The European Travel Commission (ETC), Tourism Economics, and the European Tourism Association (ETOA) held a joint press conference at ITB Berlin to discuss the state of long-haul travel recovery to Europe and expectations for 2023. The organizations highlighted the importance of the return of long-haul arrivals for the complete recovery of visitor spend and the benefits necessary to support the tourism sector in Europe amidst ongoing economic turmoil.
People worldwide are continuing to prioritise experiences, including travel, and European cities and countries should seize this opportunity to benefit as preferred destinations.David Goodger, Director of Tourism Economics
Recent insights presented by ETC and Tourism Economics indicate that European travel recovery began in earnest in 2022, with international arrivals reaching almost 80% of 2019 levels for the year on average. Long-haul travel, however, has been a weak point in the post-pandemic rebound, with short- and medium-haul arrivals outpacing long-haul visitors. According to David Goodger, Director of Tourism Economics, a complete recovery in European travel and its associated economic benefits is dependent on the return of long-haul travel demand, as intra-regional demand faces challenges due to economic slowdown.
Prior to Covid-19, long-haul visitors accounted for 25% of the international nights spent in Europe, staying for longer periods and traveling to multiple destinations, resulting in higher economic gains. Although the share of arrivals from overseas markets is lower, the proportion of nights and spend exceeds that of other markets due to longer trips and higher budgets.
2023 will be a turning point for international tourism recovery, and this is the ideal moment to re-establish Europe as the top global travel destination.Luís Araújo, President of ETC
The organizations forecast that international travel to Europe will recover pre-pandemic levels in 2025, but the return of long-haul travel is necessary for complete recovery and continued growth of the tourism sector in Europe.
Specific markets perspectives
The latest figures show that the recovery of long-haul markets to Europe is progressing at a steady pace. The US, Europe’s largest long-haul market, is leading the way in recovery, with travel from the US to Europe expected to regain over 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023 and a full rebound in 2024, supported by the strength of the US dollar. While Western and Northern European destinations are expected to see a stronger recovery, travel to Eastern Europe remains weak due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Following the long-awaited reopening, a gradual recovery is likely from China, with forward data on bookings showing that Chinese travelers still prefer domestic travel. In 2023, travel from China to European destinations is projected to remain 60%-70% lower than pre-pandemic levels, with a full recovery expected in 2026. To improve the current situation “visas must be simplified and issued promptly, testing requirements (particularly when medically unnecessary) should be eased,” stated Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA.
The arrival of the Chinese visitors transformed some destinations in Europe. Their absence since 2019 has been sorely missed. Every effort must be made to make these visitors welcome.Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA
Other markets such as India and Brazil are also showing a gradual recovery, with travel to Europe expected to regain pre-pandemic levels during 2025. As the recovery of long-haul markets to Europe continues, tourism stakeholders remain optimistic about the sector’s prospects in the future.