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Latest trends in European Tourism

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Tourism has a huge impact on the EU economy affecting up to 14 million jobs. A 2012 survey offers an interesting insight into the preferences of European tourists and shows that 73% of the EU respondents plan to travel this year.

According to the Eurobarometer survey the majority (52%) intend to visit a destination in their own country, while 37% plan to take a holiday outside their borders, while staying within the borders of the EU. Unsurprisingly, sunny countries are the big draws with Spain leading the pack as the top destination, followed by Italy, France and Greece.  And while just over a quarter will limit their holiday to three nights or less, 41% still plan to take a longer break somewhere between four and 13 consecutive nights.

"Our continent's cultural and natural richness, and long-standing traditions of hospitality, are still close to the hearts of Europeans," said Antonio Tajani, European Commission Vice-President in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship. "The European Tourism sector has performed well, and it even grew in 2011. Our data underline that the sector will further improve in 2012. This confirms that travel and tourism are powerful economic drivers for the European recovery."

What tourism can do for the EU

It’s clear that tourism plays an important role in the EU economy. Across this sector, 1.8 million companies, including small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), account for five percent of the EU gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. In real terms this means that between 12 and 14 million Europeans find jobs tied in some way to tourism. Such jobs can have an effect on other sectors as the tourism infrastructure feeds local development and can take up the slack after jobs are lost due to a decline in other activities.

European travel in 2011

The Eurobarometer survey helps to identify attitudes of EU citizens towards tourism. Most Europeans travelled in 2011 with the poll indicating that 72% of them went away for either business or pleasure for at least one night.

Evaluating each country individually also reflects this trend, with at least 50% or more of a country’s citizens travelling for one or more nights.

At the same time, the younger people were more likely to travel in 2011. A total of 79% of 15 to 24-year-olds went away for one night compared to 65% for those over 55.

Choosing and booking a destination

Many EU citizens rely on personal recommendations to make decisions about where to go on holiday: more than 50% said they consider a destination because a friend, colleague or relative recommended it. At the same time 40% indicated information on the internet played a part in their decision, and personal experience is rated high with 32% saying this influences their decision.

The majority of EU-residents prefer arranging their holidays by themselves, with 53% of Europeans booking trips and accommodations via internet. Nights are spent mostly in hotels or rented accommodation and this applies both to short trips and longer stays (four days or more).

Healthy and quality holidays

Nearly half of those surveyed, go away to get some rest and recreation, which includes wellness and health treatment holidays. 28% achieve this by getting some sun or going to the beach, whereas enjoying nature (mountain, lake, landscape) is the motivation for 18% of EU holiday makers. A third went on holidays to spend time with their families.

Over 90% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the natural features and the quality of accommodation at their holiday destination.

Second time visitors

The factors that draw people back for a second visit were also examined.  More than half of Europeans could be lured back by a destination’s weather or nature, such as a spectacular beach or warm places to linger for hours in good weather.  A third indicated they’d go back if they were satisfied by the accommodation and a quarter said that if prices matched their budget, this would persuade them to return.

Tourism Strategy

The EU’s tourism strategy is divided up into four main areas:

  • Improving European tourism sector competitiveness;
  • Promoting sustainable, responsible and quality tourism;
  • Enhancing Europe’s image as home to sustainable and top-quality destinations;
  • Maximising the potential of EU policies and financial instruments to develop European tourism.

An example of a European initiative that tackles these objectives is EDEN (European destination of excellence), which rewards emerging and less-common tourist destinations that promote a   social, cultural and sustainable development path. The award receives press coverage and puts the destination on the European travel map.


'Co-operatives, Mutuals, CSR and Support of Tourism Industry' Unit
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry

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