Tourism statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from June 2012, most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article takes a look at recent statistics on tourism in the European Union (EU), in particular the final results for 2010-2011 evolutions. The focus is on holiday trips made by EU residents, whether or not involving a stay at tourist accommodation establishments but it also looks at trends in nights spent at hotels and similar establishments by tourists regardless of their country of residence.

Over the past four years, the number of holiday trips residents have made has remained more or less stable at just over one billion. In 2011, there was even a slight rise, by 0.5 %, compared with 2010. More than three out of four trips were domestic, but long outbound trips accounted for half of all tourist expenditure in 2011.

Figure 1: Percentage changes in tourism demand in the European Union(1)(2), 2011 compared with 2010 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq) (tour_dem_tnq) (tour_dem_exq)
Figure 2: Trends in number of trips of EU-27(1) residents, 2005-2011 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq)
Figure 3: Trends in number of trips, nights spent and average duration of the trips made by EU-27(1) residents, 2005-2011 (index: 2005=100) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq) (tour_dem_tnq)
Table 1: Holiday trips made by EU residents, EU-27(1), 2011 compared with 2010 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq) (tour_dem_tnq) (tour_dem_exq)
Table 2: Holiday trips made by EU-residents, 2011 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq)
Table 3: Share of the resident population (aged 15 or over) taking trips(1) during the reference quarter, 2011 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_toq) (demo_pjangroup)
Figure 4: Share of holiday trips of EU(1) residents by main means of accommodation, 2011(2) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq)
Figure 5: Trends in number of nights spent in hotels or similar establishments, EU-27, 2000-2011 (index:2000=100) - Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_ninat) (tour_occ_nim)

Main statistical findings

Europeans made 5 million more holiday trips in 2011 but spent less days in their destination

Figure 1 shows percentage changes in the main indicators for tourism demand in 2011 compared with 2010. The reported growth of 0.5 % in the total number of holiday trips was the result of an increase in both the number of domestic holiday trips (+0.3 %) and holiday trips abroad (+1.2 %) - see also Table 1. Stronger growth in trips abroad can be linked to the significant fall in such trips during the first years of the crisis, while domestic trips were less affected.

The increase in the number of trips made did not necessarily mean more nights spent away. Overall, the number of nights spent away even fell by -0.1 % in 2011, especially for domestic trips (-0.7 %). As a result, trips were on average shorter than a year earlier.

European tourists spent slightly more money (+0.7 %) on holiday trips in 2011. Even if total spending was distributed over a higher number of trips, spending on an average trip rose by 0.5 %. Expenditure per night grew by 1.4 %. Both spending per trip and per night rose relatively more for domestic trips than for outbound trips.

Trips of EU residents: impact of crisis

Crisis has significant impact on business trips, but not on holiday trips

Figure 2 shows that the number of tourism trips has dropped slightly since 2008, hovering around 1.2 billion trips per year. Though the number of holiday trips stayed just above 1 billion, the number of trips for work-related reasons dropped significantly, from 166 million in 2008 to 145 million in 2011, contracting by -12.7 %.

For holiday trips, the biggest impact was observed in 2009, with a significant drop in the number of nights spent away (see Figure 3). EU residents made about the same number of trips, but they were shorter than before. For business trips, both the number of trips as well as their length fell steadily. Europeans made fewer work-related trips than before the start of the crisis and the trips they did make were shorter.

Trips of EU residents: 2011 patterns

More than three out of four trips were domestic, but long outbound trips accounted for half of all tourist expenditure

In 2011, most trips Europeans made were to a destination within the Member State where they live (76 %), with fewer than one in four trips abroad (see Table 1 and Table 2). Big differences were observed across the EU. Some residents spent less than half of their holidays in their own country. That was the case for Belgium (26 %), Luxembourg (less than 1 %), the Netherlands (48 %) and Slovenia (44 %). Others stayed ‘at home’ for more than nine out of 10 holiday trips in 2011. That was very much the case for residents of Spain (92 %), Portugal (91 %) and Romania (93 %).

Even if domestic trips still accounted for most holiday trips, outbound trips grew relatively faster in 2011. This recent growth partly made up for the partial substitution of outbound trips with domestic trips over the recent years. There was a significant rise in the number of long outbound trips of at least four overnight stays (+1.7 %), while short trips abroad decreased by -0.7 %.

For domestic trips, there was a sharper increase in long trips (+0.5 %) than for short trips of one to three nights (0.2 %). In the EU, short domestic trips accounted for half of all holiday trips in 2011. Long domestic trips took 26 % of the market share, while long and short outbound trips represented 18 % and 5 % respectively. In only eight EU Member States did the number of long trips exceed the number of short trips. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, more than 60 % of all trips were long.

EU residents' spending on holidays grew by 0.7 % in 2011. Nearly half of that rise came from higher spending on long domestic trips (while spending on short domestic trips shrank). The two segments with the poorest evolution in terms of nights spent, namely long domestic trips (-1.2%) and short outbound trips (+0.1%), recorded the fastest growth in expenditure (+1.3% and +3.1% respectively, resulting in growth of average expenditure by +3.7% and +4.0% respectively). On average, Europeans spent € 64 per holiday night, € 50 during domestic trips and € 82 during outbound trips.

Trips of EU residents: participation of the population to tourism

Half of all EU residents made one or more summer holiday trips

Most EU residents went on holiday in the third quarter, as expected (see Table 3). During the summer months of July, August and September, nearly half made at least one holiday trip, and more than one in three made a holiday trip of four nights or more. The third quarter was the most popular for all countries, except Malta.

The biggest seasonal differences in tourism were observed in Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria, where the number of people taking holidays in the peak quarter exceeded that for the bottom quarter by a factor of 6, 4 and 3 respectively.

In the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway, seasonal differences were less pronounced, with more than half the population going on holiday in nearly every quarter of 2011.

Trips of EU residents: main means of accommodation

Only one in four trips spent at hotels or similar establishments

In 2011, most trips were spent at so-called private tourist accommodation. This type of accommodation includes rented rooms in family homes, dwellings rented from private individuals or professional agencies, but also second homes and accommodation provided for free by friends or relatives. Stays at hotels or similar establishments accounted for almost 26 % of holiday trips, while other collective accommodation such as holiday dwellings, campsites or youth hostels were used for nearly 10 % of holiday trips.

There were significant differences, depending on destination. For domestic trips, more than two-thirds of holidays were spent at private accommodation and less than 20 % at hotels or similar establishments. For outbound trips, the opposite was the case, with hotels or similar establishments accounting for 52.8 % and a significant 14.1 % of holiday trips spent in rented holiday dwellings, at campsites or youth hostels.

Nights spent in hotels and similar establishments in EU-27

Accommodation sector shows clear recovery in 2011

The previous section looked at the type of accommodation chosen by EU residents on their holiday trips. Figure 5 looks at trends in nights spent at hotels or similar establishments by tourists, regardless of their country of residence. In 2011, the number of nights was well above the previous peak registered in 2007. Also, considering nights spent by residents and by non-residents separately, both series exceeded the pre-crisis level.

Data sources and availability

Representativeness of the EU-27 estimates

  • Holiday trips made by EU residents, nights spent and average length of trips (Figure 1, Table 1): aggregate data based on 24 Member States (not including Ireland, Greece and Malta), these Member States represent 98.3% of the total population (aged 15 or over) of the European Union.
  • Tourist expenditure by EU residents (Figure 1, Table 1): aggregate data based on 23 Member States (not including Ireland, Greece, Spain and Malta), these Member States represent 93.4% of the total population (aged 15 or over) of the European Union.


":" data unavailable or unreliable


In June 2010, the European Commission released a Communication entitled "Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination - a new political framework for tourism in Europe". One of the challenges and opportunities facing the European tourism industry is the seasonal distribution of demand for tourism. Better use of existing tourist infrastructure and staff in the low season could help businesses improve their productivity and benefit from a more stable and motivated workforce. Extending the tourism season or spreading tourism activities more evenly throughout the year can significantly boost the sustainability and competitiveness of European tourist destinations.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables


Monthly data on tourism industries (tour_indm)
Nights spent at tourism accomodation establishments - monthly data (tour_occ_nim)
Annual data on tourism industries (tour_inda)
Occupancy in collective accommodation establishments : domestic and inbound tourism (tour_occ)
Nights spent by residents and non-residents (tour_occ_n)
Nights spent at tourism accomodation establishments (tour_occ_ninat)
Annual data on trips of EU residents (tour_dem)
Number of tourism trips (tour_dem_tt)
Number of trips - by month of departure - annual and quarterly data (tour_dem_ttmd)
Number of tourism nights (tour_dem_tn)
Number of tourism nights - by month of departure - annual and quarterly data (tour_dem_tnmd)
Expenditure on tourism trips (tour_dem_ex)
Tourist expenditure - total - annual and quarterly data (tour_dem_extot)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures on this page (MS Excel)

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • With 2012 as reference year:
  • Regulation 1051/2011 of 20 October 2011 implementing Regulation 692/2011 concerning European statistics on tourism, as regards the structure of the quality reports and the transmission of the data.
  • Regulation 692/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2011 concerning European statistics on tourism and repealing Council Directive 95/57/EC.
  • Previous legal acts (concerning reference periods before 2012):
  • Commission Decision 1999/35/CE of 9 December 1998 on the procedures for implementing Council Directive 95/57/EC on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism.
  • Commission Decision 2004/883/CE of 10 December 2004 adjusting the Annex to Council Directive 95/57/EC on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism as regards country lists.
  • Directive 95/57/EC of 23 November 1995 on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism.