Although Europe’s growth in international tourist arrivals of just under 4% in 2006 was below the world average - and well below that of the regional leaders, Africa and Asia Pacific (+8%) - the increase represented some 17 million additional arrivals in Europe, or 47% of the total global increase estimated for 2006. This all goes to show that, despite growing competition, Europe is holding its own on the world tourism stage.
European Tourism Insights 2006 - Outlook for 2007, the third annual report on the state of Europe’s travel and tourism industry, shows that, while it is a mature destination region, Europe’s tourism performance over the past few years has been impressive. Arrivals stagnated in 2001 and 2003 - due in large part to the impact of 9/11, terrorism and the SARS epidemic on traveller confidence - yet the annual growth in international arrivals in Europe has still averaged around 2.5% since the beginning of the decade, and 4% since 2003. As a result, the region has easily maintained its dominant share (54%) of world tourist arrivals.
Arrivals growth boosted by increased low-cost / no-frills airline services
Admittedly, much of the increase has come from Europeans taking more frequent short breaks, often taking advantage of the increase in low-cost/no-frills airline services linking regional airports as well as capital cities. But visitor expenditure data suggests that these trips do not necessarily generate lower spending.
As the world’s leading tourism destination region by a wide margin, Europe continues to rank high up the destination ‘wish list’ of tourists from all four corners of the globe - and not surprisingly. The region boasts enormous strengths, not least its rich diversity of landscapes and cultures, its wide-ranging historical attractions, and its multi-ethnic population spread over what is, in fact, a relatively small area in comparison with, for example, North America or Southeast Asia.
In 2006 demand was also boosted by a larger than usual number of mega events. These included the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, the FIFA Football World Cup in Germany and the Ryder Cup in Ireland, as well as a whole host of cultural events linked to famous artists and musicians - such as the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth, Mozart’s 250th anniversary and Picasso’s 125th.
Mixed performances across the region
The Europe-wide average growth for inbound tourist arrivals in 2006 masks some fairly wide variations from one sub-region to another. Only one sub-region, Central & Eastern Europe, recorded below average growth, perhaps confirming that - after seeing huge pent-up demand for the region in the first half of the 2000s - it has temporarily ‘gone off the boil’. Nevertheless, Latvia and Lithuania continued to attract sustained growth.
The increase in arrivals in both Western and Southern/Mediterranean Europe more or less matched the region-wide average. This reflected an improved performance for Western Europe over 2005 - attributable in large part to Germany’s successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup and to France’s healthy growth this year. The Netherlands also had an excellent year.
Although Italy showed a strong turnaround in 2006 and Spain recorded another year of better than average growth, the Southern/Mediterranean region’s average growth suffered from Turkey’s 8% decline in arrivals. But the region’s star performer, Montenegro - which also outperformed all other European destinations last year - also contributed to stemming the slowdown.
Northern Europe, which accounts for a share of just 12% of total arrivals in Europe, but which generates the highest level of receipts per arrival - achieved the best sub-regional growth in arrivals over 2005, of 6%. Countries achieving the strongest performances were Finland, Iceland and Ireland, all recording increases in arrivals and/or overnight volume of above 10%. But, with the exception of Denmark, all the other countries in the sub-region also performed above average.
Emerging markets show good return on marketing investments
This year European Tourism Insights looks much more closely at the performance of the world’s important emerging source markets, such as Russia, China and India, and at their potential for Europe’s tourism in years to come. Leading European and non-European markets are also analysed.
Despite uncertainties over the implications of climate change and continuing concerns over health issues and terrorism, the outlook for Europe’s tourism in 2007 remains very positive. In line with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts, ETC is projecting an overall growth in arrivals of around 3 - 3.5%.
A copy of the report European Tourism Insights 2006 - Outlook for 2007 can be downloaded from ETC’s website (www.etc-corporate.org).