These Are the Countries To Watch in Europe’s Tourism Recovery



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Sun, savings, and sports are all factors driving Europe’s tourism recovery.

Europe was close to reaching its pre-pandemic tourism levels last year, but some countries started to go above and beyond in early 2024, according to a recent report from the European Travel Commission.

While not every European country shared data on foreign visits, some countries welcomed more tourists earlier this year than during the same period in 2019. Based on data from reporting countries, foreign arrivals were up 7.2%, and foreign overnights were up 6.5%.

Here are the key players to watch as Europe makes its comeback:

Southern/Mediterranean Europe

Serbia had the highest growth rate in international arrivals since 2019.

“Serbia continues to stand out as a growth destination this year as tourism activity remains well above 2019 and up on last year. There is confidence that this is not a temporary surge post-Covid,” the report said.

International arrivals in Türkiye and Malta also grew significantly in the first quarter of 2024 compared to pre-pandemic levels. According to the European Travel Commission, these southern European destinations may lead the pack thanks to their warm and moderate weather at more affordable price points.

Michelle Buttigieg, the Malta Tourism Authority’s North America representative, said Malta was an early adopter of a digital nomad program. From the U.S. and Canadian perspective, Malta’s climate and atmosphere can be appealing, too.

“We in the North American market have seen a dramatic increase in the number of American and Canadian travelers to Malta post-pandemic,” Buttigieg said in a statement. The Malta Tourism Authority reported a 35% increase in U.S. visitors in 2023 over 2022. 

Visa restrictions in other parts of Europe limited Russian travelers. However, easy access to Türkiye and Serbia for Russians could have pushed those destinations’ tourism, the report said.

International Arrivals Year-to-Date % Changes

Country Early 2024 Relative to 2019 Full 2023 Relative to 2019
Serbia 46.9% 15.6%
Türkiye 35.3% 9.2%
Malta 34.8% 8.1%

Source: European Travel Commission / TourMIS (http://www.tourmis.info)

Western Europe

Forecasts suggest tourist expenditure across Europe will increase even more this year from 2019, especially for food and beverage. That comes down to inflation.

Another reason for big spending has to do with major sporting events coming to Europe. France is preparing for the Olympics, while Germany will host the UEFA European Championship.

Arrivals and expenditure may vary between the rest of France and Paris, the report said.

“One of the reasons for this is the inflationary backdrop and financial caution of travelers, as well as the relatively higher prices in Paris, including higher hotel room rates. This may drive some substitution to destinations near Paris,” the report continued. Oxford Economics and Haver Analytics estimated the inbound spend rate throughout France will be higher than the rate for Paris alone.

Unlike France, Germany didn’t make a full recovery in the early months of the year. EasyJet cut some German flights during the pandemic, affecting air traffic.

But the championship could prompt a shift. UEFA events will be spread across Germany, leading to a more distributed economic impact.

However, Monaco consistently ranked among the worst performing destinations for visitors from the Dutch, British, Italian, and German markets this year, despite more popularity with Australians and Canadians.

Like every other country in the report, Monaco’s international arrivals and overnights were greater in 2023 than in 2022. Still, its growth was among the slowest in both categories.

“Several external factors have impacted the Principality. These include the persistent conflict in Eastern Europe and the gradual recovery of Asian outbound markets,” said Guy Antognelli, director of tourism for the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority, in a statement. “Notably, a major factor contributing to the decline in both arrivals and international overnight stays has been the sharp decrease in business events, such as conferences and corporate meetings.” Germany faced a similar challenge, according to the report.

International Arrivals Year-to-Date % Changes

Country Early 2024 Relative to 2019 Full 2023 Relative to 2019
France 2.0% 2.0%
Monaco -11.8% -7.2%
Germany -12.5% -12.4%

Source: European Travel Commission / TourMIS (http://www.tourmis.info)

Central/Eastern and Northern Europe

  • Bulgaria
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Estonia
  • Finland

Bulgaria had a promising start to 2024. Along with Serbia, “its tourism industry benefits from both favorable winter and summer seasons,” the report said.

Many countries near the Russia-Ukraine war are experiencing lagging recovery, though.

Despite this, Latvia’s an outlier in its own right. The country still has high interest from the U.S. and Brazil markets.

International Arrivals Year-to-Date % Changes

Country Early 2024 Relative to 2019 Full 2023 Relative to 2019
Bulgaria 38.8% 0.6%
Finland -9.0% -22.2%
Lithuania -14.0% -29.3%
Estonia -15.1% -25.9%
Latvia -33.5% -28.6%

Source: European Travel Commission / TourMIS (http://www.tourmis.info)



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