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Tourism to become economic driver in 2012

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72% of EU citizens travelled in 2011, and more than 80% said that they would do so in 2012, choosing to go either on short trips or longer holidays. These are the results of the new Eurobarometer survey on the attitudes of Europeans towards tourism, which also sheds light on the preferences and travel patterns of EU citizens.

The Eurobarometer revealed also that in 2011 more citizens chose to stay in Europe for their holidays; many more have said they will do so in 2012.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "Our continent's cultural and natural richness, and long-standing traditions of hospitality, are still close to the hearts of Europeans. 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".

The preferences of European tourists

The Eurobarometer survey provides interesting insights into the preferences of European travellers:

  • The majority of EU-residents are confident travellers, who prefer arranging their holidays by themselves: 53% of Europeans booked their holidays via internet. As informed and empowered consumers, 49% of those who went on holiday in 2011 organised the various elements of their trip separately, rather than booking them altogether in one package.
  • But they still rely on recommendations from family and friends about where to go. "Word of mouth" was relevant to 52% of EU travellers, more than internet websites (40%).
  • Travelling is done mostly by car and motorbike. Those who travelled in 2011 preferred to travel by these means of transport (78%), much more than in 2010 (44%). However, 2011 also recorded a slight increase in the use of aeroplanes compared to 2010 (46% compared to 39%).
  • Nights are spent mostly in hotels or rented accommodation: European travellers chose to stay in paid-for accommodations, regardless of the length of their holidays (this applied to 54% of those who went on short trips and 60% of those who spent at least four nights away).
  • European travellers seek rest and recreation: 48% of those who went on holidays in 2011 had this objective in mind, more than in 2010 (36%), followed by "sun and beach" and "visiting family and friends" (28%).
  • They value natural beauty and quality service: more than 50% of EU residents would go back to the same place, for its natural features. More than 90% of EU respondents were satisfied with their choice of destination and with the quality of the accommodation.
  • 72% of Europeans travelled in 2011: the proportion of EU citizens who went away last year (72%) remained substantially unchanged compared to last year’s survey. European travellers preferred their own country (Greece 80%, Italy 74%, Croatia 73%), or another country in the EU. Spain was the most visited country in 2011 (11%), followed by Italy (9%), France (8%), Germany (5%), Austria (5%) and Greece (4%).
  • and Europeans will travel in 2012: 73% of the respondents will not give up to their holidays despite the crisis, although 33% have had to change their original plans. 41% of respondents who will travel in 2012 are planning longer holidays (between 4 and 13 nights), rather than short–stay trips (27%). Preference will be given again to their own country (52%) or to another country in the EU (37%). Preferred destinations in 2012 will be Spain (10%), Italy (7%), France (6%), Greece (4%), Austria, United Kingdom and Germany (3%).

The Eurobarometer survey

For this Eurobarometer survey, over 30,000 randomly selected citizens aged 15 and over were interviewed in January 2012 in the 27 EU Member States as well as in Norway, Iceland, Croatia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Israel.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the European Commission has carried out such an extensive survey, which offers a wealth of comparable information to all tourism stakeholders, presented analytically in country specific and demographic categories. It helps to monitor the short and medium term travel and tourism trends of European citizens.

This allows both the Commission and its stakeholders to react to changes in tourism demand, and is therefore an important instrument for tourism policy-making as well as for tourism industry planning, in particular as regards the types of tourism and the main tourism destinations.

Background

According to Eurostat, the European tourist-accommodation sector reached in 2011 record numbers in the EU 27, surpassing pre-crisis results. Nights spent by non-residents in hotels and other similar establishments went up by more than 7%, whereas nights spent by residents went up by 1.2%

The highest numbers of nights spent in hotels by non-residents were recorded in Spain (+14,7%) and Italy (+ 3.9%), whereas the largest increase of nights spent by residents in hotels were recorded in Lithuania (+20.6%), Bulgaria (+15.0%) and Romania (+13.4%).

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