Tourism statistics - characteristics of tourism trips

From Statistics Explained

Data from May 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article is part of the Eurostat online publication Tourism trips of Europeans providing recent statistics on tourism demand in the European Union (EU) and EFTA countries.

The article takes a closer look at trips that EU residents (aged 15 and over) made in 2012, with a focus on the characteristics of these trips. Specific aspects such as top destinations, seasonality and expenditure on tourism trips are dealt with in more detail elsewhere in other articles of this publication. This article concentrates on analysis for the European Union at aggregate level. There is more detailed information at country level in the online database where not available in the Tables or Figures.

Table 1: Trips, nights spent and average length of trips made by EU residents (aged 15 and over) by destination, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tntot)
Figure 1: Trips of EU residents (aged 15 and over) by destination, duration and purpose, EU-28(1), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttpur)
Table 2: Trips of EU residents (aged 15 and over) by duration and destination, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttw)
Figure 2: Trips of EU residents by duration, EU-28(1), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttls)
Table 3: Trips of EU residents (aged 15 or over) by duration, destination and purpose, EU-28(1), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttls)
Figure 3: Nights spent of EU residents by main means of accommodation, EU-28(1), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tnac)
Figure 4: Trips of EU residents by main means of transport, EU-28(1), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttr)
Table 4: Trips made by EU residents (aged 15 and over) by main means of transport, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tttr)
Figure 5: Trends in number of trips, nights spent and average duration of trips made by EU-28(1) residents, 2005-2012 (index: 2005=100) - Source: Eurostat (tour_dem_ttq), (tour_dem_tttot), (tour_dem_tnq), (tour_dem_tntot)

Main statistical findings

During 2012, EU residents made 1 196 million trips with overnight stays - regardless of destination and duration. Of these, 13.3 % were trips for professional purposes (see Table 1, Figure 1). The highest number of trips was recorded in Germany (247.5 million trips) and France (225.0 million trips), followed by the United Kingdom (161.1 million trips) and Spain (135.6 million trips). The residents of these countries made 64.3 % of all EU residents' trips.

On average for the EU, more than three out of four trips were domestic trips. In four Member States, more than 90 % of trips had a main destination within the country: Romania (95.4 %), Greece (91.8 %), Spain (92.0 %) and Portugal (90.3 %). In only four Member States, outbound trips accounted for more than half of all tourism trips: Luxembourg (97.0 %), Belgium (77.5 %), Malta (59.8 %) and Slovenia (54.5 %).

More than half of all tourism trips made in the course of 2012 were short domestic breaks of one to three overnight stays (51.1 % of all tourism trips, see Table 2). Trips of four nights or more accounted for 42.1 % of all tourism trips (25.0 % with a domestic destination and 17.1 % with a destination outside the country of residence).

Europeans like to go on holiday in their own country of residence

For the EU on average, 76.0 % of all tourism trips in 2012 were spent in the country of residence. In all but four Member States, domestic trips outnumbered trips with a destination abroad. However, more than two thirds of these domestic trips were short breaks of one to three overnight stays (see Table 2). Given the relatively short duration of domestic trips (on average 4.1 nights, as compared to 8.6 nights for outbound trips, see Table 1), the proportion of nights spent on domestic trips within all tourism nights was - at 60.1 % - significantly lower than the 76.0 % share of domestic trips in all tourism trips. The highest number of domestic trips was in France, with more than 200 million accounting for 22.0 % of all domestic trips made by Europeans. As regards outbound trips, German tourists came top, with nearly 83 million trips abroad (28.9 % of all outbound trips made by Europeans).

The EU is an attractive destination for its residents

Three out of four outbound trips had a main destination in another EU Member State, accounting for 214.8 million trips out of a total of 286.7 million outbound trips (Table 2). Taking into account the 909.3 million domestic trips, this means that 94.0 % of all trips with overnight stays that EU residents made in 2012 were within the European Union. Even when restricting the analysis to longer trips of at least four overnight stays – more likely to be further away from home – 87.8 % were spent within the EU. Only in five Member States was the share of trips outside the EU over 10 %: Luxembourg (13.2 %), Croatia (12.7 %, of which more than half to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina), Lithuania (12.2 %), Belgium (11.7 %) and Estonia (10.2 %). There is more detailed information on the destinations EU residents chose for their trips in a separate article.

Most tourism trips are short, up to three overnight stays

In 2012, 57.9 % of the tourism trips that EU residents made were short, a maximum of three overnight stays (see Table 2 and Figure 2). In two Member States, more than three out of four trips were short (Latvia (77.6 %) and Finland (75.5 %)), while in five Member States, the number of long trips exceeded the number of short trips (Belgium (61.9 %), Greece (58.7 %), Luxembourg (56.2 %), Slovakia (54.6 %) and Malta (50.9 %)).

Among the 57.9 % of short trips, 20.1 % of all tourism trips involved only one overnight stay, 24.9 % included two overnight stays and 12.9 % included three overnight stays (not shown in Figure 2). Taken together with the 25.6 % of trips lasting four to seven nights, a dominant share of 83.5 % of all trips made in 2012 lasted a maximum of one week (within the segment of trips for professional purposes this share rose to 93.1 %). Only 5.6 % of all trips were longer than two weeks (See Table 3).

More than one in eight trips was for professional purposes

Nearly half the tourism trips (47.8 %) had holidays, leisure and recreation as the main purpose, and 34.7 % were to visit relatives and friends. The latter accounted for most short trips and for domestic trips, see Figure 1. In total, - including other purposes such as pilgrimages or health treatment – trips for personal purposes made up 86.7 % of all tourism trips in 2012.

In 2012, EU residents made over 158.5 million trips for professional purposes (e.g. business trips), 13.3 % of the total number of tourism trips. The proportion was slightly higher for short trips (16.5 %) and outbound trips (14.5 %).

Over half of all overnight stays were in rented accommodation

EU residents made a total of 6 165 million overnight stays during tourism trips in 2012 (see Table 1). More than half of these nights (52.6 %) were spent in rented accommodation (see Figure 3). Of these, 30.3 % were at hotels or similar accommodation providing services such as daily cleaning and bed-making, 6.2 % at campsites (including caravan or trailer parks) and the remaining 16.1 % in other types of paid accommodation (e.g. rented holiday dwelling, youth hostel, mountain hut). In 2012, EU residents spent an estimate EUR 145 793 million on tourist accommodation (For more detailed information on tourism expenditure, see separate article).

Rented accommodation was more prevalent for outbound trips (66.9 %), while tourists travelling within their own country were more likely to stay at non-rented accommodation (56.8 %), provided mainly for free by friends or relatives (38.7 %) or at their own holiday homes (16.3 %).

Air travel main means of transport for over half of all outbound trips

Motor vehicles (private or rented) were the main means of transport for 64.6 % of all trips, followed by air and railway transport (15.3 % and 11.6 %, respectively, see Figure 4). Other modes of transport were relatively insignificant, accounting for less than 6 %, though the pattern can be very different at country level. Waterways were the main mean of transport for 42.8 % of trips that residents of Malta made, while in Romania, Bulgaria and Estonia, residents took buses for more than 20 % of their trips (see Table 4).

Not surprisingly, air transport was the preferred means of transport for outbound trips (53.1 %), while for domestic trips EU residents travelled mainly by motor vehicles (75.5 %), followed by rail (13.6 %).

Crisis had limited impact on tourism

The main trends in tourism by EU residents for the period 2005-2012 are shown in Figure 5. The average duration of trips for personal purposes started decreasing in 2007 (partly because of the growing popularity of short breaks in addition to the main, longer holidays), and the effects of the crisis started to show only in 2009, with a clear drop in total overnight stays on tourism trips for personal purposes.

Nevertheless the number of trips continued to increase during that year. In other words, Europeans made more trips, but shorter trips. During the period 2010-2012, the number of trips for personal purposes remained relatively stable - around 1 040 million trips per year. Over that period, the annual number of overnight stays dropped slightly, bringing down the average duration of trips for personal purposes, from 5.5 nights on average in 2010 down to 5.4 nights in 2012.

The trend for professional trips was more strongly affected by the financial and economic crisis. The number of trips dropped by 4 % to 7 % per year in the period 2008 to 2012, a fall of -19.0 %. Between 2005 and 2011, the number of nights spent on professional trips fell even faster, but remained relatively stable in 2012 (-0.3 %) as compared to the previous year.

Data sources and availability


":" data not available.

"(u)" unreliable or uncertain data.

":(u)" extremely unreliable data.


The EU is a major tourist destination, with five Member States among the world’s top ten destinations for holidaymakers, according to UNWTO[1] data. Tourism is an important activity in the EU which has the potential to contribute towards employment and economic growth, as well as to development in rural, peripheral or less-developed areas. These characteristics drive the demand for reliable and harmonised statistics within this field, as well as within the wider context of regional policy and sustainable development policy areas.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Number of trips by purpose (tin00188)
Number of trips by length of stay (tin00189)
Number of nights spent by purpose (tin00191)
Number of nights spent by length of stay (tin00192)


Number of tourism trips (tour_dem_tt)
Number of tourism nights (tour_dem_tn)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

  • With 2012 as reference year:
  • Regulation 692/2011 of 6 July 2011 concerning European statistics on tourism and repealing Council Directive 95/57/EC
  • 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
  • Previous legal acts (concerning reference periods before 2012):
  • Directive 95/57/EC of 23 November 1995 on the collection of statistical information in the field of tourism
  • Commission Decision 1999/35/EC 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/EC 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 2006/110/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting Directives 95/57/EC and 2001/109/EC in the field of statistics, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania

External links


  1. UNWTO Tourism Highlights - 2013