European Tourism Reaches Pre-Pandemic Levels By Second Half of 2023  

According to Eurostat, EU tourism experienced a new high in the first half of 2023, with 1.2 billion nights spent in tourist accommodation in the EU.

This represents an increase of nearly 11 million compared to the same period in 2019 (+0.9%) and an increase of 12.9%, compared to 2022. With 13.3 million more nights (+1.8 %), tourism in the second quarter of 2023 exceeded the level of the second quarter of 2019. Eleven EU members recorded an increase compared with pre-pandemic second quarter 2019, with the strongest (double-digit) recovery observed in the Netherlands (+17.6 %), followed by Portugal (+9.2 %), France (+5.2 %), Belgium and Croatia (both +4.3 %).  

Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nim) 

EU tourism, measured by the nights spent in tourism accommodation, reached a record 1.2 billion nights in the first half of 2023. The largest contributions to overall increased tourism levels were recorded in Spain, Germany and France, Greece and the Netherlands. The strongest recovery of the tourism industry was observed in the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Belgium and Croatia. All EU Member States except Hungary, Slovenia and Sweden registered an increase in outgoing tourism in 2023, compared to 2022, with the highest increases recorded in Cyprus, Romania and Malta. However, nights spent at tourist accommodation by foreign visitors was still 1.4 % below the pre-pandemic level of the second quarter of 2019.  

(Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nim) 

In absolute terms, domestic tourism was the dominant contributor to the overall tourism increase levels, measured by nights spent in tourist accommodation across the EU in the second quarter of 2023 (767.4 million in total). The largest increases in away trips in the second quarter of 2023 were recorded in Germany and France. Nevertheless, a strong boost to this year’s overall European tourism numbers came from the recovery of international (cross-border) tourism. In comparison with 2022, there was a 22.5% increase in the number of nights spent by tourists abroad, outside of their country, within the EU. By the second quarter of 2023, compared with the second quarter of 2022, cross-border tourism rose by 13.5 % but is still yet to reach (the last normal, pre-COVID year) 2019 level (-2.0% compared with first half of 2019). However, the third quarter of 2023, the high summer season, should bring about an overall increase as this is the first European summer with no pandemic restrictions imposed in any EU Member States. 

In the second quarter of 2023, international tourism recovered strongly across the entire EU, with major increases recorded by an average of by 30 % or more, particularly thanks to tourists from Romania, Slovakia, Czechia, Cyprus and the Netherland. Most European travellers headed to the traditional top destinations of Spain (83.0 million), Italy (60.9 million) and Greece (37.4 million), part of an overall increases in cross-border tourism in and from all other EU Member States. 

Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_nim)  

New travel patterns are being observed, particularly in terms of accommodation type and booking method choices.  

2023 data shows that tourists prefer to stay in hotels in 2023 (63.3 %), followed by holiday and other-short stay accommodation (22.9 %) and campsites (7.6 %). Nevertheless, shift in accommodation options has also been noticed: hotels have experienced a decrease (and are still below 2019 levels), while other accommodation types have exceeded 2019 levels: holiday rentals were up by 7.4 % and campsites were up by 12.6 %.  

In the first quarter of 2023, nights spent in accommodation booked via online platforms far exceeded the values recorded in previous years. Nights booked via online platforms (which include online travel agents – OTAs, booking intermediaries or third-party booking engines) up by 24.5 % in first quarter of 2023 compared with 2022 and over 2019 levels. 

Source: Eurostat tour_ce_omr

As the EU tourism industry continues to rebound, these trends indicate a steady and promising outlook for the sector’s growth in the coming months and year.