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European tourism in 2023: Resilient recovery amidst economic challenges

A bustling European street scene in Southern Europe (AI generated image)

European tourism nears pre-pandemic levels in 2023, driven by strong intra-regional and US travel, despite economic pressures. Uneven growth seen across destinations, with Southern Europe leading the rebound

As of 2023, European tourism has shown remarkable resilience and is on track for a robust recovery. Despite financial pressures, tourism spending remains a priority for travelers, contributing to the sector’s approach to pre-pandemic levels. The European Travel Commission‘s report for the third quarter of 2023 indicates that foreign arrivals in Europe were only 3.2% below 2019 levels, with a significant contribution from intra-European travel and a notable influx of US travelers capitalizing on favorable exchange rates.

The recovery, however, has been uneven across different destinations. Approximately one-third of destinations have surpassed 2019 levels of foreign arrivals. Southern European and Mediterranean destinations like Serbia, Montenegro, Portugal, Türkiye, Malta, and Greece have reported particularly strong rebounds. In contrast, about 65% of reporting destinations are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels of arrivals1.

In the first quarter of 2023, Europe had recovered to about 95% of the 2019 levels of international tourist arrivals. This recovery has been underpinned by strong travel enthusiasm, despite economic challenges such as inflation and higher living costs. Destinations offering better value for money, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Türkiye, have seen significant growth in foreign tourist arrivals2.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism in Europe reached 90% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023. The UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for the year project that international arrivals will recover 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels. The recovery is driven by strong intra-regional demand and is part of a global trend where international tourism is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels3.

Regarding the preferences of American and Asian tourists in Europe, the US has emerged as the strongest long-haul source market to Europe in 2023. US travelers, leveraging favorable exchange rates, are driving the recovery in many European destinations. Southern Mediterranean destinations such as Portugal, Türkiye, and Montenegro have reported substantial growth in arrivals from the US market. In Eastern Europe, countries like Latvia and Poland also recorded significant arrivals growth from the US.

These trends highlight the dynamic nature of European tourism in 2023, reflecting the industry’s ability to adapt and recover amidst varying global economic and social conditions.

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website | + Posts

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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