Tourism statistics - top destinations

Data extracted in April 2020.

Planned article update: June 2021.

Highlights
Spain and Italy were for EU residents the top foreign destinations in 2018.
The United Kingdom, the USA and Switzerland were the top 3 tourist destinations outside the EU in 2018.

Destinations for outbound trips made by EU residents within the EU, in terms of nights spent, EU-27, 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 the destinations chosen by the residents of those countries for their trips in 2018.


Full article

Europeans spent seven out of 10 of their trips inside their own country of residence

In 2018, residents of the European Union (EU-27) made 1 134 million trips (for personal or professional purpose) and spent 5 882 million nights during those trips (see Table 1). Tourist expenditure amounted to EUR 516 713 million.

Seven out of ten trips (70.5 %) were domestic trips – i.e. trips in the tourist's own country of residence – but in terms of nights spent and expenditure, domestic trips accounted for 56.2 % and 40.0 % of the total respectively. For most EU countries, the domestic market was dominant; only for Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia this was not the case (see Tables 2 to 5). Belgian and Luxembourgish tourists made more outbound trips to one single foreign country (France) than those made inside their own country.

Table 1: Trips, nights spent and expenditure of EU residents - Domestic, outbound and top 5 outbound destinations, EU-27, 2018 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw), (tour_dem_tnw), (tour_dem_extotw)

Spain and Italy - top foreign destinations for EU residents in 2018

On average for the EU, 29.5 % of all trips were made in a foreign country: 21.1 % in another EU Member State and 8.4 % outside the Union (see Figure 1). Spain was for EU residents the number one foreign destination, in terms of number of trips as well as number of nights spent or expenditure. 11.2 % of all outbound trips made by Europeans were spent in Spain, followed by Italy with 9.8 %. Spain was the main destination for more than one out of four outbound trips of Portuguese and Danish residents and for one out of five outbound trips of Irish residents, while Maltese, Austrian and Romanian tourists spent more than one out of five outbound trips to Italy.

Figure 1: Trips, nights spent and expenditure of EU residents by destination, EU-27, 2018 (%) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw), (tour_dem_tnw), (tour_dem_extotw)


A neighbouring or nearby country was the preferred foreign destination for trips of nearly all the European tourists. However, this was not the case for tourists from Denmark, Romania and Sweden for whom Italy or Spain was the top foreign destination. In terms of duration and expenditure, the proximity of the destination became less dominant: further away destinations - also outside Europe - took a bigger share.

More than seven out of ten (71.8 %) outbound trips of Europeans were spent inside the EU (see Figure 2). In terms of nights spent, this represents more than six out of ten outbound tourism nights (61.9 %). The three top EU destinations (Spain, Italy and France) accounted for 44.3 % of these nights (see Figure 3). These trips are dealt with in more detail in the article "Intra-EU tourism flows".

Figure 2: Share of world destinations for outbound trips of EU residents, EU-27, 2018 (%) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw)


Figure 3: Destinations for outbound trips made by EU residents within the EU, in terms of nights spent, EU-27, 2018 (%) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tnw)

United Kingdom, USA and Switzerland - top 3 destinations outside the EU

Destinations outside the European continent made up only 13.7 % of all outbound trips (see Figure 2): 4.9 % to America, 4.7 % to Asia and 3.8 % to Africa. Only 0.3 % of trips had Oceania as a destination. Often, these intercontinental flows were dominated by a few generating countries. Behind the average at EU level, big differences were observed; at least one in five outbound trips made by French or Portuguese tourists had a destination outside Europe while less than 5 % of Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian, Romanian or Slovenian trips were to another continent.

The United Kingdom, the United States and Switzerland were the top 3 destinations in terms of number of trips made by Europeans outside the EU in 2018 (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Top 10 destinations for outbound trips made by EU residents outside the EU, in terms of number of trips, EU-27, 2018 (%) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw)

Detailed overview per country

Tables 2 to 5 present a detailed overview per country, for convenience of presentation split into four geographical zones. In most cases, the choice of destination may be determined by proximity and/or relative attractiveness (e.g. in terms of climate). However, historical migrant flows, former colonial ties or language may also influence the choice of destination, for instance United Kingdom for residents of Cyprus and Malta, Portugal for the Luxembourgish residents or India for United Kingdom residents.

Table 2: Trips of residents of Western European countries - Domestic, outbound and top 5 outbound destinations, 2018 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw), (tour_dem_tnw), (tour_dem_extotw)


Table 3: Trips of residents of Central/Eastern European countries - Domestic, outbound and top 5 outbound destinations, 2018 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw), (tour_dem_tnw), (tour_dem_extotw)


Table 4: Trips of residents of Northern European countries - Domestic, outbound and top 5 outbound destinations, 2018 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw), (tour_dem_tnw), (tour_dem_extotw)


Table 5: Trips of residents of Southern Mediterranean European countries - Domestic, outbound and top 5 outbound destinations, 2018 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw), (tour_dem_tnw), (tour_dem_extotw)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

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 usual environment.

The EU is a major tourist destination, with four 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.


Number of tourism trips (tour_dem_tt)
Number of tourism nights (tour_dem_tn)
Expenditure on tourism trips (tour_dem_ex)


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