New tourism data from European Travel Commission

According to European Travel Commission figures 2015 marked the 6th consecutive year of excellent growth, and 2016 will be even better. Travel to Europe continues to surge amidst a migration crisis, and safety and security concerns.

According to the latest European Travel Commission figures in ‘European Tourism 2015 – Trends & Prospects’ 2015 marked the 6th consecutive year of above-average growth for the most visited region in the world. A 5% increase saw arrivals total 609 million.

This positive performance is attributed to the economic recovery of the Euro zone, the decrease in oil prices and favourable exchange rates that make the region a more affordable option for visitors from overseas.

Travel to Europe continues to surge amidst a migration crisis, and safety and security concerns. Prospects for 2016 remain optimistic with growth expected to increase by 3%.

Growth spread across the majority of European countries, buoyed by Iceland (+30%), Romania (+17%) and Slovakia (+16%). Montenegro (+15.5%) and Ireland (+14%) recorded a substantial increase fuelled by the strong demand from key European source markets. Serbia, Portugal, Croatia (each +10%), Greece (+8%), Hungary (+7%) and Austria (+6%) also enjoyed sustained growth.

Croatia benefited from their on-going efforts to extend the pre- and post-summer period, while Greece owes its performance to improving flight connections and to the flow of tourists avoiding competing destinations perceived at risk of terrorist attacks.

Exceptions to the overall trend were Bulgaria, Turkey (both -1%), Estonia (-3%) and Finland (-5%) which all saw a decline from the previous year attributable to the fall in arrivals from Russia. Montenegro was the only European destination that enjoyed growth from the Russian market (+6.4% overnights).

On source markets, growth from the UK and Germany is in line with positive economic trends while increased demand from France and Italy is resulting from the strong appetite for traditional summer destinations.

For the USA, the upswing of the economy, a strong US Dollar, and growing consumer confidence contribute to the appeal of Europe as a holiday destination. The USA accounts for 5% of total arrivals (25.7million) to Europe with further growth expected (+6% annual average) towards 2020. (For more on USA outbound medical travel, read the 2016 ‘USA outbound medical travel market’ report). The majority of European destinations also reported growth, +30% Chinese arrivals to Europe, which suggests that the economic slowdown in China fails to deter tourists’ enthusiasm to travel internationally.

For tourism and medical tourism, 2016 is expected to show even larger numbers to Europe due to Europeans increasingly looking at travelling within Europe and all countries concerned about conflict and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, health factors in Central and Latin America, plus tougher security and anti Muslim feeling making visits to the USA more uncomfortable for many nations.

Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Chinese will continue to be key markets, while politics and oil economics means Russian numbers will fall much further in 2016. The report is worth reading in detail, although it does not offer any medical or health tourism numbers.