in Europe and makes projections and recommendations for 2023 and beyond.
ETC President, Luis Araujo, emphasized the importance of the travel industry’s responsiveness to consumer demand, the improvement of visitor experiences at destinations, and the targeting of markets and segments less impacted by economic slowdowns. The pent-up demand and excess savings accumulated by potential travelers during the pandemic significantly contributed to Europe’s travel recovery in 2022. As a result, globetrotters enjoyed an extended summer travel season, eager to explore the world after years of COVID lockdowns.
As per the ETC report data, almost half of the destinations in Europe have recovered over 80 percent of their pre-pandemic foreign arrivals in 2022, as compared to 2019.
Southern Mediterranean destinations showed a rapid recovery as 2022 concluded. Travelers chose affordable destinations like Turkey, amid high inflation rates, resulting in only a 2 percent drop in visitation numbers by the end of 2022, as compared to 2019. A similar trend was observed in Greece, where visitation numbers were only 6 percent lower than in 2019, and in Portugal, where visitation was down by only 7 percent from pre-pandemic levels.
On the other hand, Eastern European destinations have been the slowest to recover. The war in Ukraine has had a severe impact on destinations that depend on Russian visitors. The steepest declines in visitation have been experienced by Finland, with a decline of 38 percent, and Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, which have all reported a 42 percent decline in international visitors at the end of 2022.
The post-pandemic travel industry recovery has not been strong when it comes to long-haul travel, which is likely due to the higher expenses of overseas trips and ongoing COVID-19 safety concerns. Nevertheless, the report indicates that there was an increase in long-haul trips to Europe in the middle of 2022, primarily from the Southwest Pacific and South Asia regions.
According to the report, as the Asia Pacific region reopened in the latter half of 2022, it is anticipated that travel demand to Europe will increase in 2023. In December 2022, China terminated its three-year-old “zero-Covid” policy, and industry experts predict a gradual return of Chinese travelers to Europe in the second quarter of 2023. Meanwhile, the report suggests that visitors from the United States are leading the recovery of long-haul travel to Europe, with reasons such as the stronger US dollar against the Euro and fewer travel restrictions.