BRUSSELS — Europe is on the up and up, despite lingering concerns over safety, Brexit and potential policy changes from the new U.S. administration.
According to the European Travel Commission’s latest report, ‘European Tourism – Trends & Prospects’, Europe welcomed 615 million international tourist arrivals in 2016, a moderate 2% increase compared to 2015. Almost one in two reporting destinations saw double-digit arrivals growth during the first months of 2017, with Iceland enjoying the fastest growth at +54%, thanks largely to an ongoing surge in air capacity on transatlantic routes.
Cyprus (+26%) also recorded high growth, as did Portugal (+25%) and Malta (+23%). Other top performers were Bulgaria (+19%), Finland (+18%), and Estonia (+13%), which were not impacted by security concerns that exist with other European destinations.
While Switzerland (+3%) reversed its past trend by taking advantage of its key position as a winter destination, Turkey (-8%) is still seeing a downward trend that began in 2015.
“At times of dwindling market share and increased competition, European leaders must cooperate to collectively formulate appropriate policies and actions aimed at fostering Europe’s image as a tourism destination,” said Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of ETC.
Most reporting destinations saw substantial growth from Europe’s largest source markets – Germany and France – fuelled by the ongoing recovery of the Eurozone. Despite uncertainty around the potential implications of UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, tourist arrivals from this market remained solid.
Following a boost in US tourist arrivals in 2016 (+6%), prospects for further growth looks high in 2017. Encouraging economic conditions and a strong US dollar against European currencies are expected to entice more American travelers across the Atlantic. An earlier-than-usual Chinese New Year boosted arrivals growth from China so far in 2017, however, this strong performance is expected to return to more typical trends towards peak seasons.