Seasonality in tourism demand
Data extracted in May 2018.
Planned article update: July 2019.
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).
Nearly one in four trips of EU residents made in July or August
In 2016, tourism demand of EU residents was concentrated in the third quarter, mainly in August followed by July, when respectively 12.4 % and 11.5 % of the entire year’s trips were made (see Figure 1). The number of trips in the peak month (August) was 2.4 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, August (16.7 %) and July (16.2 %). The number of nights spent in the peak month (August) was 3.9 times higher than the number of nights spent in the weakest month (November).
Long trips: the seasonal pattern more pronounced than for short
In August 2016, EU residents made nearly 90 million long trips of at least four overnight stays. This represents 18 % 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 2016 were made during these four months (see Figure 2).
The distribution of short trips over the twelve months was more even. June was the most popular month for trips between one and three overnight stays, followed by December.
Summer and Christmas peaks more significant for domestic trips
In 2016, EU residents made more than 898 million trips in their own Member States (domestic trips) and nearly 309 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 2.4 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 more than 11 % 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 just over 7.6 million business trips in August to more than 15 million business trips in September (See Figure 5).
Europeans spent one third of their tourism nights in July or August
Looking at national data, July and August were the most popular months for going on holidays for residents of all but three EU Member States: Germany where March was the peak month closely followed by June, Malta (September followed by December) and Romania (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 nearly one in three trips, followed by Bulgaria and Italy where more than one in five trips was 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). Bulgaria came on top with nearly 19 times higher number of trips in August than in February, followed by Greece with 16 times higher number of trips in August than in January. Lowest seasonality ratios were found in Denmark and Sweden (both at less than 2.0).
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 EU countries was either July or August (See Table 2 and Figure 8). During these two months, EU residents spent one third of all tourism nights spent in 2016, while for the residents of Greece this share was more than 60 %, followed by Italy (above 50 %).
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 2016, EU residents made the longest trips (7.2 nights in average) in July followed by August with 6.8 nights in average (See Table 3).
40 % of all tourism nights spent outside July and August were by those aged 55 or more
Looking at the age of the tourist, 38 % of all tourism nights in 2016 were spent by Europeans aged 55 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 (28 % of the entire year's nights spent), in favour of tourism trips during the shoulder season (April to June and September to October, i.e. the months in between the bottom and peak season) (see Figure 9).
At least 40 % of all the nights spent in April, May, June, September, October and November were spent by tourists aged 55 or more (see Figure 10).
Participation of children
On average over the year, 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 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.
- 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.