Tourism statistics - intra-EU tourism flows
Data extracted in May 2018
Planned article update: July 2019
Average duration of inbound trips by residents from other EU-28 countries, 2016 (nights)
Three types of tourism flows can be distinguished: domestic tourism (persons making tourism trips within their country of residence), outbound tourism and inbound tourism. Until recently, the main source for European statistics on inbound tourism was statistics on arrivals and nights spent by non-residents at tourist accommodation establishments.
Existing information on outbound trips made by residents of the EU to estimate inbound tourism flows within the EU has been re-used for this article. The methodological approach is based on the simple fact that an outbound flow for one country represents an inbound flow for the country visited. When all outbound trips made by Europeans to a given country (as their main destination) are combined, an estimate of the intra-EU inbound tourism flows into this country can be obtained. The aim of this last article in the online publication Tourism trips of Europeans is mainly to briefly outline the potential offered by using partner countries' data to produce previously unavailable information, rather than to draw a comprehensive picture of inbound tourism.
Europeans stay 1 week on average when visiting other EU countries
In 2016, tourism trips made by EU residents to another EU Member State as a destination had an average duration of one week (7 nights), ranging from 2.6 nights for trips to Estonia to 10.4 nights for trips to Cyprus (see Figure 1).
These differences across Europe are often correlated with the accessibility in terms of transport and the proximity of the main generating markets. For instance, the relative price (and distance) to reach Cyprus will motivate tourists to stay relatively long, while the proximity and accessibility (short ferry ride) of Estonia to its main generating market (Finland) will make short breaks of a few days the more likely way of visiting this Baltic country.
Average expenditure on trips to another EU country was €608
Inbound visitors coming from other EU Member States spent on average EUR 608 (see Figure 2), ranging from EUR 232 in Slovakia (a country with many short trips – see also Figure 1 – by tourists from neighbouring countries) to EUR 885 in Greece, followed by Cyprus (EUR 884) and Malta (EUR 811). These three destinations have relatively long stays, on average 10 nights and a prevalence of air travel to reach the country, 87 % of trips or even more (see Table 1).
Per night, visitors from the EU to other EU countries spent on average EUR 86 (see Figure 3), ranging from EUR 55 in Slovakia to EUR 154 in Estonia (the country with the shortest average length of stay – 2.6 nights – mainly by tourists from nearby Finland).
Aeroplane most common for travelling to another EU country
Residents of the EU made 239 million tourism trips of at least one overnight stay to destinations in another EU Member State in 2016. For 47 % of those trips, air transport was the main means of transport (see Table 1), followed by (rented or private) motor vehicles (36 %). Bus (6 %), train and transport using waterways (both at 5 %) were far less significant.
When looking at the countries visited, air transport accounted for more than 80 % of all intra-EU inbound flows in Cyprus (97 %), Malta (88 %), Greece (87 %) and Spain (84 %).
In five countries, the share of inbound trips made by motor vehicle was more than 60 % (Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia and Luxembourg).
Only in Estonia, was waterway the dominant means of transport for inbound visitors (most likely because of the popular ferry connection between Tallinn and Helsinki).
Railway was relatively significant for visitors to Belgium (20 % of intra-EU inbound trips) and France (15 %) while buses were relatively significant for Lithuania (22 %), Poland (16 %) and the Czech Republic (15 %).
More than 3 in 4 trips spent in rented tourist accommodation
In 2016, 78 % of all inbound trips in the EU made by residents from other EU countries had a tourist accommodation establishment as the only or main means of accommodation, mainly hotels or similar establishments (57 %) . Own holiday homes accounted for around 3 % and accommodation provided for free by friends or relatives for 17 % (see Figure 4).
Across the EU, the importance of rented and non-rented accommodation for inbound visitors was very different with the share of rented accommodation ranging from 90 % in Greece to 44 % in Romania (see Figure 5).
More than 1 in 4 trips to other EU countries in July and August
Looking at the breakdown by month of departure of trips, July (12.8 %) and August (12.9 %) accounted for more than one out of four trips, while January represented only 4.6 % of intra-EU trips in 2016 (see Table 2). Austria was the only EU destination to which tourists from other EU countries made more trips during the winter season (November to February) than in summer (June to September) (see Figure 6).
Seasonality of inbound trips by visitors coming from other EU countries was particularly high in two Member States. More than half of all inbound trips in Bulgaria (59.3 %) and Croatia (56.4 %) took place during the two core summer months, July and August. In Greece, more than seven out of ten inbound trips were made during the summer season, but were more evenly spread throughout the four months, June to September (see Figure 6). In Bulgaria, the number of trips of EU visitors in the peak month was 45 times higher than the lowest month, while this ratio was 39 to one for Croatia and 25 to one for Greece. The lowest seasonality was recorded in Germany followed by the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom .
Cruise ships popular for trips to Estonia, Finland and Sweden
Looking at trips for personal purposes and at the features of the destination that attracted tourists, city tourism was reported as one of the attractions for 45 % of intra-EU personal trips of Europeans in 2016, followed by seaside which was a relevant feature for 31 % of the trips, countryside (21 %) and mountains (14 %) (see Table 3) (see chapter "Data sources and availability).
Looking at national data, city tourism was the most frequently reported feature for most countries. Cities were reported as an attraction for more than two out of three trips to Estonia (73 %), Poland and the Czech Republic (both at 69 %).
Seaside attracted European tourists for 70 % or more of their personal trips to Croatia (81 %), Cyprus (80 %), Greece (76 %), Malta (72 %) and Bulgaria (70 %).
In only three countries, the countryside was an attraction for at least 30% of inbound trips: Austria (32 %), Romania (31 %) and Slovakia (30 %). Europeans reported the mountains as one of the attractions for 61 % of their personal trips to Austria.
Cruise ships in the Baltic sea were one of the most frequently reported attractions for European tourists to Estonia (31 %), Finland (19 %) and Sweden (15 %). These were also the countries with the highest shares of inbound trips with waterway as main mode of transport.
Source data for tables and graphs
2016 data for outbound trips of residents of the United Kingdom was not available at the time of the preparation of this article. 2013 data was used instead to calculate the aggregate of outbound trips made by residents of the EU in 2016.
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.
Data on type of destination is transmitted to Eurostat every three years. The first data transmission took place in 2014 for the reference year 2013 and the second in 2017 for the reference year 2016. For this variable, multiple answer possibilities are allowed. In case of a trip involving several destinations, it should refer to the entire trip and not only to the main destination of the trip.
The EU is a major tourist destination, with five Member States (France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom) 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:
- Tourism (tour), see "Annual data on trips of EU residents":
- Number of tourism trips (tour_dem_tt)
- Number of tourism nights (tour_dem_tn)
- Expenditure on tourism trips (tour_dem_ex)
- Regional Statistics Illustrated - Tourism
- 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.