Although European travel demand is poised for a major recovery, pre-pandemic numbers are not expected to return until 2024.
The most recent edition of the European Tourism Trends & Prospects quarterly report from the European Travel Commission (ETC) has forecast that international numbers of tourists arriving to Europe will be 60% below 2019 by the end of 2021.
European air passenger growth gained momentum however over the months of June (-69%), July (-57%) and August (-49%) compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The creation of the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate was fundamental in helping to simplify cross-border mobility. Intra-regional travel as a result experienced an uplift and is set to account for 85% of European international arrivals in 2021, up from 77% in 2019.
As the first nation to reopen to COVID-free tourists, Greece delivered the strongest rebound in overnight terms (-19% vs. 2019), although foreign arrivals were weak. The strongest pick up in arrivals from 2019 rates was observed in Croatia (-37%), which was able to extend its outstanding performance into off-season, welcoming 1.9 million tourist arrivals in September. In contrast, Czech Republic (-94%) recorded the sharpest decline with stringent COVID-19 measures extended throughout the year.
All reporting European destinations enjoyed higher levels of hotel occupancy this summer compared to 2020, based on data for July-September. Several destinations reported occupancy rates close to 70%, including Slovenia, the UK, Monaco and Turkey.
A slower vaccine rollout across Eastern Europe, and in some large long-haul source markets, may delay recovery, and there is a notable absence of long-haul travellers, with US arrivals to Europe remaining 90% below their 2019 levels for one third of reporting destinations. The absence of Chinese holidaymakers was also sorely felt across Europe, with all reporting destinations posting declines over 90% compared to 2019.
Luís Araújo, ETC’s president, said: “From our latest ‘European Tourism Trends & Prospects’ quarterly report, it is clear to see the critical role vaccination programmes have already played in helping travel rebound. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout was vital to the easing of entry requirements and boosting the appeal of travel during the summer season. However, vaccination efforts won’t be enough. As the winter months approach, it is imperative that Europe strives to further restore the freedom of movement by implementing more holistic and coherent approaches for travel within and outside the EU.”
The report can be downloaded here: etc-corporate.org