Tourism statistics - characteristics of tourism trips

Data extracted in May 2018

Planned article update: July 2019

EU residents made 1.2 billion trips with overnight stays in 2016.
3 out of 4 tourism trips by EU residents were spent inside their own country of residence in 2016.

1 in 9 trips by EU residents was for professional purposes in 2016.

Trends in number of trips made and nights spent by EU-28 residents, 2006-2016 (index: 2006=100)

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 2016, 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).

Full article

General overview

During 2016, EU residents made 1 207 million trips with overnight stays - regardless of destination and duration. Of these, 11.1 % were trips for professional purposes, while the remaining 88.9 % were trips made for personal purposes (see Table 1, Figure 1). The highest number of trips was made by residents of Germany (255.6 million trips), followed by France (196.0 million trips), the United Kingdom (159.4 million trips, 2013 data) and Spain (145.5 million trips). The trips made by the residents of these four countries accounted for 62.7 % of all EU residents' trips.

Table 1: Trips, nights spent and average length of trips made by EU residents by destination, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tntot)

Figure 1: Trips made by EU-28 residents by purpose, duration and destination, 2016 (million) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttpur)

On average for the EU, three out of four trips were domestic trips. In three Member States, at least 90 % of trips made by their residents had a main destination within the country: Romania (93.9 %), Spain (90.9 %) and Portugal (89.9 %). In only four Member States, outbound trips accounted for more than half of all tourism trips: Luxembourg (98.8 %), Belgium (81.7 %), Malta (65.7 %) and Slovenia (62.4 %).

More than half of all tourism trips made in the course of 2016 were short domestic breaks of one to three overnight stays (50.7 % of all tourism trips, see Table 2). Trips of four nights or more accounted for 42.0 % of all tourism trips (23.7 % with a domestic destination and 18.3 % with a destination outside the country of residence).

Europeans like to holiday in own country of residence

For the EU on average, 74.4 % of all tourism trips in 2016 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 3.9 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 57.6 % - significantly lower than the 74.4 % share of domestic trips in all tourism trips. The highest number of domestic trips was in France, with more than 172 million accounting for 19.2 % of all domestic trips made by Europeans. As regards outbound trips, German tourists came top, with nearly 91 million trips abroad (29.5 % of all outbound trips made by Europeans).

Table 2: Trips made by EU residents by duration and destination, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw)

The EU is attractive destination for its residents

More than three out of four outbound trips had a main destination in another EU Member State, accounting for 238.7 million trips out of a total of 308.6 million outbound trips. Taking into account the 898.3 million domestic trips, this means that 94.2 % of all trips with overnight stays that EU residents made in 2016 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 – 88.2 % were spent within the EU. Only in three Member States was the share of trips outside the EU over 10 %: Lithuania (12.8 %), Luxembourg (12.6 %), and Croatia (11.1 %, of which more than half were to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina) (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 2016, 58.0 % 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 Estonia and Latvia, were short trips. Only in four Member States, the number of long trips exceeded the number of short trips: Greece (70.9 %), (Belgium (60.3 %), Luxembourg (61.1 %) and Malta (51.9 %).

Figure 2: Trips made by EU-28 residents by duration, 2015 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttls)

Taking together the short trips of one to three nights with the 25.4 % of trips lasting four to seven nights, a dominant share of 83.4 % of all trips made in 2016 lasted a maximum of one week (within the segment of trips for professional purposes this share rose to 93.1 %). Only 5.4 % of all trips were longer than two weeks (See Table 3).

Table 3: Trips made by EU-28 residents by duration, destination and purpose, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttls)

One in nine trips was for professional purposes

Nearly half the tourism trips (49.2 %) had holidays, leisure and recreation as the main purpose, and 35.6 % 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 88.9 % of all tourism trips in 2016.

In 2016, EU residents made nearly 134.5 million trips for professional purposes (e.g. business trips), 11.1 % of the total number of tourism trips. The proportion was slightly higher for short trips (14.1 %) and outbound trips (11.8 %).

Over half of all overnight stays were in rented accommodation

EU residents made a total of 6.1 billion overnight stays during tourism trips in 2016 (see Table 1). More than half of these nights (54.8 %) 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 30.9 % , while 7.2 % were spent at campsites (including caravan or trailer parks) and the remaining 16.7 % in other types of paid accommodation (e.g. rented holiday dwelling, youth hostel, mountain hut).

Figure 3: Nights spent by EU-28 residents by main means of accommodation, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tnac)

In 2016, EU residents spent an estimate EUR 157 billion on tourist accommodation (For more detailed information on tourism expenditure, see separate article).

Rented accommodation was more prevalent for outbound trips (69.2 %), while tourists travelling within their own country were more likely to stay at non-rented accommodation (54.8 %), provided mainly for free by friends or relatives (38.7 %) or at their own holiday homes (14.6 %).

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

Motor vehicles (private or rented) were the main means of transport for 64.1 % of all trips, followed by air and railway transport (16.0 % and 11.3 %, 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 39.4 % of trips that residents of Malta made and 19.0 % of trips made by Greek residents, while in Romania residents took buses for 20.5 % of their trips (see Table 4).

Figure 4: Trips made by EU-28 residents by main means of transport, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttr)

Table 4: Trips made by EU residents by main means of transport, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tttr)

Air transport was the preferred means of transport for outbound trips (53.6 %), while for domestic trips EU residents travelled mainly by motor vehicles (75.5 %), followed by rail (13.6 %).

Tourism starting to recover from the financial crisis

The main trends in EU residents' trips for the period 2006-2016 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.

Figure 5: Trends in number of trips, nights spent and average duration of trips made by EU-28 residents, 2006-2016 (index: 2006=100) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq), (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tnq), (tour_dem_tntot)

The number of professional trips dropped by -4 % to -14 % per year in the period 2009 to 2016, resulting in a total decrease of -36.3 % in 2016 compared with 2008, while the number of nights spent on professional trips fell even faster (-37.2 %). However, in 2016 compared with 2015 business trips and nights spent increased by +9.6 % and +9.4 % respectively.

During the period 2008 to 2016, although the number of trips for personal purposes increased by +1.3 %, the number of overnight stays fell by -4.1 %. As a result, the average duration of trips for personal purposes dropped from 5.5 nights per trip in 2008 to 5.2 nights in 2016. In 2016, however, compared with 2015, trips and nights spent for personal purposes increased by +2.7 % and +2.3 % respectively.

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 (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[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.

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