The Strategist

Europe’s tourist boom: fears opened new destinations for travelers

08/12/2016 - 13:07

Having abandoned Turkey and Egypt for security reasons, millions of tourists ensured a record popularity of EU countries.

The undeniable leader is Spain. The country won most of tourist flows that reoriented from troubled eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Egypt) and North Africa (Tunisia) to Western Europe.

The first half set another record here. During this period, 32.8 million foreign visitors, up 11.7 percent over the same period last year, visited the country. The most "productive" months - July and August - are in the second half of the year, so a new record is yet to come.

Tourists from the UK are prevailing on the Spanish market – the audience increased in the first half of the year by 16.5 percent to 7.95 million visitors. Nearly 5 million holidaymakers came from Germany (6.7 percent). The French (almost 4.6 million) took the third place among foreign tourists. In addition, statistics recorded a significant increase in popularity among Americans, and an unprecedented number of visitors from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The industry experts are linking it to a relatively low rate of the euro, which boosted appeal of traveling in the euro area.

Greece, where number of foreign visitors could rise to 27 million, is another top performer. The country’s tourist industry seemingly recovered from a slowdown, happened last fall and winter due to the refugee crisis. Then, tens of thousands people came to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Summer, however, got its share of the cake, and demand for holidays in Greece not only returned to previous levels, but even partly exceeded it. Only islands of Kos and Samos, hosting a particularly large part of refugees, couldn’t fully recover the tourist flows.

Traditionally, German and British tourists are especially important for the Greeks. American, Chinese and Indian visitors are not inferior, too – flow from their countries is growing fast and steady.

Bulgaria, where the first half of 2016 brought the biggest number of foreign tourists in the last ten years, is also experiencing a tourist boom. In June, Germany alone sent 62 percent more tourists compared to the last year. Portugal also clearly benefited from reorientation of tourist flows towards more reliable EU countries. For example, during the first six months German tourists booked 17 percent more trips to this country than a year ago. 

France, on the contrary, experienced a ten percent fall in number of foreign visitors’ overnight stays. Even influx of fans during the European Football Championship couldn’t improve the situation. The Paris attacks scared away tourists from the United States, Asia and the Gulf. In July, the negative trend continued, especially after the terrorist attack in Nice. "The capital of the Cote d'Azur" occupies the second place in the list of the most visited cities in France after Paris.

To some extent, Italy can be called a winner, too. Bernabo Bocca, Head of Federalberghi, points, in particular, to a double-digit growth in the number of Asian tourists. Visitors from Arab countries and Russia once again became predominant there. The representative of the Italian hoteliers stressed that number of wealthy foreign guests increased particularly. According to him, former French Riviera tourists now prefer Versilia and Liguria, or Sardinia and Capri.