In the EU, hotels, tour operators, airlines, and airports have more and more clients and even records, and China is lifting restrictions on foreign travel. The rise will continue in 2024.
There is a tourism boom in Europe, Europeans were hungry during the pandemic for travel, comfortable holidays, and excursions, and this year they were not restrained by either inflation in the eurozone, the recession in Germany, or the heat and fires in the Mediterranean. The peculiarity of this boom is that hotels, tour operators, airlines, and airports achieved good and even record figures in the EU in a situation where the number of Russian tourists has sharply decreased, and the flow of Chinese tourists has not yet recovered.
The Germans didn’t skimp on their summer holidays
Here, the residents of Germany, the largest EU country by population and the leading outbound tourism market in Europe, played a key role. “The Germans didn’t skimp on their summer vacation,” reads the headline of an article in which the DPA news agency sums up the ending season. Market leader, travel giant TUI, sold 10% more tours in Germany than last year. 80% of customers chose four- and five-star hotels, its biggest rival DER Touristik calculated, after analyzing trips booked between June and the end of September.
“We see that the trends from last summer and last winter, such as the choice of better quality hotels, have continued and even intensified,” explained DER Touristik manager Sven Schikarsky. Other trends: further growth in the popularity of family holidays and all-inclusive hotels. Such hotels were preferred by 45% of the group’s clients this summer. Among TUI clients there were even more than half of them.
The summer boom will continue this winter. Thus, TUI has a 15% higher number of trips booked for the coming colder months than it did at the same time last year. This time, for the first time, Egyptian Hurghada turned out to be the most popular, but if we consider together the main Canary Islands – Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Fuerteventura, then they consistently take first place in the winter season.
Low-cost airline Ryanair has records for air passengers
But this is organized tourism, and in Europe, many people travel independently, especially when they take short trips to explore popular cities and their attractions. At the same time, Europeans most often, if they do not travel by car, use the services of discount airlines, so the boom in the urban tourism segment in the EU can be judged by their indicators.
The largest European low-cost airline, the Irish air carrier Ryanair, had the best July and August 2023 in terms of the number of passengers in the company’s history. Ryanair carried a record 18.9 million passengers in the final month of summer, which is not only 12% more than in the same month a year ago, but also a whopping 4 million more than in August 2019. Thus, Ryanair’s passenger traffic has already significantly exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
And this is not just about the successful work of this particular airline. The significant growth of tourists throughout Europe is eloquently demonstrated by the quarterly and semi-annual reports published in recent weeks by several air carriers. Financial performance has improved significantly both for low-cost airlines – German Eurowings and British EasyJet – as well as for classic airlines. These include the German Lufthansa with its subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines, the French-Dutch Air France KLM, and the British-Spanish IAG group, which includes British Airways and Iberia, as well as the Irish AerLingus.
It was tourists who provided the growth in revenue and profit for all these airlines, because 80% of air passengers not only in Europe, but throughout the world, fly for tourism or personal, and not for business purposes, the association of German Airports ADV reported in mid-August, citing a representative worldwide survey.
Greece hopes for the best tourism year yet
A significant increase in demand for flights was naturally reflected in the performance of European airports. In July, at the height of the holiday season, Germany’s 23 international airports sent and received over 19.4 million passengers. This was the best month since the beginning of 2020, although it has not yet been possible to reach pre-pandemic levels. But compared to last year, passenger traffic at German airports increased by almost 25% from January to July, the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reported. This is even though tickets for international flights, according to German statisticians, have risen in price in the first half of 2023 by about a quarter compared to last year.
The most popular destinations among German tourists in July, according to Destatis, were Spain, Turkey, and Greece. The picture is traditional, but a comparison with July 2019 shows that demand for the Spanish destination in Germany has decreased, while the popularity of Turkish and Greek resorts has increased markedly.
In general, Greece is planning the best tourist year in its history. In any case, in all previous months, the number of passengers at airports on the mainland and on the islands was approximately 10% higher than the record pre-pandemic 2019, when the country received 33 million guests and earned an unprecedented income of 18 billion euros.
European hotels have the best six months in 10 years
The boom that both outbound and inbound tourism are experiencing in Europe this year is also evidenced by hotel indicators. In the first half of 2023 (and the first, winter-spring half of the year for the tourism industry is usually always weaker than the second, summer-autumn), hotels in the EU countries recorded almost 1.2 billion overnight stays. This is 0.9% more than in the first six months of the successful pre-Covid 2019, and the best indicator for this period in the last ten years, the European Union statistical agency Eurostat reported on September 15.
It emphasized that compared to 2022, the number of overnight stays increased in all EU countries except Hungary, where only a slight decrease was noted. Particularly strong growth of 30-40% was demonstrated by Cyprus, Malta and Slovakia. At the same time, approximately half of the countries, especially small ones, have not yet returned to the pre-pandemic level in terms of this indicator, including Hungary and Slovakia, as well as Lithuania and Latvia, Eurostat indicated.
Regarding the number of overnight stays, hotels in Germany are very close to the 2019 level but have not yet exceeded it either. However, this will certainly happen in 2024 – if only because Germany will host the European Men’s Football Championship in June-July, so hotels in at least those ten cities where Euro 2024 matches will take place can count on a very high occupancy rate.
The Summer Olympic Games will be held in Paris in July-August 2024, which will undoubtedly give a powerful boost to France’s tourism industry but may also have a positive impact on its neighbors. After all, it is likely that fans from different parts of the world will take advantage of their visit to Europe to visit other countries of the continent.
The Chinese dream of traveling to Europe
The tourism boom in Europe will increase in the coming months and especially in the summer of 2024 because such a giant in the outbound tourism market as China is lifting restrictions on group trips of its citizens abroad imposed during the pandemic. Thus, on August 10, the bans on tours to Germany and the UK were lifted; before that, the Chinese authorities opened, for example, France and Portugal.
According to a survey published on September 19 by consulting company IPK International, which specializes in studying the global tourism market, over 80% of respondents in China said they planned to travel abroad in the next 12 months, with the greatest interest not in other Asian countries, but in Europe.