The value of inbound visitors to Europe has returned to pre-pandemic levels with domestic tourism in the region also back in positive territory, reveals new research from WTM.
The WTM Global Travel Report, in association with Tourism Economics, is published to mark the opening of this year’s WTM London, the world’s most influential travel and tourism event.
For the current year, inbound travel will be worth 19% more than 2019 when measured in dollar terms, although the number of visits has dropped by 3% from 440 million in 2019 to 428 million in 2023.
Europe – which for the purposes of this report includes the UK and Turkey – is the region with the highest volume and value of inbound visits. When looking into the region on a country-by-country basis, the biggest destinations have recovered strongly when measured in euros. Spain and France, the two largest inbound markets, are 33% and 31% up on 2019 respectively. However, both are outperformed by Turkey – the region’s third biggest market – which has recorded a 73% hike on 2019.
Croatia, the region’s tenth biggest market, is highlighted as another standout performer with 2023 expected to come in 51% ahead of pre-pandemic levels.
Moving into 2024, Turkey’s continuing appeal as an inbound destination will see it become the second most valuable country in the region, leapfrogging France which drops to number 3 despite seeing year-on-year growth between 2023 and 2024. The report also predicts that Portugal will gain market share in 2024.
UK inbound leisure travel is flat relative to pre-pandemic levels and is underperforming the recovery of its peers, when measured in euros. The UK will end 2023 with the same value as 2019, the weakest return from the ten markets analysed, all of whom are ahead. Next year the UK will be only slightly up on 2019, in contrast with other countries which have grown significantly.
Further out, the section of the report which predicts inbound trends for 2033 shows that Spain, France and Turkey will continue their growth trajectory, increasing value by 74%, 80% and 72% respectively. However, France and Turkey will drop a place in the inbound top ten, overtaken by Thailand where a 178% increase propels it into fourth place behind the US, China and Spain.
The 2033 outlook also considers outbound leisure travel. The UK performs better here than elsewhere, with the value of its outbound market up by 58% between 2024 and 2033 when measured in dollars. This is better than Germany outbound (up 52%) but not as good as France (86%) and Spain (92%)
Elsewhere, the current performance of domestic tourism markets is consistently strong across Europe, with the overall picture post-pandemic a positive one. The UK’s domestic market in 2023 is among the strongest across the region, beating 2019’s value (measured in euros) by 28%. Germany remains the market leader in the region for domestic tourism but is only 17% ahead of 2019.
The value of domestic tourism will continue to grow into 2024, with all major markets remaining ahead of 2019. This includes Turkey, whose domestic tourism industry is also registering significant growth in percentage term, albeit from a small base than the growth seen in inbound. At the end of this year, domestic will increase in value by 53% compared with 2019 with the increase set to continue into 2024.
Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director, World Travel Market London, said: “European travelers are vital to the success of the global industry. The research shows that the market is effectively back in the black after the pandemic, which is good news for everyone and is an inspiration for the team at WTM London to keep working hard to connect sellers and suppliers of leisure travel.
Turkey has been a long-standing supporter of WTM. We’re delighted to see that its inbound and domestic market is booming and we’re looking forward to helping all our European exhibitors to continue to grow their business.”