Seasonality in tourism demand
Data extracted in May 2019.
Planned article update: October 2020.
More than one in four EU residents' tourism nights in May and September were spent by older people aged 65 or more.
Monthly share of trips and nights spent of EU residents, EU-28, 2017 (% of the 12 months)
The article focuses on the seasonal pattern of tourism demand in the European Union (EU): trips made by EU residents and the number of nights spent on those trips (data on same-day visits is not available). Tourism demand includes all trips made, regardless of whether they were spent in tourist accommodation (such as hotels or campsites) or in less formal and often unpaid types of accommodation (such as owned dwellings or accommodation provided for free by friends or relatives).
This analysis from the point of view of the demand side complements another article on seasonality in which the seasonal bias in the tourist accommodation sector is discussed (see article Seasonality in the tourist accommodation sector).
Nearly one in four trips of EU residents made in July and August
In 2017, tourism demand of EU residents was concentrated in the third quarter, mainly in August followed by July, when respectively 12.3 % and 11.4 % of the entire year’s trips were made (see Figure 1). The number of trips in the peak month (August) was 2.3 times higher than the number of trips in the weakest month (January).
When taking into account the duration of the trips, the seasonal pattern was even more pronounced, with EU residents having spent one in three nights away in these two months, July (16.5 %) and August (16.1 %). The number of nights spent in the peak month (July) was 3.7 times higher than the number of nights spent in the weakest month (November).
Long trips: the seasonal pattern more pronounced than for short trips
In August 2017, EU residents made more than 91 million long trips of at least four overnight stays. This represents 17 % of all long trips made through the entire year. Looking at the summer season from June to September, more than half of all long trips in 2017 were made during these four months (see Figure 2).
The distribution of short trips over the 12 months was more even. June was the most popular month for trips between one and three overnight stays, followed by March.
Summer and Christmas peaks more significant for domestic trips
In 2017, EU residents made more than 920 million trips in their countries (domestic trips) and more than 335 million trips abroad. The spread over the twelve months of the year is comparable for domestic and outbound trips (see Figure 3) although the summer and Christmas peaks are more pronounced for the the domestic ones.
Domestic and outbound trips made during the peak month (August) were in both cases 2.3 times higher than those made in the weakest month (January).
Business trips partly compensate for the weakest periods of personal trips
On average over the year, business trips represented nearly 12 % of all trips made by EU residents. As shown in Figure 4, this share ranged from 18 % in November to 5 % in the main holiday month August.
Business trips showed a substantially different distribution over the year compared to personal trips, with a monthly variation ranging from 8.2 million business trips in August to 16.5 million business trips in March (See Figure 5).
Europeans spent one third of their tourism nights in July or August
Looking at national data, July or August were the most popular months for going on holidays for residents of all but four EU Member States: Denmark, where May was the peak month followed by July, Germany (June followed by March), Malta (September followed by December) and Slovakia (October followed by December) (See Table 1 and Figure 6). At EU level, one in eight trips were concentrated in just one month (August). This peak was even more pronounced for Greece where the residents preferred August for 30 % of their trips, followed by Bulgaria and Italy where at least 20 % of their residents' trips were made in August.
Seasonality can also be evaluated by looking at the ratio of the number of trips made during the peak month by those made during the weakest month (See Figure 7). Greece came on top with nearly 15 times higher number of trips in August than in January, followed by Bulgaria with 6 times higher number of trips in August than in February. The lowest seasonality was found in Ireland where this ratio was only 1.8.
When taking into account the duration (nights spent) rather than the number of trips, seasonality was more pronounced: the peak month for tourism nights of residents of all but two EU countries (Malta and Slovakia) was either July or August (See Table 2 and Figure 8). During these two months, EU residents spent nearly one third of all tourism nights spent in 2017, while for the residents of Greece this share was more than 56 %, followed by Italy (49 %).
By dividing the number of nights spent by the number of trips that were made each month, the average length of stay of the trips is calculated. In 2017, EU residents made the longest trips (7.3 nights in average) in July followed by August with 6.6 nights in average (See Table 3).
More than one in four tourism nights in May and September were spent by older people aged 65 or more
Looking at the age of the tourist, 20 % of all tourism nights in 2017 were spent by Europeans aged 65 or more. Compared with the seasonal pattern of nights spent by the other age groups, these nights were more evenly spread throughout the year. The July and August peak was a bit less pronounced, representing 27 % of the entire year's tourism nights, while for the other age groups this share was on average 34 % (see Figure 9). People aged 65 or more were more likely to travel during the shoulder season (April to June and September to October, i.e. the months in between the bottom and peak season).
At least 20 % of all the nights spent in March, April, May, June, September, October and November were spent by older tourists aged 65 or more, with May and September reaching 26 % (see Figure 10).
Participation of children
Data on participation of children aged less than 15 years in the travel group, is transmitted to Eurostat every three years. In this article we present data for the reference year 2016. New data will be available in 2020 for the reference year 2019.
On average in 2016, for 22 % of the trips made by Europeans aged 15 or more, the travel group included children aged less than 15 years (see Figure 11).
Such trips had a significant impact on the overall seasonality of tourism. Figure 12 shows their high concentration in July and August, the main school summer holiday months: 32 % of these trips were made during these two months while for trips where no children were participating, this share was 22 %.
Source data for tables and graphs
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 (EU) No 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 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.
- Tourism (t_tour), see: "Annual data on trips of EU residents (t_tour_dem)".
- Tourism (tour), see "Annual data on trips of EU residents".
- Annual data on trips of EU residents (ESMS metadata file — tour_dem_esms)
- 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. (Summary)
- 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.