Tourism statistics - nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments
Data extracted in June 2021.
Planned article update: October 2021.
In 2020 compared with 2019, 1.5 billion fewer nights (-52 %) were spent in EU tourist accommodation.
International tourism in EU tourist accommodation down by 68 % in 2020 compared with 2019.
Domestic tourism partially helps to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on EU tourist accommodation.
This article focuses on the short-term evolutions in the nights spent in tourist accommodation in the European Union (EU). The data from the most recent reference quarter available (January to March 2021) are compared with those of the same period of the previous year. Furthermore, the article includes estimates for the annual comparison of the entire year 2020 with 2019.
In order to further evaluate the Covid-19 impact on the tourism sector, this update includes one more chapter looking at the 12 month period after the beginning of the pandemic (from April 2020 to March 2021) and comparing it with the same period before the pandemic (April 2019 to March 2020).
First quarter 2021
January to March 2021: Nights spent in EU tourist accommodation down by 73 % compared with 2020
Comparing the first quarter (January to March) 2021 with the same 3 months period in 2020, the number of nights spent in EU tourist accommodation dropped from 344 million in 2020 to 92 million in 2021 (-73 %).
During this period, all Member States recorded significant drops. The EU countries most affected were Austria, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary, where the number of nights spent decreased by more than 86 %, while the smallest drops were recorded in Romania, Luxembourg, Sweden and Bulgaria (drops of less than 40 %) (see Figure 1 and Table 1).
In the segment of hotels, 191 million less nights (-75 %) were spent during the first quarter 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.
Looking closer at the data broken down by month (see Table 2), in January and February 2021, all EU countries where data is available reported drops in the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation, compared with the same pre-covid months of January and February 2020. In January 2021, the drops ranged from -42 % in Luxembourg to more than -90 % in Czechia, Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia. In February 2021 Czechia, Austria and Slovakia reported again drops of more than 90 %, while Luxembourg and Romania recorded the lowest decreases of 33 %.
In March 2021, the number of nights spent at EU level decreased by 41 % compared with March 2020, while increases were reported by Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Italy. It should be stressed however that EU has been under restrictions due to covid-19 pandemic since late March 2020, therefore the number of nights was already down compared with March 2019 (-61 %, see next chapter). Figure 2 gives a more accurate picture of how the pandemic affected tourism in March 2021, by comparing it to the same month in 2020 and in 2019. Looking at the data broken down by origin of the guest, in 13 out of the 24 Member states where data is available, the number of nights spent by residents (domestic guests) increased in March 2021.
First results for the entire year 2020
Nights spent in EU tourist accommodation in 2020: down by 52 % compared with 2019
Following the two years of decline in 2008 and 2009 due to the global economic crisis, tourism, in terms of nights spent at EU tourist accommodation, recovered in 2010 and continued its positive trend until 2019 with a growth of +43 % compared with 2005 (see Figure 3).
In 2020, tourism was among the most affected sectors by the coronavirus pandemic: 1.5 billion fewer nights were spent in EU tourist accommodation compared with 2019 (see Table 3). This sharp drop of 52 % compared with the previous year, reflected the decline registered in all EU Member States (see Figure 4). Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Spain and Portugal were the most affected countries with drops exceeding 60 %, while the Netherlands and Denmark reported the smallest drops of less than 35 %.
April 2020: Dramatic drop of 95%
Tourism in the EU recorded positive trends in January and February 2020, with increases of 5 % and 6 % respectively compared with the same months one year earlier (see Figure 5 and Table 4). In March 2020, however, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the start of a lockdown in most EU countries and the travel restrictions, resulted in a sharp drop in overnight stays in EU tourist accommodation: -61 % compared with March 2019.
The decline was deeper in April, a month of total lockdown in most countries, with -95 % compared with April 2019. In May and June 2020, the gradual lifting of travel restrictions slowed down the fall to respectively -89 % and -70 % compared with the same months in 2019.
Although some travel restrictions were lifted in July and August 2020, health protocols were still in place, while establishments operated at restricted capacity. The number of nights spent during these two months remained at low levels compared with the same months a year before (-43 % and -33 % respectively). In September 2020, in response to growing cases of Covid-19, several countries reintroduced temporary travel measures; 42 % fewer nights were spent in September 2020 compared with the previous year.
The recovery slowed further in October, November and December 2020 (-52 %, -76 % and -79 % respectively compared with the same months in 2019).
Campsites least affected by the pandemic
Figure 6 looks at the data broken down by type of accommodation. For each month of 2020 compared with the same month of 2019, hotels and similar establishments recorded the highest drops, followed by rented holiday accommodation. The decrease in the number of nights spent in EU campsites was lower than the other two segments of tourist accommodation.
Domestic tourism partially helps to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on EU tourist accommodation
Since June 2020 most EU countries started limiting the travel restrictions imposed after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, other types of Covid-19 related restrictions were still in place, prompting domestic tourism instead of travelling abroad. In 2020 compared with 2019, nights spent by international guests (non-residents) fell by 68 %, while nights spent by domestic tourists (residents) fell by 37 %. Although domestic tourism was less affected, it could only partly compensate for the decline of inbound tourism and countries that depend on inbound tourism have been hit the hardest.
Figure 7 shows that nights spent by residents travelling inside their own country started to recover earlier than nights spent by international visitors, tending to reach the levels of the previous year, with just 12 % fewer nights spent in August 2020 compared with August 2019. However, in November and December 2020, following the reintroduction of several measures against the pandemic, the number of domestic nights dropped again to -69 % and -72 % respectively, compared with the same months of the previous year.
In 2020, residents of Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus spent more tourism nights inside their own country compared with 2019, while domestic nights spent in Spain, Greece, Romania and Poland recorded the highest drops of more than -40 % (see Figure 8).
On the other hand, in 2020 compared with the previous year, the number of nights spent by international guests decreased in all EU countries where data is available. The highest drops, of more than 80 %, were recorded in Cyprus and Romania, while Austria was the least affected with -44 % (see Figure 9).
Figure 10 looks at the 12 months' figures broken down by origin of the guest. In 2019 the share of domestic nights in total nights spent in tourist accommodation ranged from 48 % in September to 59 % in November. In January and in February 2020, similar shares were observed as in 2019 while from March on, the balance started shifting towards domestic tourism. The peak was in May 2020 when 89 % of all nights spent in EU tourist accommodation were by tourists travelling inside their own country of residence (domestic tourists).
Looking at nights spent broken down by type of accommodation and origin of the guest (see Table 5), positive trends were registered in many Member States in the number of domestic nights spent in campsites. Residents of Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia spent more nights in hotels inside their own country in 2020 than the previous year, while Slovenians also spent more nights in their country's holiday dwellings in 2020 compared with 2019.
During the first twelve months of the pandemic, nights spent by international tourists dropped by 77 %
The analysis above looked at the calendar year evolution, but it can be relevant to compare data for the first twelve months that the pandemic fully hit (April 2020 till March 2021) with the last ‘normal’ twelve-month period running from April 2019 till March 2020 (see Table 6). Data shows that the pandemic cut 60 % of the nights spent by tourists at accommodation establishments. Mainly international tourists stayed away (-77 %) but also domestic tourism nights dropped by 44 %.
In the twelve months before the April 2020 lockdown, almost 2.8 billion guest nights were recorded at accommodation establishments across the EU. During the first year of the pandemic, this number dropped to just over 1 billion nights. Among the EU Member States with available data, the highest decreases were recorded in Malta (-80 %) and Spain (-78 %), followed by Greece (-75 %), Portugal (-70 %) and Hungary (-66 %).
The biggest drop in absolute figures was observed for the Spanish accommodation sector (down from 454 million nights to 101 million nights), in particular in the segment of international tourists (decimated from 289 million international guest nights to only 28 million, or -90 %).
The countries whose accommodation sector was the least hard hit, were Denmark, the Netherlands, as well as Liechtenstein and Norway, but these countries also observed a drop of more than one third compared to the twelve months preceding the pandemic outbreak.
Data on tourism nights is included in the interactive European Statistical Recovery Dashboard, which contains monthly and quarterly indicators from a number of statistical areas relevant for tracking the economic and social recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, across countries and time. The dashboard is updated every month with the latest available data for each indicator.
Source data for tables and graphs
This article presents the short-term trends in nights spent in tourist accommodation in the European Union (EU), analysing monthly data provided by Member States.
For the year-to-year evolution of the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation and a detailed analysis of 2019 annual data, see Tourism statistics - annual results for the accommodation sector.
The EU is a major tourist destination, with four Member States among the world’s top ten destinations for holidaymakers, according to UNWTO data. Tourism is an important activity in the EU which contributes to employment and economic growth, as well as to the development of rural, peripheral or less-developed areas. These characteristics drive the demand for reliable and harmonised statistics on this activity, as well as within the wider context of regional policy and sustainable development policy areas.
- Capacity and occupancy of tourist accommodation establishments (ESMS metadata file — tour_occ_esms)
- 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.