International arrivals and nights to Europe for the first months of 2013 point to a slower, but continued growth for most of the reporting destinations. As 2012 was a strong year for tourism, Europe’s modest upward trend confirms the health of its tourism sector against overall economic turmoil.
The modest upward trend in individual destinations is reinforced by key indicators from the aviation and accommodation industries. Air transport statistics indicate that tourism demand remains robust from long-haul markets, with travel on European routes growing at a slightly faster rate moving into 2013. Occupancy in European hotels has also been higher than a year earlier, with growth apparent in all sub-regions.
For the remaining months of 2013, European destinations’ performance will largely depend on the economic performance of intra-European markets. The multi-speed economic recovery in Europe may exacerbate recent changes in travel patterns. Travel from some large Southern and Western European markets (e.g. Italy, Spain and the Netherlands) slowed down during the first months of 2013. As further low cost options are sought, demand for domestic travel in these markets may rise at the expense of international travel. On the other end, emerging markets will continue to grow in relative importance, with Russia being on the front line. Some developed markets that performed weakly in recent years may also gain importance as they release pent-up demand (e.g. France and UK).
The most attractive prospects for Europe come from long-haul markets
The European Travel Commission expects that long-haul markets will initially drive growth in 2013. Key indicators suggest further growth in travel from the US, where consumer spending has remained remarkably strong despite the threat of imminent spending cuts. Japan’s economic outlook also seems more positive, bolstered by monetary stimulus and record monetary easing. On the downside, a fall in the yen may hamper international travel.
Among the rapidly emerging markets, Chinese tourism is expected to continue soaring in most European destinations, though moving from a low base. Indian tourism demand has remained weaker compared to China in early 2013, but overall continued growth in demand is expected for this year.
European tourism growth shines light amid economic gloom
Considering the industries evident strength in 2012 while facing economic headwinds, tourism has the potential to play a key role as a tool for economic development and job creation; in Europe and worldwide. “In the immediate future, marketing and promoting Europe in overseas destinations will facilitate the rising demand for international travel, however, easing visa requirements and reducing taxation would help the industry contribute even more to broader economic development in the medium term”, said Mr Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of the European Travel Commission. Growth-supporting actions should be taken to maximise tourism contribution to weak economies, especially in Europe’s peripheral areas.