The new report ‘European Union Tourism Trends’, prepared by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in cooperation with the European Commission, underscores tourism’s major social and economic benefits for 28 countries comprising the European Union (EU). EU destinations welcomed 538 million international overnight visitors in 2017, 40% of the world total. EU accommodation establishments provide over 3 billion nights a year, half of which to domestic guests (residents) and half to international guests. Tourism accounts for 6% of the EU’s overall exports, while the direct contribution of tourism to individual EU economies reaches up to 11% of the GDP.
Preliminary results for 2017 indicate that international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew by 8% in the EU last year, to reach 538 million, or 40% of the world’s arrivals. The EU has enjoyed continued growth in international arrivals following the global economic crisis of 2009, with annual growth rates exceeding 4% in the last five years.
The UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili stated that “Sustained growth in tourism has been instrumental in the economic recovery of many countries in Europe and around the world, contributing to job creation, economic growth and a healthy balance of payments”
EU countries earned EUR 342 billion in international tourism receipts in 2016 (31% of the world’s total), making a significant contribution to their balance of payments. As EU destinations earn more in international tourism receipts than EU residents spend on international tourism (EUR 315 billion), EU consequently boasts a surplus of EUR 27 billion in the travel trade balance.
International passenger transport (rendered to non-residents) is estimated to have generated another EUR 67 billion, resulting in total export earnings from international tourism of EUR 409 billion. This represents 6% of the EU’s exports of goods and services, making tourism the fourth largest export category, after chemicals, automotive products and food.
Over two million businesses dedicated mainly or partially to tourism operate in the EU, most of them small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), employing some 12 million people. For individual EU economies, the direct contribution of tourism to GDP is as high as 11%.
The UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili added that “Tourism is a key pillar of the EU strategy for jobs and inclusive growth and I am confident that our strong partnership with the European Union will continue to drive the quality, sustainability and competitiveness of the European tourism sector forward”.
EU tourism is driven by both domestic and international visitors. Accommodation establishments in the EU offered 31 million bed-places in 2016. Guests spent a total 3.1 billion nights, half of which were by domestic visitors (residents) and half by international visitors. Of the 1.5 billion international nights, 1.1 billion were spent by guests from EU countries and 413 million by guests from outside the EU.
The European Union Tourism Trends report provides a comprehensive overview of tourism in the European Union and constitutes a tool for policy makers and other tourism stakeholders for developing market strategies and enhancing the knowledge base of the EU Virtual Tourism Observatory. The report is the result of a cooperation agreement between UNWTO and the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission (DG GROW) and is part of the ‘Enhancing the Understanding of European Tourism’ initiative. The project aims to improve the socio-economic knowledge of the tourism sector, enhance the understanding of European tourism and contribute to economic growth, job creation and the overall competiveness of tourism in Europe.