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European tourism: Progressive and upbeat

Written by editor

The latest European Travel Commission survey of travel trends in Europe shows the majority of tourist destinations reporting positive growth in international arrivals and overnights for the first 5 mo

The latest European Travel Commission survey of travel trends in Europe shows the majority of tourist destinations reporting positive growth in international arrivals and overnights for the first 5 months of 2015. There was a strong boost to arrivals for Europe’s most popular destinations, with Germany (+5%), Spain (+4%), Italy (+4%) and the UK (+3%) all seeing solid growth in international arrivals in the run-in to the peak travel season.

According to traveler data from the European tourism association, ETOA, and Forward Keys, solid growth in the first half of the year and positive forward-looking indicators are being propelled by favorable exchange rates and quality packages and tours.

Airline travel to and from Europe maintained its upwards momentum in the year-to-date data to April, with Revenue Passenger Kilometers growing by 4.8% compared to the same period in 20142. For hoteliers in Europe, occupancy rates grew solidly, with gains of 2.3% in the first five months of the year slightly ahead of those seen globally3.

Looking ahead, over the year as a whole the expectations are that European inbound tourism will keep pace with the global forecast of 3-4%, which could result in European arrivals passing the 600 million milestone1.

This positive picture is supported by trends in airline reservations to Europe from long haul source markets. Forward Keys, which provides traveler intelligence based on bookings processed by online and offline travel agencies worldwide, through the leading Global Distribution Systems, reported a 3.6% increase in air bookings to Europe for the first half of the year. Its data also suggests that the upwards trend is set to continue into the second half of the year. On-the-book reservations in mid-July for the remainder of the year showed an 8.3% increase on the same period in 2014. Forward reservations from Europe’s main North American market are looking very solid (+7.1%), while further strong momentum from Asian source markets is very evident with a 16% boost in bookings from Northeast Asia, while the rest of Asia is 11% higher than the same period last year.

Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA, commented “This is exchange rate driven. Both US and Chinese visitors are getting about 22% more Euros than this time last year; Indian tourists are enjoying 17% higher spending power, while those from the Gulf have as much as 25% more money in their pockets.

At the moment we have more people, but fewer dollars. What is intriguing is that the growth in arrivals appears to be less than the decline in the value of the Euro. There is a time lag in these fluctuations: the perception of Europe as being comparatively inexpensive takes a while to feed into bookings. Long-haul visitors are naturally slower to react. In the UK, which has seen a 12% increase in the value of the pound against the Euro, bookings are running 15% up. So, for the Eurozone, the future should be even brighter.”

Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys said: “Europe is showing every sign of having a very strong tourist season this summer. All top ten European cities are showing excellent growth in forward bookings as of mid-July. The only exception is Frankfurt but that is a deceptively negative portrayal because this year it is not benefitting from its biennial trade fair, Automechanika, which is a big draw for international visitors.”