Low cost airlines are now the major factor dictating how European countries perform as tourist destinations according to World Travel Market’s UK & European Travel Report.
More than half of the 30 European Travel Commission member nations have admitted getting or maintaining no-frills services is central to their future success. The findings mark a significant shift in the way countries attract visitors. In the past, traditional package tour operators were seen as the best way of bringing in tourists. Figures showing visitor numbers across Europe for the first nine months of 2005 seem to bear out the importance of low-cost airlines.
The UK is by far the most important market in Europe - whether in terms of total flight trips (more than 45 million in 2004) , low fare air trips (18 million), or the share of low fare trips in total air trip volume (over 40).
Estonia - which is now served by a weekly EasyJet flight to Tallinn - reports UK visitors up a staggering 77% on last year. Similar leaps are seen for Poland (UK visitors up 47%); Slovakia (45.6%); Lithuania (40%) and Slovenia (18%).
“You cannot underestimate the impact low-cost carriers have now,” said Enterprise Estonia research co-ordinator Piret Kallas. “The EasyJet flight from the UK has brought in an additional 19,000 visitors so far in 2005, which obviously has huge financial benefits.
“While many of the visitors might only be coming on short breaks, the good news is that they come year-round. Low-costs keep bringing people off-season, and that is vital.”