Europe as attractive as ever

Growth of inbound tourists continues in first half 2019

Europe’s cultural diversity, unique landscapes and lifestyle continue to make it the most visited continent in the world. According to the UNWTO, the first half of 2019 has seen sustained growth at 4%, in line with the world average.

Southern and Mediterranean Europe recorded 6% growth y/y in the first half, down from 8% the previous year. Central and Eastern Europe saw 6% growth; a rise from the previous year’s 5% increase. Western Europe recorded a modest 2% growth in arrivals in the first half, down from 4% growth the previous year. And Northern Europe was flat (0%) in the first half, compared to 1% in 2018.

Looking at statistics for the full year 2018, Europe remains a favourite for passion-related travellers looking at thematic experiences such as history, slow adventure, culture, city life, gastronomy, agro- tourism and sustainable tourism.

With 710 million international arrivals (51% market share) and revenues of 571 billion dollars (39% market share), Europe remains the world’s leading tourist continent. Last year, the growth of its arrivals reached 6%, according to figures from the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO.

The destinations in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean recorded the strongest growth over the year, up 8.2%. Among the countries with the best growth rates were Turkey, which benefited from favourable exchange rates following the devaluation of its currency. Greece continued to attract tourists thanks to improved air connectivity with China, the Gulf area and the United States. Malta was the top performer among Mediterranean countries, also benefiting from the strong development of low cost carriers’ offerings. Arrivals for the island were up by 14.3% in 2018. Tourism in Italy also recorded an excellent summer season (up 6.7%) as well as Portugal, up by 7.4%. Only Spain saw their arrivals stagnating.

Arrivals in Central and Eastern Europe increased by 6%, with Hungary, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Moldova recording excellent performances. These countries benefited from the continuous growth of low-cost carriers, particularly in Hungary or Moldova. All the former republics shaping in the past the Yugoslavian federation recorded double-digit growth rates last year. Serbia was the top performer at +14.2% followed by Bosnia- Hercegovina at +14.1%, North Macedonia at +12.2%. Slovenia at +10% and Montenegro at 10.6%. International arrivals to Croatia grew by 6.7%.

Russia, while showing moderate growth in arrivals in the first nine months of 2018, saw its revenues jumping by 40% under the positive influence of the FIFA World Cup, which was hosted in the country from 14 June to 15 July 2018. Only Ukraine saw total arrivals slightly declining by 1.5%, a situation due to political instability.

In Western Europe, international arrivals increased by +6% in 2018, driven by Belgium and France. Both countries saw foreign tourists’ arrivals growing respectively by 9.1% and 2.9%. France remains the largest tourism destination in the world with over 89.4 million international tourists in 2018.

Good weather conditions favoured the Netherlands (up by 6.1%) as well as Austria, Germany and Switzerland with respective growth rates in arrivals of 4.6%, 3.8% and 5.2%. Even tiny Liechtenstein recorded an excellent year 2018 with total arrivals up by 10.3%. Northern Europe grew by around 1%. While the growth in arrivals in Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and Sweden was strong, the United Kingdom saw its arrivals declining by 3.5% for the entire 2018. Obviously, uncertainties around the Brexit discouraged some travellers to visit the UK despite the fact that the Pound sterling value has been declining. Meanwhile, tourist revenues in the UK increased last year by 2%. The number of overnight stays also increased in Latvia (+8.3%), Lithuania (+7.7%) and Poland (+5.8%).

TOP EUROPEAN COUNTRIES IN FOREIGN INTERNATIONAL ARRIVALS (2018)
France        89.400 million
Spain          82.773 million
Italy            62.146 million
Turkey       45.768 million
Germany   38.881 million
Greece       30.123 million