This article takes a look at recent statistics on tourism in in the European Union (EU), in particular the first results for 2009-2010 evolutions. The focus is on nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments by residents and non-residents, but it also looks at holiday trips made by EU residents, whether or not involving a stay at tourist accommodation establishments.
Following two years of negative growth, the European tourist accommodation sector started to recover in the year 2010, with nights spent at hotels and similar establishments increasing by 2.8 % compared with 2009. The increase at overall EU level was reflected in the national figures, with increases in all but five of the Member States for which data were available.
Main statistical findings
Slow recovery of the tourist accommodation sector in 2010
In the two years of slowdown, resident guests – i.e. visitors travelling in their own country - became more crucial to the sector, but 2010 showed a stronger revival in the number of nights spent by non-residents (+5.1 %) compared with residents (+1.1%).
Intra-annual data show that the recovery improved throughout the year. In the period January to April 2010, the number of nights spent went up by 1.7 % compared with the same period in 2009, while growth rates of 2.6 % and 5.1 % were recorded for the periods May-August and September-December respectively.
From the demand perspective – regardless of the type of accommodation - the number of holiday trips made by residents of the EU didn’t slow down in 2008 and 2009, but a slight decrease (-1.0 %) was observed in 2010. This decrease was slightly more pronounced for domestic trips (-1.1 %) than for outbound trips (-0.7 %).
Total nights spent in hotels and similar establishments by non-residents increased in all Member States
The accommodation sector was one of the hardest-hit tourism industries in the period 2008-2009. In 2009, the number of nights spent in hotels and similar establishments dropped below the level of 2006. Recovering from this low point, the number of nights spent in hotels and similar establishments grew by 2.8 % in 2010. Growth was observed in most EU Member States for which data are available, with two-digit growth rates for Poland (+10.4 %), Malta (+11.0 %) and the three Baltic Member States Lithuania (+11.1 %), Latvia (+11.6 %) and Estonia (+14.1 %). The negative trend of 2009 continued in 2010 in Romania (-8.7 %), Greece (-2.3 %), the United Kingdom (-2.1 %), Slovenia (-1.0 %) and Italy (-0.8 %).
The figures for the other types of collective accommodation (including campsites and rented holiday homes) were less favourable, with negative growth rates in most countries and a contraction at EU level of 2.4 %. This countered the positive figures for the hotels and similar establishments and resulted, on aggregate, in an increase of 1.1 % for the entire tourist accommodation sector (‘total collective accommodation’).
In the period 2008-2009, the segment of foreign guests was the one most affected by the economic crisis. In 2010, the nights spent by non-residents were the biggest contributor to the overall growth figures. In all countries for which data are available (excepting Liechtenstein), hotels and similar establishments recorded an increase in nonresidents’ nights, while residents’ nights only increased in two-thirds of the countries. At country level, non-residents’ nights showed a larger increase than residents’ nights in most of the countries. Only in Belgium, Latvia, Austria, Poland, Portugal and Finland did the number of nights spent by residents grow faster than the nights spent by foreigners.
The number of nights spent in hotels and similar establishments remained below the pre-crisis level
Following two years of contraction, the number of nights spent in hotels and similar establishments increased in 2010, for both resident and non-resident guests. The growth in 2010 compensated for about two-thirds of the decrease in 2008 and 2009 for total nights spent and non-resident nights spent. The number of resident nights spent, which was less affected by the crisis, reached a record level in 2010 — in spite of the relatively low growth rate in this segment.
The number of nights spent grew through 2010, increasing by 5.1 % in the last four months of the year compared with the same period in 2009
In the first four months of 2010 the recovery was relatively modest with a growth rate of 1.7 % compared with the same period in 2009. Between January and April, the level of non-residents’ nights stayed around that of the first four months of 2009.
Between May and August, hotels and similar establishments in the EU registered an increase of 2.6 %. The number of nights spent by non-residents increased by 6.4 %.
Based on available data, the increase was even more pronounced in the last part of the year. The growth rate between September and December (5.1 %) was almost twice as high as between May and August (2.6 %) and three times as high as in the first months of the year (1.7 %).
The number of nights spent by residents was more volatile over the year, with a small drop by 0.4 % in the spring and summer months of May, June, July and August compared with the same months in 2009 (when resident nights helped to bolster the tourist accommodation sector).
This pattern of growth in the number of nights spent at hotels and similar establishments over the year holds for half of the countries for which data are available. Other countries showed more fluctuating patterns in the three periods of the year but none showed a decline over the year.
The large increase in nights spent by non-residents, discussed above, had a modest start between January and April with positive growth rates in 18 countries but a continued contraction in the 12 other countries. In the second and third parts of the year, an increase was observed in all European countries for which data are available, excepting Liechtenstein.
The number of nights spent by residents decreased in all periods of the year — compared with the same periods one year before — in five, mainly southern, countries. This was the case for Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Romania and Croatia. On the contrary, the increase in residents’ nights was around or exceeded 10 % in all three parts of the year in Belgium and Poland. In these two countries, the annual growth in residents’ nights was significantly higher than the growth in non-residents’ nights.
Europeans made 1 % fewer holiday trips in 2010 than in 2009
Statistics on tourism demand include all trips made, regardless of whether they were spent in tourist accommodation (such as hotels or campsites) or in less formal and often unpaid types of accommodation (such as owned dwellings or accommodation provided for free by friends of relatives). Based on results for the first three quarters of the year for 20 Member States, the number of holiday trips made by residents of the EU decreased by 1.0 %. In 2008 and 2009 Europeans continued going on holidays but a turning point was recorded in 2010 with a downturn for all types of holidays: domestic holidays and outbound holidays, short holidays — except for short trips abroad — and long holidays.
The biggest contraction was recorded for domestic trips (-1.1 %), compared with the number of outbound trips (-0.7 %). As for the duration of trips, long trips of 4 nights or more fell by 1.7 % compared to a drop of 0.3 % in short trips of maximum three overnight stays. Long domestic holiday trips were the most seriously affected segment of tourism demand (-2.3 %), while short outbound holiday trips grew by 0.6 % (following two years of relatively weak demand for this type of trip).
The number of nights spent dropped more significantly than the number of trips (-1.6 % and -1.0 % respectively). As a result, the average length of holiday trips decreased. In 2010, the average duration of a holiday trip was just under 6 nights. Short trips typically included 2 overnight stays while long trips (minimum 4 nights) had on average a duration of 10 nights. Although long domestic trips were the most affected in terms of the number of trips, as indicated above, the average length of such trips did not fall.
The drop in tourism demand was strongest in first half of the year; in the second half all segments increased except for short domestic holiday trips
Tourism demand showed a negative annual growth. Intra-annual data for the first and second halves of the year showed an improvement. In the first half of the year, the number of trips and number of nights spent dropped in all segments. Only the number of short domestic holiday trips rose slightly (0.3 %) compared with the first half of 2009.
In the second half of the year, the decline stopped for most types of holiday trips, especially trips abroad (long outbound trips went up by 0.9 %, short outbound trips by 2.5 %). The overall decrease in the second half of the year (-0.3 %) was entirely accounted for by the important segment of short domestic breaks (-1.6 %). The relatively small market of short outbound trips couldn’t compensate for this, despite increasing by 2.5 %.
In previous years, short domestic trips grew fast, most probably as a substitute for less affordable long trips or outbound trips. In 2010, European tourists found their way back to foreign destinations and showed an increasing preference for longer trips.
In terms of nights spent, an increase was observed (7.7 %) for the short trips abroad in the second half of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.
The small contraction at EU level masks major variations across the EU, ranging from two-digit year-on-year decreases to two-digit increases
Behind the 1 % decline in the number of holidays taken by Europeans, major regional differences can be observed. In the south-eastern countries Bulgaria and Romania, numbers fell by 29.5 % and 11.1 % respectively. In the Nordic countries Finland and Sweden the number of holiday trips increased by 17.4 % and 20.2 % respectively. This increase was seen in all segments, but was less pronounced for long outbound holiday trips.
In many countries, the number of outbound trips increased in 2010, while the number of domestic trips decreased. However, in Germany and Slovakia an inverse trend was observed with domestic trips remaining a net contributor to the overall positive evolution in the number of holidays taken by the residents of these two Member States.
Europeans increased their spending on domestic trips but not on outbound trips
Data on tourism expenditure are available for 16 EU Member States. The countries are not identical to the subset discussed above, so the observations may not be entirely compatible.
Based on the available data, a small increase of 0.5 % was recorded for tourism expenditure by EU residents. While the number of domestic holiday trips declined in 2010, expenditure during this type of trip grew over the same period. This resulted in an increase of 1.2 % in average spending per trip. On trips to destinations outside their own country, residents of these 16 Member States spent less per trip (-0.9 %) in 2010 compared with 2009. In particular, long trips abroad fell by 0.8 %. This segment recorded the biggest drop in average length of the trip. Since the reduced total expenditure was distributed over relatively fewer nights, the average expenditure per night away increased by 1.5 %. For the other types of trips, the expenditure per night also increased in 2010. In most cases this will be due to fixed costs, such as transport to the destination, which were divided over fewer nights.