Tourism statistics - characteristics of tourism trips

Data extracted in May 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: July 2018.

This article is part of the Eurostat online publication Tourism trips of Europeans providing recent statistics on tourism demand in the European Union (EU) and EFTA countries.

The article takes a closer look at trips that EU residents (aged 15 and over) made in 2015, with a focus on the characteristics of these trips. Specific aspects such as top destinations, seasonality and expenditure on tourism trips are dealt with in more detail elsewhere in other articles of this publication. This article concentrates on analysis for the European Union at aggregate level. More detailed information at country level is available in the online database).

Table 1: Trips, nights spent and average length of trips made by EU residents by destination, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tntot)
Figure 1: Trips made by EU-28 residents by purpose, duration and destination, 2015 (million) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttpur)
Table 2: Trips made by EU residents by duration and destination, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw)
Figure 2: Trips made by EU-28 residents by duration, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttls)
Table 3: Trips made by EU-28 residents by duration, destination and purpose, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttls)
Figure 3: Nights spent by EU-28 residents by main means of accommodation, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tnac)
Figure 4: Trips made by EU-28 residents by main means of transport, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttr)
Table 4: Trips made by EU residents by main means of transport, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tttr)
Figure 5: Trends in number of trips, nights spent and average duration of trips made by EU-28 residents, 2005-2015 (index: 2005=100) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq), (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tnq), (tour_dem_tntot)

Main statistical findings

During 2015, EU residents made 1 172 million trips with overnight stays - regardless of destination and duration. Of these, 10.6 % were trips for professional purposes, while the remaining 89.4 % were trips made for personal purposes (see Table 1, Figure 1). The highest number of trips was made by residents of Germany (247.9 million trips) and France (199.2 million trips), followed by the United Kingdom (159.4 million trips, 2013 data) and Spain (136.4 million trips). The trips made by the residents of these four countries accounted for 63.4 % of all EU residents' trips.

On average for the EU, three out of four trips were domestic trips. In two Member States, at least 90 % of trips made by their residents had a main destination within the country: Romania (93.9 %) and Spain (90.8 %). In only four Member States, outbound trips accounted for more than half of all tourism trips: Luxembourg (98.6 %), Belgium (76.7 %), Malta (66.3 %) and Slovenia (65.1 %).

More than half of all tourism trips made in the course of 2015 were short domestic breaks of one to three overnight stays (50.9 % of all tourism trips, see Table 2). Trips of four nights or more accounted for 41.8 % of all tourism trips (23.8 % with a domestic destination and 17.9 % with a destination outside the country of residence).

Europeans like to go on holiday in their own country of residence

For the EU on average, 74.8 % of all tourism trips in 2015 were spent in the country of residence. In all but four Member States, domestic trips outnumbered trips with a destination abroad (see Table 2). However, more than two thirds of all domestic trips were short breaks of one to three overnight stays (see Table 3). Given the relatively short duration of domestic trips (on average 4.0 nights, as compared to 8.4 nights for outbound trips, see Table 1), the proportion of nights spent on domestic trips within all tourism nights was - at 58.3 % - significantly lower than the 74.8 % share of domestic trips in all tourism trips. The highest number of domestic trips was in France, with more than 175 million accounting for 20.0 % of all domestic trips made by Europeans. As regards outbound trips, German tourists came top, with nearly 84 million trips abroad (28.3 % of all outbound trips made by Europeans).

The EU is an attractive destination for its residents

More than three out of four outbound trips had a main destination in another EU Member State, accounting for 225.4 million trips out of a total of 295.6 million outbound trips. Taking into account the 876.7 million domestic trips, this means that 94.0 % of all trips with overnight stays that EU residents made in 2015 were within the European Union. Even when restricting the analysis to longer trips of at least four overnight stays – more likely to be further away from home – 87.8 % were spent within the EU. Only in four Member States was the share of trips outside the EU over 10 %: Croatia (13.0 %, of which more than half to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina), Luxembourg (12.8 %), Lithuania (12.3 %) and Belgium (10.4 %) (see Table 2). There is more detailed information on the destinations EU residents chose for their trips in a separate article.

Most tourism trips are short, up to three overnight stays

In 2015, 58.2 % of the tourism trips that EU residents made were short, a maximum of three overnight stays (see Table 2 and Figure 2). More than three out of four trips made by residents of Latvia and Estonia, were short trips. Only in four Member States, the number of long trips exceeded the number of short trips: Greece (69.0 %), (Belgium (57.2 %), Luxembourg (56.2 %) and Malta (53.8 %).

Taking together the short trips of one to three nights with the 25.1 % of trips lasting four to seven nights, a dominant share of 83.3 % of all trips made in 2015 lasted a maximum of one week (within the segment of trips for professional purposes this share rose to 93.1 %). Only 5.5 % of all trips were longer than two weeks (See Table 3).

More than one in nine trips was for professional purposes

Nearly half the tourism trips (48.5 %) had holidays, leisure and recreation as the main purpose, and 36.6 % were to visit relatives and friends. The latter accounted for a big share of short trips and of domestic trips (see Figure 1). In total, - including other purposes such as pilgrimages or health treatment – trips for personal purposes made up 89.3 % of all tourism trips in 2015.

In 2015, EU residents made nearly 124.8 million trips for professional purposes (e.g. business trips), 10.6 % of the total number of tourism trips. The proportion was slightly higher for short trips (13.6 %) and outbound trips (11.7 %).

Over half of all overnight stays were in rented accommodation

EU residents made a total of 6.0 billion overnight stays during tourism trips in 2015 (see Table 1). More than half of these nights (53.9 %) were spent in rented accommodation (see Figure 3). Hotels or similar accommodation providing services such as daily cleaning and bed-making came on top with 30.1 % , while 7.6 % were spent at campsites (including caravan or trailer parks) and the remaining 16.2 % in other types of paid accommodation (e.g. rented holiday dwelling, youth hostel, mountain hut).

In 2015, EU residents spent an estimate EUR 145 billion on tourist accommodation (For more detailed information on tourism expenditure, see separate article).

Rented accommodation was more prevalent for outbound trips (68.4 %), while tourists travelling within their own country were more likely to stay at non-rented accommodation (56.3 %), provided mainly for free by friends or relatives (39.9 %) or at their own holiday homes (14.3 %).

Air travel main means of transport for over half of all outbound trips

Motor vehicles (private or rented) were the main means of transport for 64.8 % of all trips, followed by air and railway transport (15.6 % and 11.0 %, respectively, see Figure 4). Other modes of transport were relatively insignificant, though the pattern can be very different at country level. Waterways were the main means of transport for 39.1 % of trips that residents of Malta made and 17.4 % of trips made by Greek residents, while in Croatia residents took buses for 21.6 % of their trips (see Table 4).

Air transport was the preferred means of transport for outbound trips (53.3 %), while for domestic trips EU residents travelled mainly by motor vehicles (76.2 %), followed by rail (13.3 %).

Crisis had limited impact on tourism

The main trends in EU residents' trips for the period 2005-2015 are shown in Figure 5. The impact of the financial and economic crisis started to show only in 2009 and is more visible in business trips than in trips for personal purposes.

The number of professional trips dropped by -4 % to -12 % per year in the period 2009 to 2015, resulting to a total decrease of -35.9 % in 2015 compared with 2008, while the number of nights spent on professional trips fell even faster (-38.0 %).

During this period 2008 to 2015, the number of trips for personal purposes remained relatively stable (+0.5 %), while the number of overnight stays fell by -3.3 %. As a result, the average duration of trips for personal purposes dropped from 5.5 nights per trip in 2008 to 5.3 nights in 2015.

Data sources and availability

Collection of annual data on trips of EU residents

The collection consists of harmonised data collected by the Member States in the frame of the Regulation 692/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning European statistics on tourism.

The scope of observation for data on tourism trips are all tourism trips with at least one overnight stay, made by the resident population aged 15 and over. It includes trips made for private or professional purpose, outside the ususal environment.


The EU is a major tourist destination, with five Member States among the world’s top ten destinations for holidaymakers, according to UNWTO[1] data. Tourism is an important activity in the EU which has the potential to contribute towards employment and economic growth, as well as to development in rural, peripheral or less-developed areas. These characteristics drive the demand for reliable and harmonised statistics within this field, as well as within the wider context of regional policy and sustainable development policy areas.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Number of trips by purpose (tin00188)
Number of trips by length of stay (tin00189)
Number of nights spent by purpose (tin00191)
Number of nights spent by length of stay (tin00192)


Number of tourism trips (tour_dem_tt)
Number of tourism nights (tour_dem_tn)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

  • With 2012 as reference year:
  • Regulation (EU) No 692/2011 of 6 July 2011 concerning European statistics on tourism and repealing Council Directive 95/57/EC.
  • Regulation (EU) No 1051/2011 of 20 October 2011 implementing Regulation (EU) No 692/2011 concerning European statistics on tourism, as regards the structure of the quality reports and the transmission of the data.
  • Previous legal acts (concerning reference periods before 2012):
  • Directive 95/57/EC of 23 November 1995 on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism
  • Commission Decision 1999/35/CE of 9 December 1998 on the procedures for implementing Council Directive 95/57/EC on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism.
  • Commission Decision 2004/883/CE of 10 December 2004 adjusting the Annex to Council Directive 95/57/EC on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism as regards country lists.
  • Directive 2006/110/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting Directives 95/57/EC and 2001/109/EC in the field of statistics, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania

External links


  1. UNWTO Tourism Highlights - 2014