Statistics Explained

Tourism statistics at regional level



Data extracted in July 2022.

Planned article update: September 2023.

Highlights

In 2020, the Adriatic region of Jadranska Hrvatska (Croatia) had the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation (39.1 million); this region also recorded the highest number of international tourism nights spent (34.4 million).

In 2020, the northern German region of Schleswig-Holstein had the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by domestic tourists (25.6 million); in this region, domestic tourists accounted for 97 % of all nights spent.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted more heavily on regions depending on international tourists, compared with regions that were favoured by domestic tourists.

Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nin2)


Tourism, in a statistical context, refers to the activity of visitors taking a trip to a destination outside their usual environment, for less than a year. It is important to note that this definition is wider than the common everyday definition, insofar as it encompasses not only private leisure trips but also visits to family and friends, as well as business trips.

Tourism has the potential to play a significant role in the economic aspirations of many regions and can be of particular importance in remote/peripheral regions, such as the European Union (EU’s) coastal, mountain or outermost regions. Infrastructure that is created for tourism purposes contributes to local and regional development, while jobs that are created or maintained can help counteract industrial or rural decline. By contrast, tourism can have negative consequences/externalities, as excess demand may put a strain on local infrastructure and be a nuisance to local communities. Furthermore, tourism may impact the environment locally through noise, pollution, waste and wastewater, habitat loss and globally through transport-related emissions.

It is important to note that regional data for France were not available at the time of preparing this publication. This may affect the completeness of the analysis, since France typically includes some of the most frequently visited tourist regions in the EU. Furthermore, French tourism was generally less affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (in part, due to a relatively large proportion of domestic tourists). As such, some French regions may well have been in a comparatively stronger position in 2020 (if compared with other EU regions where tourism was characterised by a higher proportion of international arrivals).

In spring 2020, during the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, virtually all EU Member States implemented containment measures and restrictions on non-essential travel internally and/or internationally; some partially or completely closed borders. Where international travel continued, it was in some cases accompanied by a requirement to go into quarantine. As well as travel-related restrictions, many governments also imposed restrictions on the way that tourism-related businesses could operate, in some cases closing them altogether. These restrictions had an immediate impact on the EU’s tourism sector.

During summer 2020, there was a partial recovery in the number of tourist accommodation arrivals in the EU, as some travel/tourism-related restrictions were lifted. Compared with 2019, the number of arrivals in July and August 2020 was particularly low in hotels and similar establishments, while the impact of the pandemic was less marked in camping grounds, recreational vehicle parks and trailer parks (where arrivals were still down by about one quarter). Many tourists were reluctant to travel and/or feared the risk of further lockdown measures and the reintroduction of specific (travel) restrictions. As such, the partial recovery was principally driven by domestic demand, with large numbers of people staying in their home country and taking a ‘staycation’ rather than crossing borders for a foreign holiday. This pattern may be seen when analysing the 10 most frequented EU regions in 2020 – see the infographic – as the list includes several regions where domestic tourists accounted for a majority of the total nights spent, notably Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Oberbayern in Germany, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto in Italy, and Andalucía and Cataluña in Spain.

Subsequent waves of the pandemic led many EU Member States to reintroduce restrictions, often with major consequences for winter tourism, while there was more commonly a relaxation/removal of restrictions during summer seasons, albeit with various constraints still in place (for example, wearing masks in confined spaces and/or providing proof of vaccination status). At the time of writing (early summer 2022), the pandemic continues and infection rates are fluctuating. However, almost all restrictions on international travel within the EU have been removed, while a growing number of countries outside the EU have opened up their travel/tourism sectors in an attempt to attract (more) visitors.

This article presents information on regional patterns of tourism across the EU. Its main focus is the provision of tourist accommodation services as measured by the number of nights spent; please note that regional data for France has not been included in the analyses and pan-European comparisons. The chapter concludes with a set of experimental statistics on guest nights spent in short-term accommodation, collected from online booking platforms.

Full article

Number of nights spent in tourist accommodation

Tourism statistics are collected from suppliers of tourism services through surveys of tourist accommodation establishments or administrative data. These establishments include all types of accommodation which provide, as a paid service, accommodation for tourists. They are defined according to the activity classification NACE and include: hotels and similar accommodation (NACE Group 55.1), holiday and other short-stay accommodation (NACE Group 55.2); and camping grounds, recreational vehicle parks and trailer parks (NACE Group 55.3).

In 2020, there were 1.42 billion nights spent in all forms of tourist accommodation across the EU; note that while there are no regional data for France, information at a national level has been included when compiling data for the EU aggregate. This EU figure refers to the total number of nights spent by tourists and reflects both the length of stay and the number of tourists. It is considered a key indicator for analysing the tourism sector, even if it does not cover stays at non-rented accommodation nor same-day visits.

Map 1 shows information on the total number of nights spent in tourist accommodation for NUTS level 2 regions; note there are no regional data available for France. There were 24 regions across the EU where at least 10.00 million nights were spent in tourist accommodation during 2020; these are shown by the darkest shades in the map. Looking in more detail at the top 10 regions, nights spent by domestic tourists outnumbered nights by international tourist in: Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Oberbayern in Germany; Cataluña and Andalucía in Spain; Veneto and Emilia-Romagna in Italy. By contrast, Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia, Canarias in Spain, and Tirol in Austria had higher numbers of international tourist nights. Together these 10 regions accounted for almost one fifth (19.1 %) of the total nights spent in EU tourist accommodation during 2020. This high concentration of tourist numbers in relatively few locations may have implications for sustainable development.

Those regions with a majority of nights spent by domestic tourists are shown in blue shades in Map 1, whereas regions with a higher number of nights spent by international tourists are shaded in yellow. In 2020, this distribution was heavily skewed, as many tourists remained in their country of residence due to the uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 crisis. There were only 25 regions across the EU (out of 213 for which data are available) where the number of nights spent by international tourists was higher than the number spent by domestic tourists. To put these figures into perspective, prior to the pandemic in 2019 there had been 65 regions (out of 233 for which data are available; including most regions in France) with a higher proportion of international tourists. The 25 regions with a higher number of international tourists in 2020 could be split into three principal groups:

  • capital regions (as was the case in Belgium, Czechia, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Portugal);
  • coastal regions that are traditionally popular beach holiday destinations for international tourists (for example, Notio Aigaio in Greece; Canarias in Spain; Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia; Cyprus; Malta; Algarve in Portugal); and
  • mountain regions that are popular winter (and sometimes summer) holiday destinations (for example, Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano/Bozen in Italy; Tirol in Austria); note that some of these regions benefited from an influx of tourists at the start of 2020 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.

In some of these regions, international tourists continued to account for a very high proportion of the total nights spent in tourist accommodation. In 2020, the highest share was recorded in the Greek island region of Kriti (91.4 %), while international tourists accounted for slightly fewer than 9 out of every 10 nights spent in the Adriatic region of Jadranska Hrvatska and in the Alpine region of Tirol (both 88.2 %).

There were 188 regions in the EU (out of 213 for which data are available) where domestic tourists accounted for a majority of the nights spent in tourist accommodation in 2020. This group included 53 regions where domestic tourists accounted for at least 9 out of 10 nights spent, with the highest shares recorded in: the Romanian regions of Sud-Est (98.3 %) and Sud-Vest Oltenia (97.6 %); and the German regions of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (97.9 %) and Schleswig-Holstein (96.5 %).

Map 1: Nights spent in tourist accommodation by domestic and international tourists, 2020
(million nights, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nin2)

COVID-19 impacts: the number of nights spent in EU tourist accommodation halved between 2019 and 2020, falling 50.5 %

The total number of nights spent in EU tourist accommodation fell 50.5 % between 2019 and 2020, providing further evidence of the substantial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the tourism sector. Every one of the 213 NUTS level 2 regions shown in Map 2 (Croatian data only available for Jadranska Hrvatska; national data for France) recorded a fall in the number of nights in 2020.

The regional distribution was skewed insofar as there were 81 regions (equivalent to 38.0 % of all regions) where the decrease in total nights spent between 2019 and 2020 was more substantial than the EU average. Among these, the biggest falls – where the number of nights spent fell by more than 68.5 % (as shown by the lightest shade of yellow in Map 2) – were primarily concentrated in capital regions and regions situated in southern EU Member States. This group included the capital regions of Belgium, Czechia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Romania. Half of the remaining 12 regions were located in Greece – Kentriki Makedonia, Kriti, Voreio Aigaio, Ionia Nisia, Notio Aigaio and Ipeiros – they were joined by Illes Balears, Cataluña and Canarias in Spain, Região Autónoma dos Açores in Portugal, as well as Cyprus and Malta. Apart from the capital regions, almost all of these regions from southern EU Member States exhibited two characteristics that may, at least in part, explain why they experienced such dramatic declines in their total number of nights spent in tourist accommodation following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis: most of them traditionally welcome very high numbers of international tourists, while the vast majority are island regions that are typically reached by air transport.

The biggest decrease was registered by Illes Balears, where the annual fall in the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation was 88.8 % in 2020. Regions such as this were impacted twofold: their national, regional or local governments often imposed restrictions on a range of activities to prevent the spread of the virus (for example, closing bars and restaurants earlier than usual, or banning large groups of people), while national governments of potential tourists introduced travel bans and/or quarantine restrictions that stopped or dissuaded many people from travelling to an international destination (particularly when using air transport).

There were 21 regions across the EU where the total number of nights spent in tourist accommodation fell by no more than 26.0 % between 2019 and 2020; these regions are shown by the darkest shade of blue in Map 2. Many of these regions were characterised as relatively remote, rural regions, often with a low propensity to attract tourists, especially international tourists. They were concentrated in a band of regions comprising four out of the five regions in Denmark (the exception being the capital region of Hovedstaden), two northerly regions of Germany (Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that were very popular among domestic tourists), as well as 8 out of 12 regions in the Netherlands. This group also included single regions from each of Bulgaria, Czechia, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Finland and Sweden.

Looking in more detail, there were only four regions in the EU where the total number of nights spent in tourist accommodation fell by less than 10.0 % between 2019 and 2020. The smallest fall was recorded in the Southern region of Ireland (down 3.6 %), while the three other regions with single-digit decreases were Severozapaden in Bulgaria (down 6.6 %), and Friesland (down 8.8 %) and Groningen (down 9.8 %) in the Netherlands; with the exception of Severozapaden, these regions reported an increase in the relative importance of domestic tourists between 2019 and 2020.

Map 2: Change in nights spent in tourist accommodation, 2019–2020
(%, annual change, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nin2)

COVID-19 impacts: rural areas and non-coastal regions accounted for a higher proportion of the total nights spent in EU tourist accommodation during 2020

Traditionally, there has been a relatively even split between coastal and non-coastal areas concerning their shares of the total nights spent in EU tourist accommodation; for example, the share of coastal areas was 47.4 % in 2019. International tourists are more likely (than domestic tourists) to spend their holidays in coastal areas. The considerable downturn in international tourist activity following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis was evident insofar as the total number of nights spent in coastal areas fell by 56.1 % in 2020; by contrast, there was a decrease of 48.2 % for non-coastal areas. As the number of nights spent in coastal areas fell at a faster pace, the relative share of coastal areas in the total number of nights spent in EU tourist accommodation declined to 43.3 % in 2020.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the distribution of nights spent in EU tourist accommodation according to the degree of urbanisation was also relatively balanced, with approximately one third of all nights spent being accounted for by each of the three categories: cities, towns and suburbs and rural areas. This pattern was altered during the pandemic, as the share of nights spent in rural areas grew at the expense of nights spent in cities. In 2020, almost two fifths (39.4 %) of the total nights spent in EU tourist accommodation were in rural areas, while just over one third (34.8 %) were spent in towns and suburbs, and just over one quarter (25.8 %) in cities.

Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nin2dc)

There were 12.1 million nights spent in tourist accommodation in the German capital city of Berlin

Eurostat has recently introduced a new dataset with information on the number of nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments for almost 600 cities across the EU, as well as four cities in Norway; note for reference year 2020, there is no information available for cities in Ireland, France and Cyprus.

In 2020, 11 out of the 20 cities with the highest numbers of nights spent in tourist accommodation were capitals (see Figure 1). Berlin – the capital of Germany – recorded the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation, at 12.1 million. This figure was considerably higher than for any other city in the EU, with the next highest values also recorded in Germany – München (7.0 million nights spent) and Hamburg (6.8 million) – while there were three more German cities in the top 20: Frankfurt am Main, Dresden and Köln.

Outside of Germany, the Italian capital of Roma had the fourth highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation in 2020 (6.5 million). It was followed by the Dutch capital of Amsterdam (5.5 million), the Swedish capital of Stockholm (5.4 million nights), the Portuguese capital of Lisboa (5.0 million nights) and the Czech capital of Praha (4.9 million nights) – all of these capitals featured among the 10 cities with the highest number of tourist nights; the capitals of Austria, Denmark, Spain, Greece and Hungary were present within the top 20. This group of 20 EU cities with the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation was completed by three cities located in Italy – Milano, Rimini and Venezia – as well as Benidorm in Spain.

Based on the 20 cities for which information is presented in Figure 1, there were three – Dresden (86.9 %), Hamburg (83.2 %) and Rimini (80.7 %) – where domestic tourists accounted for more than four out of every five nights spent in tourist accommodation during 2020. At the other end of the range, there were eight cities where international tourists accounted for a majority of the nights spent in tourist accommodation. The relative importance of international tourists peaked at close to three quarters in the capital cities of Wien (71.4 %), Praha (72.4 %), Amsterdam (73.7 %) and Budapest (75.3 %).

Figure 1: Nights spent in tourist accommodation in cities, 2020
(million nights)
Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_ninc)

Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia had the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by international tourists

Figure 2 presents the EU’s most frequented tourist destinations in 2020: it is based on the NUTS level 2 regions which recorded the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by domestic tourists (left-hand side of the figure) and by international tourists (right-hand side of the figure).

The northern German regions of Schleswig-Holstein (25.6 million) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (24.8 million) had the highest counts of nights spent by domestic tourists in 2020. They were followed by six regions where domestic tourists accounted for 15.0–20.0 million nights: Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Toscana in Italy, Oberbayern in Germany, and Andalucía and Cataluña in Spain.

The Adriatic region of Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia had the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by international tourists (34.4 million in 2020). This was substantially more than the second and third highest values, registered for Canarias in Spain (23.8 million nights) and Tirol in Austria (22.2 million nights). There were three additional regions within the EU which recorded more than 10.0 million nights spent by international tourists in 2020: Veneto and Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano/Bozen in Italy, and Salzburg in Austria.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in 2019, the Spanish island region of Canarias had recorded the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by international tourists (83.9 million), while the number of international tourist nights was within the range of 48.2–80.6 million in Jadranska Hrvatska, Illes Balears, Cataluña and Veneto. By contrast, the Spanish region of Andalucía had recorded the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by domestic tourists (33.5 million in 2019), with Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Emilia-Romagna, Oberbayern and Cataluña each recording between 27.8–30.2 million nights spent by domestic tourists. These figures reveal the asymmetric impact of the pandemic, insofar as regions that traditionally attract high numbers of international tourists were generally far more affected by the crisis than regions that are principally frequented by domestic tourists. For example, the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation by international tourists in Canarias was 71.7 % lower in 2020 (than in 2019), while the number of nights spent by domestic tourists in Schleswig-Holstein was 15.3 % lower in 2020.

Figure 2: Top tourist regions in the EU, 2020
(million nights spent in tourist accommodation, selected NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nin2)

There were several regions in the EU where domestic tourists accounted for more than 95 % of all nights spent in tourist accommodation

The final analysis in this section (see Figure 3) presents information about the individual regions in each of the EU Member States with the highest shares of domestic and international tourist nights in 2020; note there are no regional data available for Stuttgart and Karlsruhe (in Germany) or for France. The information presented confirms that the highest shares of international tourists were often registered in capital regions, with this situation observed in two thirds (14 out of 21) of the multi-regional EU Member States for which data are available. International tourists accounted for close to three quarters of all nights spent in tourist accommodation in the Hungarian, Czech and Belgian capital regions, while their share was less than one quarter in the Polish and Swedish capital regions; these relatively low shares were nevertheless the highest recorded among any of the regions in Poland or Sweden.

In some countries, it was more common for coastal or mountainous regions (rather than capital regions) to record the highest share of international tourist nights. In 2020, this situation was observed in Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Portugal. In each case, a majority of the nights spent in tourist accommodation were accounted for by international tourists, with the lowest share (55.4 %) recorded in the Bulgarian region of Severoiztochen (that has a Black Sea coastline) and the highest share (91.4 %) in the Greek island region of Kriti. International tourists also accounted for very high shares of the nights spent in tourist accommodation in Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia, Tirol in Austria (both 88.2 %), as well as the island regions of Canarias in Spain (81.6 %) and Malta (81.4 %).

In 2020, domestic tourists accounted for more than 19 out of every 20 nights spent in tourist accommodation in Sud-Est in Romania, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany, Molise in Italy, and Kujawsko-pomorskie in Poland. In each of the remaining multi-regional EU Member States, the region with the highest share of domestic tourist nights recorded a share that was above 50.0 %. Shares below 50.0 % were recorded in the relatively small (mono-regional) Member States of Latvia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta.

Figure 3: Nights spent in tourist accommodation, 2020
(% share of nights spent by domestic and international tourists in each EU Member State, selected NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nin2)

Guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation offered via online collaborative economy platforms

Experimental statistics on short-stay accommodation offered via online platforms

The information presented so far in this chapter has been based on official tourism statistics, compiled according to Regulation (EU) No 692/2011. These statistics provide only limited coverage of holiday and short-stay accommodation, as data on holiday homes, apartments and rooms in otherwise private buildings are often outside the scope of tourism registers and surveys. Indeed, official statistics on holiday and short-stay accommodation are generally under-reported, given that several EU Member States limit the scope of observations to establishments with, for example, at least 10 bed places. In recent years, this coverage issue has been further compounded by the emergence of online platforms that provide relatively simple methods for private individuals and small enterprises to offer short-stay accommodation; this has led to a surge in the provision of this type of accommodation.

For this reason, Eurostat embarked on an experimental data collection exercise aimed at improving the completeness of tourism statistics. It is based on a previously unexplored channel, namely data on listings and bookings obtained directly from four major online booking platforms (Airbnb, Booking.com, Tripadvisor and Expedia Group). The exercise was restricted to the collection of information on holiday and short-stay accommodation (NACE Group 55.2), reflecting the principal type of accommodation for service providers within the collaborative economy. Note that these statistics relating to information from online booking platforms include regional data for France.

During the last decades, developments in information and communication technologies have had a major impact on the tourist accommodation market. The emergence of online platforms that make it easier for small scale service providers to advertise/offer their rooms, apartments and holiday homes to potential guests has led to a considerable expansion of this market.

In 2020, there were 271.7 million guest nights spent at EU short-stay accommodation offered via four selected online booking platforms. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis was clearly evident, insofar as the number of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation reserved through these four platforms fell 46.9 % between 2019 and 2020. This fall in guest nights spent was slightly less than the overall decline in tourist nights spent across all forms of tourist accommodation (down 50.5 %).

In popular holiday destinations around the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, there were several regions that reported almost 90 % of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation were taken during the summer season

Across many parts of the EU, tourism demand is generally concentrated in the summer months (or the third quarter of the year), with a peak in August; July often has the second highest demand. It is important to note that 2020 was atypical, insofar as the year started in a relatively normal fashion, before restrictions linked to the COVID-19 crisis led to a dramatic decrease in tourism activity from mid-March onwards. Although some restrictions were lifted before the peak holiday season, many travellers decided to stay at home or take a vacation in their domestic market.

Map 3 shows the relative importance of the summer season (defined here as July, August and September). In 2020, more than half (55.9 %) of all guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms were taken during the summer season; despite the impact of COVID-19, this share was broadly in line with other years.

The regional distribution was heavily skewed: in approximately one third (81 out of 242) of the NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available in 2020, the share of all guest nights that were spent in the summer season was higher than the EU average. There were 23 regions where at least three quarters of all guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms were taken during the summer season (as shown by the darkest shade of blue in Map 3). They were primarily located in popular holiday destinations in the southern and eastern EU Member States, often around the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. The highest share was recorded in Yugoiztochen in south-east Bulgaria, where almost 9 out of 10 (89.3 %) guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation and booked through these platforms were taken during the summer season. The next highest shares were recorded in Jadranska Hrvatska (Croatia), Ionia Nisia (Greece), Sardegna and Calabria (both Italy), and Corse (France): all five of these regions had shares within the range of 86.0–88.0 %.

At the other end of the range, there were 28 regions in the EU where fewer than one third of all guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation and reserved through these four online booking platforms were taken during the summer season. Half of these were capital regions, namely, those of Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Ireland, Spain, France, Croatia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Romania, Slovakia and Finland. Several of the others were also regions that contain relatively large cities, for example, Prov. Antwerpen in Belgium, or Stuttgart, Darmstadt and Düsseldorf in Germany. This group of 28 regions also included a number of regions that benefit from favourable climatic conditions outside of the summer season, for example, Canarias in Spain, Região Autónoma da Madeira in Portugal, and all of the outermost regions in France.

Map 3: Guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation offered via selected online booking platforms during the summer season, 2020
(% of nights spent in July, August and September as a share of all nights spent, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_ce_omn12)

Figure 4 provides an alternative analysis of the seasonality of tourism. It shows, for each quarter in 2020, the NUTS level 2 regions that, relative to the rest of the year, had the highest share of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms. As noted above, it is important to consider the asymmetric impact of the COVID-19 crisis and in particular the dramatic decrease in guest nights spent during much of the second quarter of 2020.

In 2020, the winter season (defined here as January–March) accounted for almost one quarter of the total number of guest nights spent at EU short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms; note the majority of this period was prior to the pandemic. Spring (April–June) accounted for less than one tenth (8.6 %) of the total number of guest nights, as bookings collapsed following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. With a relaxation of (some) restrictions, a growing number of (particularly domestic) tourists booked this type of accommodation (albeit at levels that were considerably lower than normal): the summer season accounted for more than half (55.9 %) of all guest nights in this type of accommodation and booked in this way in 2020. The final quarter of the year (October–December) saw another decline in bookings as the second wave of the pandemic took hold: the autumn accounted for 12.5 % of the total number of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms.

During the winter season, Rhône-Alpes in France recorded the highest number of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation …

In absolute terms, there were 62.4 million guest nights spent at EU short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking in winter 2020. Across NUTS level 2 regions, the highest count was recorded in the French region of Rhône-Alpes (3.6 million), which comprises a large number of Alpine ski resorts. It was followed by two regions in Spain that are popular year-round with holidaymakers due to their warm climates; Canarias (3.5 million) and Andalucía (3.3 million).

The first part of Figure 4 shows those regions which, relative to the rest of the year, had a high propensity to attract tourists during the winter season. There were 10 regions in the EU where more than half of all guest nights spent in short-stay accommodation were taken during the winter season. This group included a number of capital regions (those of Hungary, Spain or Czechia), some popular winter holiday destinations (Tirol and Salzburg in Austria), as well as four of the French outermost regions (where the most favourable climatic conditions are experienced at the start of the year; these distant French regions saw almost no tourists arriving after the winter season, largely due to the impact of the pandemic on international aviation).

During the spring of 2020, there were 23.5 million guest nights spent at EU short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms. The highest regional count – just less than one million nights spent in spring – was recorded in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France.

In relative terms, two northern regions of Germany – Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein – reported that more than one fifth of their total guest nights were spent during the spring season; almost all of the visitors to these two regions were domestic tourists. There were a number of other German regions, as well as several regions in the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden – many of which were relatively rural and/or remote – that attracted a relatively high share of their total guest nights spent during the spring season. As such, tourists who still had the opportunity to travel in the spring of 2020 appeared to be dissuaded from visiting capital cities and other metropolitan regions (with their empty shopping streets and locked down cultural entertainment), favouring instead rural, sparsely-populated areas and self-catering accommodation.

… while the Adriatic region of Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia had the highest number of guest nights spent during the summer season

In the summer season of 2020, there were 151.8 million guest nights spent at EU short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms. The highest count in the summer season was recorded in the Croatian region of Jadranska Hrvatska (8.8 million nights spent), although the most frequented destinations were concentrated in France (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhône-Alpes and Bretagne) and Spain (Andalucía, Comunitat Valenciana and Cataluña). Outside of these nine regions, the only other to record more than 2.5 million guest nights spent during the summer season were Toscana in Italy, Algarve in Portugal, Canarias in Spain, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany.

Those regions which attracted a relatively high proportion of their total number of guest nights spent during the summer season were concentrated around the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, as well as in northern Spain. There were six regions in the EU where upwards of 85.0 % of all guest nights were spent during the summer season: Yugoiztochen in Bulgaria, Jadranska Hrvatska in Croatia, Ionia Nisia in Greece, Sardegna and Calabria in Italy, and Corse in France. There was considerable diversity in the composition of visitors to regions with a high share of their total number of guest nights spent during the summer season (see Figure 4): for example, while international tourists accounted for more than 9 out of every 10 guest nights spent in Jadranska Hrvatska and Kriti (Greece), domestic tourists accounted for a similar share in Sud-Est (Romania), Principado de Asturias, Galicia and Cantabria (all Spain).

During autumn 2020 – the final quarter of the year – there were 34.1 million guest nights spent at EU short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms. There were four regions with more than one million guest nights spent in the final quarter: Canarias, followed by three regions in France – Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Rhône-Alpes and the capital region of Ile-de-France.

With the arrival of the second wave of the pandemic, various restrictions linked to the tourism sector were re-imposed by some national governments; their (re)introduction was staggered as a function of how the virus spread across different territories, with case numbers spiking in many eastern EU Member States. This may explain, to some degree, why the autumn season accounted for a relatively high share of guest nights spent in some regions / EU Member States, whereas in others the share was particularly low. Many of the regions where the autumn season accounted for a relatively high share of all guest nights spent were located in the Benelux Member States.

Figure 4: Guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation offered via selected online booking platforms during each season, 2020
(% of total nights spent, selected NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_ce_omn12)

Across NUTS level 3 regions, Málaga in southern Spain recorded the highest number of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms

The final analysis in this section based on data from online booking platforms concerns a more detailed dataset, with information for NUTS level 3 regions. Figure 5 shows information for the 20 regions that had the highest number of guest nights spent in 2020 at short-stay accommodation. Málaga in the south of Spain had the highest number (4.6 million). This region on the Costa Del Sol coastline contains, among others, the holiday resorts of Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Marbella and Málaga (city). The second highest count was also in Spain: Alicante/Alacant on the Costa Blanca coastline had 4.0 million guest nights spent in short-stay accommodation; its main resorts include Denia, Calpe, Alicante (city), Benidorm and Torrevieja. Alongside these two Spanish regions, there were two other regions from the Iberian Peninsula – Algarve and Área Metropolitana de Lisboa (both in Portugal) – that featured among the five EU regions with the highest number of guest nights spent. The former is a popular holiday destination on the southern coast and includes resorts such as Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira, Faro and Tavira; it had 4.0 million guest nights spent in short-stay accommodation. Área Metropolitana de Lisboa is the capital region of Portugal; it had 3.4 million guest nights spent in short-stay accommodation. The southern French region of Alpes-Maritimes that includes part of the Côte d’Azur – with coastal resorts such as Nice, Antibes and Cannes – as well as alpine ski resorts had 3.7 million guest nights spent in short-stay accommodation.

The relative importance of domestic and international tourists to each of these five regions varied considerably. In 2020, domestic tourists accounted for just 16.2 % of the total number of guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation and reserved through four selected online booking platforms in Área Metropolitana de Lisboa; domestic tourists also accounted for less than half of all guest nights spent in the Algarve (38.6 %) and in Málaga (46.8 %). By contrast, domestic tourists accounted for almost two thirds of the guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation in Alpes-Maritimes (65.5 %) and they also accounted for a majority of the guest nights spent in Alicante/Alacant (58.7 %).

Reservations of short-stay accommodation using four selected online booking platforms were quite concentrated in terms of their spatial distribution. Aside from regions in Spain, Portugal and France, the only other EU Member States to feature among the 20 regions with the highest number of guest nights spent were Croatia (Splitsko-dalmatinska županija and Istarska županija) and Italy (the capital region of Roma).

Figure 5: Guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation offered via selected online booking platforms, 2020
(million nights, selected NUTS 3 regions)
Source: Eurostat (tour_ce_oan3)

Source data for figures and maps

Excel.jpg Tourism at regional level

Data sources

Tourism statistics presented within this chapter may be split into two main areas:

Official statistics relating to the occupancy of collective tourist accommodation

Regional tourism statistics are available from suppliers of tourism services and are collected through surveys of tourist accommodation establishments. These surveys provide information that covers tourism capacity (counts of establishments, rooms and bed places) and occupancy (the number of arrivals and nights spent). The data may be analysed by region, by degree of urbanisation, and for coastal/non-coastal areas.

Since 2012, the legal basis for the collection of tourism statistics has been Regulation (EU) No 692/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2011 concerning European statistics on tourism and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1051/2011 of 20 October 2011. Among other changes, Commission delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/1681 of 1 August 2019 introduced a requirement to provide additional data on nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments:

  • monthly data for NUTS level 2 regions;
  • annual data for NUTS level 3 regions;
  • annual data for selected cities (capital cities, cities with at least 200 000 inhabitants, and other selected cities with relevance for tourism).

Tourism statistics are analysed according to the tourist’s country of residence (not the tourist’s citizenship). Domestic tourism covers the activities of residents who stay in their own country (but outside their usual environment) and this may be contrasted with the activities of international tourists (often referred to as inbound or non-resident tourists).

Experimental statistics on short-stay accommodation reserved through online booking platforms

Within the accommodation market, statistics on short-stay holiday rentals have traditionally been under-covered, given the relatively high number of small market participants – many of whom are private individuals – that are often excluded from business or tourism registers. Indeed, Regulation (EU) No 692/2011 allows tourism statistics to be collected using a threshold whereby EU Member States can opt to limit the scope of their observations to establishments having at least 10 bed places (or 20 bed places for smaller tourism countries). In practice, this means that a significant part of the short-stay holiday rentals market is not represented in official statistics.

Following an agreement with Airbnb, Booking.com, Tripadvisor and Expedia Group, Eurostat has since 2021 published a set of experimental statistics for short-stay accommodation booked through these online booking platforms. This new data source allows an information gap to be closed, since data on holiday homes, apartments and rooms in otherwise private buildings were previously often outside the general scope of existing tourism statistics. However, at this stage it is not yet possible to integrate this new source into existing tourist accommodation statistics, due to the potential double-counting of online listings that are also covered by so-called traditional statistics; methodological work in this area is ongoing.

The four online platforms agreed to share their data on the number of nights booked and the number of guests, allowing access to reliable information on holiday and other short-stay accommodation reserved through their platforms. These experimental statistics are published from reference year 2018 onwards and may be analysed at a regional and at a city level. It is important to stress that, while these statistics from online platforms cover a significant part of the market, they do not cover the entire market and new online platforms may emerge. In the future, Eurostat will investigate the possibility of extending the scope of this experimental data collection exercise to other types of accommodation (for example, hotels).

Indicator definitions

Tourist accommodation establishments are local kind-of-activity units. They include all types of tourist accommodation providing, as a paid service, accommodation for tourists, regardless of whether or not the provision of tourist accommodation is the main or a secondary activity. These establishments are defined according to the activity classification NACE as units providing short-term or short-stay accommodation services:

The number of nights spent (overnight stays) is based on a count of nights that guests/tourists actually spend (sleep or stay) in specific types of accommodation.

Within the context of experimental statistics on short-stay accommodation reserved through four selected online booking platforms, the number of nights spent at short-stay accommodation is compiled using the number of overnights stays (in other words, the number of nights that short-stay accommodation has been rented out) multiplied by the number of guests staying at the accommodation.

Context

The EU’s competence in the area of tourism is one of support and coordination in relation to the actions of individual EU Member States. Policymakers seek to maintain the EU’s position as a tourist destination while supporting the contribution made by tourism-related activities to overall growth and employment.

A European Commission communication Europe, the world’s No. 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe (COM(2010) 352 final) was adopted in June 2010 and remains in force. It provides a framework for the development of tourism within the EU, with four priority areas for action: stimulate competitiveness; promote sustainable and responsible tourism; consolidate Europe’s image as a collection of sustainable, high-quality destinations; maximise the potential of policies / financial instruments for developing tourism in the EU.

The European Commission has encouraged the diversification of the EU’s tourism offers through initiatives relating to maritime/coastal tourism, sustainable tourism, cultural tourism, tourism for all, accessible tourism, low-season tourism or collaborative tourism. To enhance the visibility of the EU as a tourist destination and increase international tourist arrivals, the European Commission undertakes a wide range of communication and promotion activities. Furthermore, it provides ad hoc grants to the European Travel Commission (ETC), a non-profit organisation responsible for promoting Europe as an international tourist destination through reports, handbooks and websites (such as visiteurope.com).

The EU is a key cultural tourism destination thanks to its heritage that includes museums, theatres, archaeological sites, historical cities, industrial sites as well as music and gastronomy. The EU aims to promote a balanced approach between the needs to boost growth on one side, and the preservation of artefacts, historical sites, and local traditions on the other.

In its communication on maritime and coastal tourism A European Strategy for more Growth and Jobs in Coastal and Maritime Tourism (COM(2014) 86 final), the European Commission reflected on the diversity of the EU’s coastal regions and their capacity to generate wealth and jobs by fostering ‘a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe’ in line with the Blue Growth opportunities for marine and maritime sustainable growth (COM(2012) 494 final). With this in mind, policymakers are seeking to redefine ‘mass-tourism’ and to develop new forms of ‘niche’ tourism which focus on solutions that are sustainable from an economic, social and environmental point of view.

The COVID-19 pandemic put considerable pressure on the EU’s tourism and travel-related activities. On 13 May 2020, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive package of initiatives to allow for a coordinated framework to resume activities after the first wave of the pandemic within Europe. At the centre of the package was a communication that provided a strategy to stimulate the recovery, Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond (COM(2020) 550 final). The package also included:

  • a common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
  • a framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel;
  • a recommendation to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
  • criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.
On 17 March 2021, the European Commission made a Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable certificates on vaccination, testing and recovery to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic (COM(2021) 130 final). Regulation (EU) 2021/953 (the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation) entered into force on 1 July 2021, facilitating the free movement of people within the EU during the pandemic. The EU Digital COVID Certificate allows residents of the EU to have their COVID certificates issued and verified. It has been extended to cover non-member countries if various conditions (including reciprocity) are met. At the time of writing (July 2022) there were 45 non-member countries (and territories) that had joined the system.

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Regional tourism statistics (t_reg_tour)
Annual data on tourism industries (t_tour_inda)
Occupancy of tourist accommodation establishments (t_tour_occ)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00111)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by coastal and non-coastal area (from 2012 onwards) (tin00178)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by degree of urbanisation (from 2012 onwards) (tin00179)


Regional tourism statistics (reg_tour)
Occupancy in collective accommodation establishments: domestic and inbound tourism (reg_tour_occ)
Annual data on tourism industries (tour_inda)
Occupancy of tourism accommodation establishments (tour_occ)
Nights spent by residents and non-residents (tour_occ_n)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by NUTS 2 regions (tour_occ_nin2)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by degree of urbanisation (from 2012 onwards) (tour_occ_ninatd)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by coastal and non-coastal area (from 2012 onwards) (tour_occ_ninatc)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by month and NUTS 2 regions (from 2020 onwards) (tour_occ_nin2m)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments by NUTS 3 regions (from 2020 onwards) (tour_occ_nin3)
Nights spent at tourist accommodation establishments for selected cities (from 2020 onwards) (tour_occ_ninc)
Accommodation offered via collaborative economy platforms – experimental statistics (tour_ce)
Occupancy – monthly data (tour_ce_om)
Short-stay accommodation offered via collaborative economy platforms by months, residence of the guest and NUTS1 and NUTS2 regions – experimental statistics (tour_ce_omn12)
Occupancy – annual data (tour_ce_oa)
Guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation offered via collaborative economy platforms by NUTS 3 regions – experimental statistics (tour_ce_oan3)
Guest nights spent at short-stay accommodation offered via collaborative economy platforms by NUTS1 and NUTS 2 regions, by world regions of residence of the guest – experimental statistics (tour_ce_oaw)

Maps can be explored interactively using Eurostat’s statistical atlas (see user manual).

This article forms part of Eurostat’s annual flagship publication, the Eurostat regional yearbook.